Monday, October 5, 2015

Open Streets - Fun day on a Sunday

When all the world leaders are talking about climate change and discussing ways and means to find solutions to this problem, I thought that the idea of "Open Streets" was a step in a very small way to work towards this goal.

The free and open road without the fear of vehicles whizzing past
I saw the posters and heard the radio spots about something called "Open Streets" being organised on 20th September - a Sunday, in the area where I stay. We got to know that there would be no traffic allowed in the entire residential layout. We were curious to know what this was all about, and so my husband and me set out to know more about this novel idea. As we came out of our apartment the first thing we noticed was a group of people assembled arguing with the cops as to why vehicles were not allowed to ply. Maybe they were not aware that vehicles were prohibited from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm.

Walkers and cyclists having
a good time
As we continued, I noticed for the first time how wide the roads actually were. After eons we found we could walk freely as we pleased, even right in the middle of the road, without having to look around for those impatient drivers in their cars or autos or the blaring horn from the bikes or the buses whizzing at breakneck speed. This I thought was ultimate freedom. Added to that was the bonus of breathing in a lungful of fresh unpolluted air. Later I learnt that the pollution level i.e., the particulate matter had come down by close to 30% and the noise decibel had dropped to 11.5%.

The traditional Pagade game
Just as we turned a corner, several children were whooping with joy and riding on their bicycles and skateboards all over the road. They reminded me of my Enid Blyton Books where they would describe children coming back fresh from summer vacations looking all rosy and rounded. This was no summer vacation, but the children their cheeks all red, eyes glowing and smiles not leaving their face was a sight to behold. The children had just found what it was to be a child once again - Happy and Carefree. We saw several families walking down with their children, all of them sweating profusely because be it kids or adults we have now gotten used to walking less. I thought this might just do the trick of bringing down the national index of people suffering from diabetes and other diseases caused due to lack of exercise.

As we walked down the road, people had crowded around a potter who was spinning his wheel and children and adults alike trying their hands in creating their own version of vase, bowls, and other odd shaped articles which they then carried proudly back with them. In another corner, children were sitting on the road and painting with great concentration. Some children with their parents were using the road as their canvas and drawing beautiful figures with different coloured chalk. There was one that captured my attention and that was a huge figure of Lord Ganesha drawn by a boy who I came to know was actually living in a hutment closeby. What talent!

Games like Chess, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers were being played with gusto on the road where the Chess Board, Snakes and Ladders were actually drawn on the road, and children were rolling out the huge Dice and going up the ladder and walking down the Snakes literally. An old man was playing  chess with his granddaughter with curious onlookers cheering them.

The giant chess board on the road
That day children and adults got introduced to our traditional games of Twelve Houses played using shells, Pagade the age old game mentioned in The Mahabharath, Five Stones, Lagori, Carrom, Badminton, and so on. Families got together with other families who till then were complete strangers forming teams to play Cricket, Football, Hopscotch you name it. It was all there being played by one and all as one big family.

As we were walking back, we saw a group of teenagers trying to fly a plane which they had modelled out of thermocol, and using the law of gravity after several tries they got the plane to fly and land with thread being used as the navigation aid. They got cheered and applauded from all the bystanders.

We missed watching the play that was organised and the evening show where a Music Band was playing. But I must say this was one unforgettable experience for me.

The most positive aspect that I saw was that people had gotten away from all kinds of electronic gadgets that gets them so hooked up. Mobiles on that day if used was for the sole purpose of capturing the pure essence of joy and festivity all around us. The reason for having an "Open Street" was different, but as a parent I saw that this was the perfect way to once again rekindle the joy of bonding as a family which was sealed that day between parents, children, grandparents, neighbours and strangers alike. It was like one big Family Day Out. 


Unknown said...

Hope this would be a regular feature and done in every city and town.

Dr. Suhasini said...

Glad to see your post after a long time Shobana! And reading through the post as I start my work was very refreshing. Wish something like this happens in Hyderabad too.

shobhana shenoy said...

Dear Pushpakanth,

Right now I think they are concentrating more on cities. This was done to actually encourage people to use public transport instead of private vehicles to decongest the roads.

shobhana shenoy said...

Thanks a lot, Dr. Suhasini. Yes, I have started writing after a long hiatus. Definitely this will be carried out in more and more cities. So very soon it might be in Hyderabad too.