Eight years after local residents were locked out of the Babulnath Bandstand garden or Seth Tulsidas Kilachand Garden, the gates will finally open to them today, after mid-day’s report on Wednesday.
The garden was closed to them in 2007, ostensibly for beautification purposes. Locals waited year after year — in vain — for their garden to be restored to them. All the while, the fine green space in the prime location was kept out of bounds for those who wanted to walk or play there, only to become a haunt for vagrants and vagabonds upon nightfall.
This situation, symptomatic of so many open places in the city, will not have surprised anyone. So many little green spots and handkerchief-sized parks have become out of bounds to people under some pretext or the other.
Sometimes, people are kept waiting for years before they can access a park near their homes, simply because there is nobody to do the formal opening. At other times, portions of an open ground are taken over for some ‘project’ or the other, which residents have little information about. Then slowly, piece by piece, we see the garden slipping out of the grasp of common people and simply usurped for some other purpose altogether.
This is a crying shame in a city that is already starved of open spaces or recreational avenues. Mumbai’s children play in garages or little bylanes. Senior citizens are forced to have their daily walks on pavements. People jog on skywalks for want of open space, and yoga classes are held in places so cramped that you need to contort your body to fit there.
Then, to bar people from the few open spaces they have left is callous. While the story of the Babulnath residents finds a happy ending today, let us apply the same kind of vigilance and citizen power to ensure the same of other open spaces in the city.