Beyond the morning walk

Beyond the morning walk

Parks are not just for fighting the midriff bulge. They are a space for community action, creative pursuits and neighbourhood bonding. LIFFY THOMAS and VIPASHA SINHA report

Parks readily bring to mind one of two things or both. Brisk-walking adults and gamboling children. But they also provide the setting for activism, music, art and learning programmes.

How does this happen? Parks – at least most of them – are integral to neighbourhoods. As residents keep bumping into their neighbours, they are encouraged at some point to start anything that spices up routine visits to the park. Invariably they start walkers’ clubs – some of which stay informal, shunning even names – and naturally branch off into a fascinating array of other activities.

Here are a few examples. Chennai Walkers Club, born in Sivan Park (K.K. Nagar) has outgrown the neighbourhood with its members, now numbering around 1,000, hopping from one park to another. Their favourite haunts include My Lady Park (Park Town) and Natesan Park (T. Nagar). The club organizes for its members free coaching in cricket, tennis and chess. But its USP is promotion of barefoot walking and acupuncture. Every first Sunday, Nageswara Rao Park wakes up to the lilt of the seven notes in contrast to the usual twitter of birds.

This is the result of Mikeless Kutcheri, which provides a platform for young musicians in the neighbourhood and beyond. The effort is around six years old. Tower Park Walkers Club, a heavyweight in its category, organizes a slew of programmes for its members, including something as irresistible as laughter therapy. Innumerable groups make use of this park in Anna Nagar for fitness initiatives. Until recenty, Sensei Maxwell conducted Shorinji Kempo sessions here. In Pammal, a group of walkers are in the vanguard of a campaign to save the Pammal Thirupananthaal Lake from blight. Recenty, the park-like space at the lake has been given a facelift.

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