The afternoon sun is bearing down, but astonishingly, it isn’t the air-conditioned cafés of south Bangalore that are packing in the crowds this weekend: the young folk of Jayanagar would, it seems, much rather spend their time throwing hoops.
An eclectic group has taken over the basketball court behind Madhavan Park, rubbing shoulders with some budding cricketers. Friends and strangers look on, or read a book in a spot of shade. Next door, at Kittur Rani Chennamma stadium, a young boy and his friend do a lap on the freshly laid athletics track — there are plenty of grins to go around, but no shoes.
A stone’s throw away, the BBMP swimming pool, training ground for champions, is packed to capacity.
It’s a similar story around every corner. Every ground and park in the area — and there are plenty — is bustling.
Thriving communities of residents, especially youngsters, benefit from the luxury of plentiful public space and freely accessible government facilities.
“Open spaces such as parks and playgrounds need to be accessible for people across gender, age and abilities,” says H.S. Sudhira, researcher at Gubbi Labs, which prepared the report for bicycle-friendly streets in Jayanagar.
Not only do they offer intangible benefits of being green spaces and supporting the ecosystem, but are also spaces where people can gather and interact, exercise, play or relax, he explains.
Jayanagar is fortunate in that it is among the handful of wards in the city where a park or open space is often no more than a kilometre away. The BBMP Horticulture Department’s list of parks from 2010 indicates 37 parks in the constituency, but local representatives and a walk around the area suggest a higher number.
The locality also houses public skating rinks, a kabaddi ground and indoor sports facilities.
This, along with well-planned roads — thoughtfully lit, with scientific speed breakers, clear signage and cycle lanes and stands — seem to promise a conducive atmosphere for families, especially youngsters, to spend time outdoors.
“Children, especially those younger than 12, have very little place to play,” says Pattabhiram Nagar councillor C.K. Ramamurthy, explaining the reasoning behind the recent move to open Nandanavana, a ‘high-tech’ children’s park in 4th Block. “Here they can not only play, but also get exercise and play in a sanitary sandbox, in a safe environment.”
Not all hunky dory
But of course, threats remain to several of these open spaces, from increasing commercialisation of the neighbourhood, infrastructure projects, encroachments, lack of maintenance, and ironically, park “development”.
Besides, residents point out, some parks are open only for a few hours a day.
An official at the BBMP swimming pool managed by PM Swimming Centre adds that facilities haven’t kept up with the population increase. The pool itself, for example, was set up 37 years ago. The children of Jayanagar may be luckier than their counterparts elsewhere in the city, but the neighbourhood can’t afford to rest on its laurels.