Think now for the next
So many children and so less childhood
Children's games are hardly games. Children are never more serious than when they play” -Michel de Montaigne
I remember as a child, the first thing I would do as soon as I came back from school was quickly finish my homework, because all I looked forward to was the evening ahead at the park with friends. It would not even be five and my name was shouted out from the street below and doorbell would start ringing every five minutes till the time I stepped out. I remember rushing to the park and all of us scrambling to reach quickly before someone else took over the swings, the most coveted area. Hide and seek, Hopscotch, passing the parcel and so on used to be our routine games. When I look back at my childhood, I can do so fondly and it never fails to bring a smile. I just need to close my eyes and see myself looking up at the sky again and again to see whether there was enough light or getting dark - time for me to get back.
As the time passed, I started taking my children out to the park. The swings and slides turned fancier, health conscious young mothers taking walks as their children played under the supervision of maids, senior citizens assembling for their own share of gossip about their sons and daughters in law, to share a laugh or two, take walks together and share their common woes.
And then I come to Kashmir and look around for the parks. I am still looking for them. So many children and so less childhood. This is the first thought that strikes me. We all know it is a place seeped in an on-going conflict and things are not very hunky-dory. There are so many things which would probably seem more the need of the hour than bothering about something as trivial as children getting space to play. The question, however, is why should children have to bear the brunt of having to grow up not knowing what it’s like to be a carefree child and miss the most wonderful stage of life.
Building a couple of ornamental parks to attract seasonal tourists or a couple more in uptown localities is not enough, neither is it the end of the responsibilities of the State Administration towards children. We talk of rights all the time. It is the buzzword in Kashmir. And here I ask, what about the rights of a child – your nation’s future? That is the first right we should be talking of as humans. Child rights are human rights too.
On the one hand, we hold lavish seminars and debate about children to be kept off the volatile streets and on the other we close our eyes when it comes to providing them the alternatives.
A happy child grows up to be a happy adult. Apart from a handful in Srinagar, how many such play spaces do we have in other districts of the valley, if any? Not more than one each and those too are often in such shabby condition that they look like wilderness patches rather than parks. And if we happen to think that it’s not that important a subject to be talked about, let us have a quick look at the importance of play in a human’s journey from a child to an adult. Says Josh Billings, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”
Play helps children develop – physically, psychologically and mentally. Playgrounds and parks should be a must in all residential areas. Without being able to play, children may develop at a severely stunted rate. Just like eating and sleeping each day, play is completely necessary for a child to develop necessary skills at a healthy rate. Children also learn how to interact socially during play within a wider community, among friends and eventually in the workplace and adult relationships and this is what goes a long way in developing a child’s overall personality. A child who is encouraged to play regularly with other children, parents, siblings, outdoors, indoors and develop optimally, growing into a healthy, well-adjusted adult.
The positive effects of a school or park playground go far beyond the obvious ones, like physical exercise. Playgrounds can actually provide essential experiences and development for children in areas as diverse as social skills, creativity, problem solving, reasoning and more. The benefits that a simple trip to the playground can provide are often more profound and far-reaching than we can assess. It keeps kids occupied, builds community awareness, gives kids a place to go, exercise, fitness & conditioning, provides enjoyment, helps them getting to know people, encourages group participation in neighbourhood problem solving , inculcates team spirit as well as encourages interaction between adults and children.
As a result of the dearth of children’s parks, we find children glued to internet almost till they fall asleep. They grow up fed on things virtual, and half-baked knowledge of matters far beyond the understanding of their vulnerable impressionable minds. This is slowly leading to an unforeseen disaster and we can blame no one but ourselves for not giving enough thought to these issues today and letting them snowball into a huge unavoidable catastrophe lying ahead. Let us not shrug off our duty towards the next generation. Things happen when we think, when we talk and we discover a whole new world of solutions.
The writer is the Managing Trustee of "ARNIMAAL" a voluntary Organization working in the valley, primarily with children. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Sep 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Sep 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 9 Sep 2012 00:00:00 IST
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