As part of a worldwide initiative by Canada's national airline to revamp basketball courts, an abandoned space in Matunga opens today. It's a burst of colour, but falls short on basic amenities
No matter how beautiful this looks in a movie, a shot of the scorching sun lingering on our face isn't close to romantic. But we'll tell you what's worse. Walking in blistering heat only to discover closed gates. That had been our experience at Matunga's Hooper's Ground in a nutshell, until we managed to get through the guard's initial disapproval and proceed with our job. Here, enclosed in iron bars that give it a cage-like appearance, are two basketball courts and a volleyball court accompanied by a little garden that welcomes senior citizens every now and then, we're told. Of the two basketball courts, one is in shambles, while the other has been revamped as part of a global initiative by Air Canada and will open to the public tomorrow.
Hooper's Ground, Matunga. Pic/Ashish Raje
So, when we ask the guard if the court pre-renovation looked as abandoned as its counterpart, he refuses to say anything more than "bekaar" — so we wonder where the R2.5 crore spent by the BMC for its beautification in 2016 vanished. The revamped court rightly resurrects the garden with its pop of colour and animal motifs; the beige, white, red, and black all give it a sense of its own identity that define the Indo-Canadian relationship. Elizabeth Linder, executive director of Beautiful Destinations, a partner of the initiative, says, " We celebrate travel as a mindset: we believe that whether travel is defined as a global or local experience, it supports a curious mind, an inclusive community, and a diverse perspective. We are proud and delighted to be here."
Behind the artwork, is painter Sajid Wajid of ST+ART India Foundation, who tells us that his main challenge was conveying the airline's message of diversity and inclusiveness in two weeks. "India and Canada share very little visual similarities. So, we had to represent that dichotomy in the best possible way, and our approach thus was devoid of human figures. So in the centre, you can spot one giant figure — the top of which is a moose [native to Canada] and the bottom depicts an elephant," Wajid explains.
But besides its colour, the dressing rooms or sanitation facilities are missing, even though the space is located in a neighbourhood that is home to the city's most well-known colleges. Seats for spectators are also limited to one stand with two rows that could seat 40. All this shouldn't be an afterthought in a public space, we feel.
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