In a major victory for residents, especially the youth of Bandra and Khar, who have been fighting for the right to play at Patwardhan Garden, opposite National College for nearly 30 years, its gates were finally thrown open for sports on Saturday morning. The BMC has even put up colourful banners across the western suburbs, urging youngsters to stop downloading dangerous games or straining their eyes in front of their computers, and step out and play in the well-maintained open area spread over 14,591 sq metres.

Residents at the park
Residents at the park

Aftab Siddique, chairperson of ALM 144, who has been spearheading the campaign for the last eight years, described the event as "better late than never". "We urged the civic authorities to carry out a survey of H West ward, which showed just one open playground in Khar and a handful of other open spaces where children could play sports like football and cricket. As a teacher, this was a disturbing fact, when we want our children to play outdoor sports, yet deny them open spaces," said Siddique.

She added that the argument put up by the BMC was that sports would ruin the garden and could also cause injury to senior citizens who come for morning and evening walks. "This, to me, was an absurd argument. As far as I know, there are around 300 pass holders, who use the periphery for walking. So, we sat down and worked out suitable timings for both walking, and for playing in the large middle patch that was out of bounds."

Shyama Kulkarni, AGNI coordinator for H West ward, said the highlight of the day was when BMC officials, thrilled to see hoards of children playing at the garden, agreed to a friendly cricket match against the residents next Saturday. BMC officials were unavailable for comment.