Reclaim Open Spaces For Children: Car Parking

Children lack access to open spaces to play, have fun and live their childhood. Everyone agrees that open spaces are important for a wholesome and enriching childhood. But, the key ingredient – open spaces are in short supply. So, what can parents do about it? How can parents help the children to run around and well, be children?

It is a hard task. On the face of it, parents can say that children do not have access to open spaces simply because there aren’t open spaces around. What can they do about it? It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the availability of open spaces and make it accessible to children. That’s all. The buck is passed and we, as parents, can have the satisfaction of having done our duty.

I also thought like this. What a single person or a group of people can do for a civic amenity? Then, I happen to look around. You also look around wherever you stay. Can you locate the open spaces? Actually, they are right outside your house/below your apartment/round the corner. Ok, they may not be huge but there are open spaces all around us, good enough for children to play and enjoy.

Where and what are these open spaces hiding in plain sight robbing the children of the opportunity to indulge in their childhood? If there are open spaces all around us, why cannot we see them and make it available to our children? Well, these open spaces have been taken up by a certain thing that has come to rule our lives.

Cars

Walk the area surrounding your house/apartment. We may or may not find the trees and bushes, or the stray animals. However, we are sure to find lots and lots of cars. The parked cars, stationary and lying idle, not going anywhere. These cars, in the process of going nowhere, take up lots and lots of open spaces.

All of us are aware that cars are hazardous when they move. Cars cause pollution – air and sound, traffic snarls, road rage, accidents etc. Yes, the cars on their own do not do any of these, the people driving them do. Similarly, when the cars are parked, they don’t do any good either. Again, it is not the matter of the cars per se, but the people owning the cars that create the issues.

A car owner shall not allow any play involving a ball in the vicinity of the parked car. Actually, a car owner shall not allow any play equipment to come near the car for the glasses may get broken.  Even worse, a car owner shall not allow a child to touch the car or even come near for the car may get scratches. Leave aside football/cricket, even tag/hide and seek are not allowed when a car is parked.

The car does not just occupy space as per its dimension/size when parked; it actually occupies space as per the car owner’s whim and fancies to keep the car unscathed. And, this space is much larger than the physical size of the car. After accounting for this mental space of the car owner around her/his car, there aren’t any open spaces left for children to play. Rather, even stand and talk.

Car Parking

One might say that cars are a required evil. But, how can even the parking of cars be evil? Per capita land availability in Indian cities is abysmal and that gets further compounded by cars parked indiscriminately, everywhere and anywhere. Why a dedicated underground parking lot is not considered a mandatory requirement to buy a car?

Some people might get offended by the idea of compulsory underground parking that it is too expensive and not a practical idea. For that matter, aren’t cars pricey enough to deserve a covered and committed parking? Why are cars parked on road-sides like stray animals and they can’t even be shooed away? Be it RWAs or commercial establishments, cars will be chaotically strewn around.

Have you ever tried speaking to a car owner about moving her/his car so that children can play? We try, the responses have been stares and outright indignation. For the car parked in front of our house, the truant owner removes the entity in question mumbling under the breath. For other cars parked in the lane, we are told to mind our business and not disturb the resting place of the prized possession.

If the cars have a utility to be driven, why can’t it be parked unobtrusively when not in use, without trampling upon the right of open spaces for children?

Reclaim open spaces

Imagine the open spaces that would be available for children to play and fool around if there are no cars on the ground except for moving on the roads?

Imagine the sounds of children revelling in joy and banter as compared to the ghastly silence of the parked car. Both of them vie for the same space in India and the car wins outright, as of now.

Along with children, imagine the space available for trees and plants, shrubs and bushes, if not for the idle cars lying around?

All the above and more are possible if we reclaim open spaces for the sake of children from cars.

What are your thoughts about the availability and accessibility of open spaces for children? Have I tried to over-simplify the problem by blaming the cars? What will it take for children to reclaim open spaces that are rightfully theirs?

Open Spaces For Children In India: A Myth

What is the ultimate joy of being a child? What should be the perk of being children? Where and how children get to live their childhood?

Few more questions. What is the most blissful for an adult in watching over children? What is it that delights adults, which a child engages in? For adults, what would be their childhood memories?

These are no trick questions. Think hard. A hint – All the above questions and even more questions that you can think of, similar to the above, has a single answer. Irrespective of who you are, where you are, varied social/economic class, the answer remains the same and yes, again an only answer.

For me, the answer is children in their natural surroundings, exploring, interacting and playing with other children, oblivious of the world around, just being children and having fun. There cannot be any other answer.

A child is not going to remember gadgets and toys, clothes and gifts when s/he grows up. A child is surely not going to recollect when s/he first saw the mobile and the countless mind-numbing screen time s/he had. But, a child is surely going to remember the experiences and the events that s/he has lived through; outside the home and more so, with other children. Come to think of it, these are the memories of your childhood that you still carry with you.

By default, these memories and experiences will have a common thread – open spaces. There is no exact definition of these open spaces. They can be a playground, an empty plot of land, a vacant parking lot, a gully/road with less vehicular traffic, with/without shade, but open nonetheless and also, safe and secure for children to mingle and goof around without adult/parental supervision.

Importance of open spaces for children

Open spaces and children obviously go hand-in-hand. Childhood connotes freedom and being self, uninhibited and natural. What better place to express this, than open spaces? Not just outside the confines of the four walls, but also beyond the endless directives of overbearing parents/adults?

Open spaces expose a child to all kinds of environs and interactions. It gives an opportunity to children for hands-on and experiential learning that no amount of simulated and artificial set-ups can ever do. And, yes it is free of cost, available any time of the day, never stocked out, fresh and novel every time and a lot more.

I can go on and on about the importance of open spaces for children. But I suppose, each one of us is aware of it and that’s not the point. The point is that even though all of us know about the benefits of open spaces for kids, all of us are blissfully unaware about the conspicuous absence of the open spaces, anywhere and everywhere, for children to express themselves.

Where are the open spaces?

Try to recall open spaces for children in any of India’s cities of today. Try harder. Come on, there has to be at least one, hidden somewhere, in the neighbourhood, in the ward/locality, or maybe in the entire city/state/country. Sigh, I cannot find any. You are lucky if you have found one for your child.

Mind you, similar to a spontaneous childhood not amenable to exacting adulthood, open spaces do not fall in the realm of adult understanding.

A playground is not an open space. It is not accessible to children across age-groups/it may not be free. More so, most of the playgrounds have now been taken over for some sort of sports coaching or the other purposes.

A park is not an open space. Do not believe me. Try visiting any large-enough park that is open from dawn to dusk. The trees will be taken over by swarming couples in dire needs of privacy. Surely, they are no places for children to be left alone. A community park is a shared resource between the retirees and children. Retirees do not like to have any kind of disturbance in their eternal chit-chats. The result – children of all ages are driven out from the parks or caged in one corner.

A play-area of a gated community is not an open space. Yes, it is open and accessible, but selectively. It is not within reach of the children of maids and drivers working there, children cutting across social and economic strata. This is a must-have condition of open spaces – kids getting diverse and heterogeneous exposure and not a mono-culture of ivory towers.

Vacant plots and parking lots, empty roads and by-lanes hardly exist in today’s urban India. If they do, they are not safe and secure.

Options, Choices, Future

In such a scenario wherein open spaces for children in India have turned into a mirage, what could be the options, the choices that we could have made and have actually made? What does the present herald about the future of open spaces for children? I have written about this in the second part to the current article. Publishing soon.

What are your thoughts on the open spaces, rather the absence of it, for India’s children?

To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Factors To Consider When Buying A Kids Bicycle

We bought bicycles for our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve. Based on our first-hand experience as parents, below are the factors to consider when buying a kids bicycle. Few of these reasons may seem counter-intuitive. Believe me, they will help the child and you in the long run.

Child’s feet should touch the ground

The innumerable charts on the net shall depict age, height and in-seam of the kids and accordingly, will recommend the size of the wheels for the kids’ bicycle. This gets confusing. To keep it simple, I suggest taking the kid to the bicycle shop and making her/him sit on each available model.

Now comes the tricky part. We are bound to think that the height of the kid will increase in a not-so-distant future. Hence, we might as well buy a bicycle that s/he can use for 2-3 years or even more. This will mean that, when the bicycle is being bought, the child’s feet will not touch the ground while sitting on the seat of the bicycle. This will necessitate the side/support wheels.

All the cycles in the shop would already be fitted with side/support wheels. If you look up on  Amazon, all the kids’ bicycle images will also show side/support wheels. If you happen to look around in the apartment/colony, the majority of the kids’ bicycles, if not all, wherein the kid is learning to cycle will have side/support wheels. My suggestion – Please do NOT buy a bicycle with side/support wheels.

The reason is simple. The child has to majorly learn two things when learning to cycle. Balance and Pedal. With the side/support wheels on, the child will surely learn to pedal but will not learn to balance. The day these side/support wheels are removed, the kid will have to re-learn cycling from a scratch. The only benefit of having them is that the child will not fall and the parent does not have to run behind the child.

We decided that we would want our daughters to learn how to balance, as a first task. They have had enough of pedalling experience with their tri-cycles. It is also time that we do some running around and get much-needed exercise. So, no side/support wheels for them. Yes, we spoke to our daughters in advance and kept explaining to them, why their bicycles will be different from their play-mates.

This also means that we will have to buy new bicycles for them within a year. That’s fine. The first bicycle is meant for learning and not lasting 2-3 years or more.

The accessories

As the bicycle does not have side/support wheels, the kid is bound to fall once-twice even after the best of the parent’s efforts. Moreover, all the bicycles around with side/support wheels will lead to suspicions in the child’s mind about her/his safety.

Hence, it is advisable to buy the accessories of the helmet, knee guards, elbow guards along with the bicycle. This may look like a needless additional expense. However, apart from keeping the child safe, this will go a long way in instilling the aspects of safety and precautions in the child’s young and impressionable mind.

Remove the paraphernalia

Predominantly, kids’ bicycles will come in two variants. Adventure and Regular. Adventure version will be light-weight and heavy on pocket. Remember that this first bicycle is being bought with the sole purpose of learning to cycle, so the adventure version will not make sense.

The regular version will come with all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia which only increases the weight of the bicycle. Without the side/support wheels, the child is going to find it difficult to manoeuvre and this additional weight will make her/his life miserable. So, please remove the back-seat, basket and other such stuff, after buying the bicycle.

Keep the back-support

I would have removed the back-support to the kid’s seat on the bicycle to further reduce the weight but for my back. Without the back-support, I would have had to hold the seat from below when my daughters pedal and that would have meant bending quite low. My back did not permit it, hence I am continuing with the back-support to the seat.

If you are game for bending low while running behind your kid’s bicycle, removal of back-support will help her/him with a further reduction in the bicycle’s weight.

Factors not to consider when buying a kids bicycle

Remember the purpose of the first bicycle for the kids is to learn how to cycle and not to make it last longer. So, the brand of the cycle should not matter.

The kid is going to bang the bicycle quite a few times. Do not look for resale value.

You can opt for accessories of light, bell, basket once the kid has learnt to cycle. Not before that.

Don’t get into the detailing of frames – steel/aluminium/carbon/plastic. It is not worth it for the bicycle that will last less than a year.

Don’t bother about the maintenance and the spare parts, but after-sales service does matter. Majority of the kids’ bicycles come with tubeless tyres. So, if you buy one of those, the hassle of filling the air in the tyres will also be taken care of.

There is no separate bicycle for boys and girls when you buy them their first. Please do not fall for this needless gender segregation. It is a unisex buy at their age.

In nutshell

Remove those side/support wheels and all the other unneeded stuff. Don’t fall for the dictum of bicycle lasting 2-3 years or more. With all the safety accessories in place, the kid won’t get hurt even if s/he falls. It is fun to run behind the child when s/he is learning to cycle.

Just ensure that her/his feet are touching the ground when stationary and s/he will learn to fly in no time.

Children And Plants: A Lifetime Of Learning

What could be the prized possession of a child? A toy? A dress? Surely, not chocolate. What could it be? Something that encapsulates childhood innocence, skills and competencies, academics, spending quality time with parents, preparing the child for the world that s/he is going to inherit. What could that be? My take – Plants.

I am not referring to growing own food, exotic species or new-age technology like hydroponics for space and cost is a privilege in India. I am not talking about gardening or even trees. It is just about a simple plant, any plant in any pot with any seed present in any kitchen. It has to be that simple and easy for every child to experience first-hand, nature and environment, and learn to be a part of it.

As I see my twin daughters tending to their plants, I wonder about the aspects in which this activity has impacted their exposure, learning and growing up.

Skills And Competencies

Patience – Plants will not yield to instant gratification requests. Return on efforts will take time.

Failure – Every seed sowed will not germinate. All the efforts might lead to a big nothing.

Discipline – Day-in and day-out the plant needs to be taken care of and watered at a given time.

Ownership – I have sown. I tend to. I grow the plant. That is mine.

Curiosity – How does the plant grow from a seed? The different parts and their functions.

Hands-On – Learn with practice and by doing, and not just by hearing instructions.

Sweating – Opportunities to sweat for a child is few and far in between. Sweating is good.

Getting Dirty – It is not the sanitized and clean environment that boosts immunity, but this.

Cause & Effect – As you sow, so shall you reap. Your efforts, your learning, your returns.

All The Senses – The experiential learning that involves all the five senses, unlike classroom.

I can go on, but that is not the purpose. The skills and competencies that a child learns while tending to plants in beyond an adult’s imagination. And, all this learning is something that a child is not going to forget in a hurry. Rather, it is going to stay with her/him for a lifetime.

Academics

Learning skills and competencies through tending to plants is a non-tangible. It is not conducive to assessment and examinations that an adult and a schooling system are used to. No issues, at all. The learning from plants is amenable to textbook academics too. Just that, it requires a bit of application.

It is Maths time. Numbering, Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Shapes, Weights, Comparison, Time.

It is Language time. Speak and ask open-ended questions. Read and Write about plants and actions.

It is Environment time. Plants themselves are a living environment, a world in a microcosm.

It is Cognitive Development time. Discuss and analyze experiences and predict outcomes.

A humble plant can teach all the academics that a mighty classroom can, that too at a fraction of a cost, time and efforts.

Quality Time

There are just three actors in this entire story – the child, the plant and the adult, a supporting cast. No distractions, just actions and observations. There is nothing but daylight that separates what the child and adult are doing involving all their five senses with the plant.

The togetherness, the bond, the memories that tending to a plant creates has no parallel. There will no repetition and no monotony in all the time spent together. There will be unexpected twists and turns along the way and the child’s reactions to each will lead to stories to savour.

It is not just the plants that get discussed and spoken about, but also the children – how they think, evolve, grow and develop. It is about growing up together, including the adults.

Any Plant Will Do

Even if there are no pots around, just a plate or a broken bucket/vessel will suffice to grow a plant. Coriander and fenugreek from the spices box in the kitchen, peels and leftovers from the cut vegetables, seeds from a fruit that a child ate – anything and everything can be tried out for growing. Seasons do not matter. The place available does not matter.

A requirement is just a willing adult, a handful of soil and a child will surely follow the suit.

A Better Tomorrow

Plants give a chance to children to learn innumerable life skills, overlooked in standard school curriculums, and teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

It is said that we have to leave a better world for future generations. Tending to plants with children is a small cog in the bigger wheel of creating an environmentally sustainable ecosystem.

There is no better gift than handing down a love of nature for children, starting with a base unit – Plants.

This is how I arrived at what the most revered and sacred possession of a child should be – A Plant. Also, a lifetime of learning.

What would be your take on this subject?

5 Ageless Games Children Love To Play – Indoor/Outdoor

The games that can be played inside or outside the house.

By any number of players, from two onwards.

The games that require a minimum of props or no props altogether.

No need for teams and scores either.

Minimum of fuss with rules and extremely easy to understand. Rather, the regulations can be flexible and change as per the participants’ wishes.

There is no limit on playing time and requires set-up time of a minute, at maximum.

Teaches a whole lot of skills and competencies.

The only requirement for these games is lively children full of energy.

To top it all, these ageless games are liked by children of all the ages. For that matter, even adults like these games.

These games are an all-time favourite of O +ve and B +ve, our five and half-year-old twin daughters. They have never had it enough playing these games. Come rain and sunshine, be it the coronavirus lockdown or the outside of the house, the girls just love to play these games.

Hopscotch

Hopscotch requires just a patch of land cleared of obstacles, a chalk piece and a stone for each of the participants. Indoors qualify too.

The hopscotch course can be drawn up to any numbers. We started by drawing up to number 8 and have now extended to 12. The girls throw the stone at the number, hop till the end number and pick up the stone in their return, without putting their foot inside the number, to & fro, where they threw the stone.

The children learn to aim and throw, balancing, turning and bending down while hopping on one leg and also, falling down in the process. There is no more fun than watching children hopping non-stop.

Hide And Seek

As an adult, one might think that multiple hiding places must be present to play this game. Just that, children do not share this thinking. They are capable of playing hide and seek everywhere and anywhere. Leave it to their imagination and they will conjure up hiding places out of nowhere. Just see them play for proof.

The catcher closes the eyes, counts to a pre-determined number while the other players hide. The catcher then attempts to locate all hiding players.

The children learn to count, hide, observe, sneak up and most importantly, to remain silent. Many a time, I wonder if the two girls know how to sit still and silent; I see them playing hide and seek and my question gets answered emphatically. Just that, they do not seem to ever do it for their parents.

Four Pillars

On the face of it, this game requires five players and four pillars. We have played with even two players and two pillars and believe me; the game still retains all the charm. No pillars, even corners will suffice. No corners, no issues. The children will make do with imaginary ones in their minds.

The game has one catcher, standing in the middle, and the other players touching their pillars. They try to change their pillars and the catcher tries to get hold of them / the pillars they are running to. It can vary, as per the rules agreed before the game.

The children learn to be alert, try to see and rush in all the directions conceivable, and bang the pillars in the process.

Ice And Water Or Surface And Water

Though the name of the game involves ice and water; none of the two is required to play the game. It is all imaginary in the minds of the children. Again, just a patch of land cleared of obstacles suffices to play this game. Maybe, a piece of chalk to differentiate the ice and water, but children are fine even without the visible boundaries.

The catcher is in either the ice or the water and the other players in the vice-versa region. The players try to step into the catcher’s territory and the catcher tries to catch the infiltrator.

The children learn to observe and be alert to protect their turf, run and catch the person stepping inside without permission.

Blindfold

A prop is required to play this game – handkerchief, in addition to the obstacle-free playing area. Want to increase the fun – play the game with two catchers.

The catcher – blindfolded child counts or is turned around in the centre of the play-area and is let loose. The other children can choose to stay still or give directions to help or bluff, as per their liking and not get caught by the catcher.

The children learn to make use of senses other than eyes – ears, nose and hands to find their way when being a catcher and learn to remain silent, otherwise.

More Than Just Games

As an adult, I do not understand why and how these games are so popular with my children. That shows that I am an adult and it also shows how easy and uncomplicated childhood can be and is.

Being Children And Having Fun Is The Right Of Every Child. The above games play an undeniable part in the exercise of this right for children. The plain, simple and easy games, full of fun, enjoyment and excitement and also teach a host of life skills in the process. It is also a memory of a lifetime for the rapidly vanishing childhood in today’s fast-paced world.

What would be your addition to the above list of games?

Mrugavani National Park: Feed A Sambar Deer For The Whole Day

Mrugavani National Park is recommended for a visit should your children/you can spend an entire day feeding one sambar deer. Now, one may wonder if feeding one sambar deer can be the sole purpose of visiting a so-called national park? Yes, it is. And, children can love the experience. Just that, it could have been a lot better.

Do not believe me? Read on. The below is basis the Mrugavani National Park visit in February 2020 with my five-year-old twin daughters.

The Area

Wikipedia page says that this national park covers an area of 3.6 square kilometres or 1211 acres. Telangana tourism website reiterates the same number. I suppose, 1211 acres have to be huge, really huge. Well, the visitors are limited to about less than an acre, or an acre or whatever, that one can walk through in 8-10 minutes, all possible directions.

No hard feelings, though. Nature is better left alone, away from humans. In which case, there is no point in going if the visitors are limited to such a small space.

The Flora and Fauna

Telangana tourism website informs that the park has been home to 600 species of plants and animals. It also mentions that the fauna is as varied as they come. It mentions about some animals as the most striking species for the curious traveller.

Well, they have to be taken at the face value. There is nothing to satiate the curious traveller, that s/he could walk in 10 minutes flat. Whatever trees that are present in the visitor area, none are named. Leave aside, further information about them.

My daughters asked me about the flora and fauna, that they were promised basis my google search. I told them that nature’s gems are better-kept secret. They asked back, then why are we here?

Jungle Safari, Watch Tower, Environmental Education Centre & Museum

We asked for the jungle safari. The driver told us that we will not be able to see anything apart from dry trees. In his suggestion, it was a waste of money and time. We dropped the idea.

We went to the watchtower. The steps were dilapidated and the railing was broken on both sides. It was not safe to climb for five-year children. We dropped the idea.

We went to the Environmental Education Centre. It was locked. There is a Forest Department office within the visitor area. Upon enquiry, we were told that the centre is opened only when someone asks for it. After some 10 minutes, it was opened. A person kept snooping behind us to ensure we do not know what. The information inside looked like a google copy-paste job, fit for a school project of 12-14-year-olds but not for the consumption of five-year-olds. After looking at some animal replicas, the children lost interest in 10 minutes, we walked out and the doors were locked again.

Wikipedia page mentioned a library, a museum, an auditorium and nature walk with guides. I suppose all these were hidden and locked from the visiting public, should they run away with them.

The children and I were getting exasperated.

The Sambar Deer

The girls noticed a sambar deer in the enclosure in the visitor area. They rushed towards the animal. The deer looked expectantly at them. The girls asked if they could feed the animal. I asked a staff person walking by. He shrugged his shoulders and asked us to proceed with leaves as food.

That was it. The girls started. They would have started feeding around 1030 or so. The next time, I looked at the watch, it was 1630. They went on and on and on. There were numerous leaves on the ground, they tweaked some leaves from shrubs, I pulled some leaves from the trees and that is all that we did for six full hours. I fed the children during lunch, and they fed the animal – breakfast, lunch and snacks, all rolled into one.

The sambar deer obliged for the entire time. S/he kept walking along the enclosure railing, but not even once went inside. The girls kept getting company throughout the day from other children in feeding the animal. The other children came and went, and B +ve and O +ve were nonstop.

The Children

It was tiring for me. But, for the girls, it was sheer delight. As an adult, for me, it was like can you please stop now? As children, for my daughters, it was like there cannot be anything better than this.

This is what and who the children are. I got them to visit the national park and all its paraphernalia. Not a single aspect worked, as promised. The adults screwed it up. The children found their amusement, what they ought to be doing as children, which we adults would never comprehend.

We left at 1630 as the guard pushed us out. It was Mrugavani National Park closing time, at 1700 hours.

The girls felt blessed to have got an opportunity to feed one sambar deer for the whole day.

What’s more to life than that?

PS: If it is more for you, please do not visit Mrugavani National Park, it is an outright dud. Trust the Government to be a complete killjoy by making it zilch experiential and ensuring that nobody takes any interest in knowing about the environment, leave aside the conservation.