What would I want Bangalore to look like in 2020? Being a child rights activist for over two decades, let me try and articulate what I think Bangalore should ensure so that the needs and rights of its young citizens are fully protected and promoted.
I would like to see every child in Bangalore having a home where s/he feels safe and secure, where she can live without the fear of being evicted. A home, which is not just four walls and a roof, but which has access to clean drinking water, a toilet, community spaces for recreation. An environment that protects livelihoods of adults so that their children can enjoy three meals a day.
I would like to see all children, whether boy or girl, from well-off families or from those living in situations of poverty, in school and learning in ways that are most appropriate for them. Schools need to be flexible and tweak their curriculum and methodologies to accommodate learning styles and needs of all children, while always looking at making education relevant to the world outside.
We have to see more and more children with disabilities coming out of their homes and be a part of spaces that all children use. Schools, parks, playgrounds, malls, theatres, museums, galleries, amusement parks, all have to become more welcoming of children of all abilities.
Welcoming does not only mean ensuring physical modifications like making ramps or signages in Braille (which are, of course, necessary), but also increasing our sensitivity and tolerance towards children who may behave differently from others.
Bangalore must ensure that all children have safe spaces to play. The way the city is growing, we are constantly seeing spaces that children used for living and learning, being taken over and encroached upon to meet adult needs. Open spaces seen in any neighbourhood are a prime example. An unused piece of land where children play, suddenly turns into a landscaped garden, with manicured lawns, and walking tracts designed for adults. What is this but an encroachment of a natural children’s space?
I would like to see public play spaces in every neighbourhood for children, regardless of ability, class, caste or gender. We need varied spaces to cater to the evolving play and recreation needs of children, as they grow. The toddler needs a space close to the home where s/he can swing, slide, climb, crawl, dig into sand. A young child needs ample open space to run, jump, skip, cycle, play goli, buguri, hide-and-seek, alli gulli mane and lagori. A teenager needs open space for cricket, basketball, kabaddi, kunta belle, gilli-danda and football. If we don’t prioritise and ensure this, we as a society will pay, with increased childhood and adolescent obesity and reduced capacity in our children for tolerance, for being good losers, for being able to work in a team.
It would be so wonderful if public art and culture hubs are established in every neighbourhood, taking art, music, sculpture, dance, humour to every child. Would this not be an effective counter balance to the overly scholastic achievement-orientation that we as a society seem to be stuck in? It would also ensure that intelligences other than those nurtured in our existing school systems thrive, that creativity is nurtured.
What I would really love to see is roads putting children’s mobility above automobility, being designed to ensure children can walk and cross streets safely.
As an immediate action, how lovely it would be if Brigade Road is closed one Sunday every month and instead of the usual honking and fighting for parking, we see the road replaced with jugglers, clowns, magicians, pupetteers; with art, music, dance, mimicry corners and spaces for hopskotch, snakes & ladders, pagade and chouka bara!
A Bangalore that is safe and secure. A Bangalore that promises and ensures every right to every child. That would be my vision for Bangalore 2020.
Managing Trustee, Kilikili, an NGO that works to create inclusive play spaces for children