A Tale of a Neglected Playground
This is a narration pertaining to the efforts of some senior citizens who had retired from their active service and in their spare time wanted to do something good for the well being of the society and also some contribution to their environment and surroundings. This playground is in the town 'Kharghar' in Navi Mumbai area of India. Navi Mumbai is an area just adjacent to Mumbai and comprises about a dozen towns like Kharghar. This particular playground is in Sector-7 of Kharghar.
This story started sometime back in the year 2016 when a few like-minded persons from the nearby buildings decided to facelift the playground and make it a clean place where the families can come with their children and take a walk or play or relax. It is not that there were no parks in the area. In fact, this town is rich in that regard and there are many parks and playgrounds most of which are managed by the municipal authorities but a few of them are still neglected and are not in a good condition. This particular playground was in the latter category.
A good start
Once these veterans decided to do that volunteer many, many challenges emerged from nowhere and knowing well that any help from the authorities was not easy and also was time consuming, they had to start on their own.
There were some trees already in the playground but they were not sufficient. Seeing the good size of the playground, as it was an almost rectangular piece of land measuring approximately 90 meters by 70 meters, more trees we're needed. So the first step was to have more plants along the fencing in the playground.
The first step
The group started planting various plants in the playground leaving the central playing area clear of it. People residing around the playground were invited in this and were asked to remember which one they had planted so that they could take special care of those plants in future if they desired so.
With the plantation done in a big way the group was in good spirits and was pondering as how to attract the people to visit the playground so that more people can be associated with it and its up keeping. One idea which came to forefront was to have a walking track along the fencing of the playground slightly away from the fencing so that the space between the walking rack and the fencing of the playground can be used for planting flowers etc while the central part could be used for playing sports. This was a thing for which help from the local governing authority was necessary and when these people went to meet the local town authority then they got a good support in the sense that though it was not possible for the authorities to do everything in the playground but they assured that a concrete walking track along the periphery will be constructed soon.
Laying of walking track
It was a happy occasion for the seniors when after a few days they saw that some labourers had come and started to dig along the sides of the playground for laying the walking track. The workers told that they were also instructed to make a good number of cement benches along the fencing of the playground. This was a very happy Information for the group and they started to hope for the better times for the playground.
Watering of plants
The other challenge for the group was the watering of plants. There was no water connection in the playground. But the good thing was that as these people were residng in the nearby housing complexes, they talked to their individual office bearers of their respective housing cooperative societies for help in this matter and when contacted, the office bearers assured to help and agreed to give water through a flexible hose to fill 2-3 medium size water containers which can be kept on one side and the volunteers can then sprinkle them on the plants. The local municipal corporator provided 3 medium sized plastic water tanks.
The nearby housing complexes started to give water to the playground once or twice in a week and the volunteer started to water the plants. This was a great leap for the project and throughout the winter and summertime (November to June), the volunteers watered the plants so that they can survive the scorching sun and can withstand it.
Massive work after the rains
July to September is the rainy season in this part of the country and within this period the playground turns in a thick green patch with stubborn grass everywhere. So after the rains the biggest challenge is to get it cleared and that itself takes about a month period for these volunteers who wanted to anyway do it as early as possible. It was the hard work and determination of these stalwarts that by the month of October, the playground was clear of grass and the morning and evening walkers started to come here.
More people started to come to playground
The playground was now in good shape but there was no light in the night and that prevented families to stay there late in the evening. The seniors approached the local authorities and after seeing the phenomenal improvement in the playground, they were also impressed and got some light poles erected in the playground and provided light connection.
The playground had already started to attract the morning walkers as one round of the park was a good 300 meters. Now with lights glowing in the night it also started to attract the women and children from the adjacent residences in the evening time.
Granite top for the cement benches
As the footfall in the playground increased the cement benches were being occupied by the people in between their walks or by others who just came to relax there. Some volunteers contributed money and fixed one granite top on one of the cement bench. It gave a very good look and the ambience of the place rose significantly. This motivated and encouraged them to go for more such granite tops for other cement benches. As money was a constraint, they asked for contributions from the like minded people by publishing request in the local WhatsApp groups. The money started to trickle in but the amount was not sufficient and then the group had to wait as the rainy season started and the project of granite topping was halted.
The revival of granite topping project
After the rain stopped the volunteer group became active and again started the campaign for collection for the expenses towards granite topping. Within a month sufficient amount was collected for granite topping of 4 numbers of cement benches. Within a month the job was got done by hiring a labour for fixing granite top on the cement bench with the help of Araldite.
This was seen by the visitors to the playground and after seeing such a fantastic facelift of the playground some more people came forward to financially help in the matter. Till the time of finalising this article the group had already got 13 cement benches (out of a total 31 benches in the playground) converted to granite-topped benches. Further efforts are going on in getting all the benches upgraded.
This is a case history which is an example for other good citizens to look for such tasks near their places and take up them as a community initiative. This is also a good example of keeping our environment clean and green. I salute to these silent volunteers who are doing such a commendable job.
I as an author of this article am residing in the same area and have been associated with the group since the revival of granite topping program and after seeing the success of it, I was prompted to write a hub on it for sharing it with all the readers who like this type of community volunteer work. I wish all the success to such people in their noble endeavours in each and every corner of the world. Let such spirits prevail in all of us.
Update - Autumn 2020 (October)
Due to corona pandemic which is still a threat in this area the maintenance of this park came to a standstill as the senior citizens (including me) involved in it were asked not to congregate there to protect themselves from the deadly infection spread. So we stopped going there since March 2020. We all are eagerly waiting for this situation to change and once the virus is contained or we get vaccinated, then only we can think of restarting the upkeep of this park as per our aspirations. As on today, only a few people wearing mask and keeping social distancing are going there for walk in the morning. Due to the good rains in the last 3 months, there is good greenry in the park but a lot of wild plants have also grown up which need to be removed and the flower plants are given chance to grow. So, we all are waiting for the good times to come in our lives so that we can go there and pursue our hobby of maintaining it. I would be updating the readers about the future progress in the matter.
© 2020 Umesh Chandra Bhatt