Arnab Choudhury (24), who works for a multinational firm in Pune, has fond memories of growing up in south Delhi's Chittaranjan Park or CR Park.
“I played football and cricket for hours at the grounds of C.R. Park,” he said. “On the other hand, my friends who lived in areas like Saket spent their time watching TV or playing video games.”
CR Park is one of the few areas in the Capital that has a vibrant sports culture. Youngsters still play football and cricket every evening and during holidays.
“CR Park always had a sport culture and reason for this could be the Bengalis’ fondness for football,” said P.K. Roy of CR Park residents' welfare association. “There are many grounds where children play every day and tournaments are held regularly, sometimes between local teams or school teams.”
Sports are mainly played at big grounds like those in Block B and at Melaground, which is also famous for its Durga Puja.
“We have a big football tournament before Durga Puja and there are many other tournaments organised by different associations,” said Roy. “Youngsters from other areas also come here to play and during tournaments we get a lot of spectators.”
Roy said the fondness for sports is slowly dying due to lack of infrastructure. “The playgrounds we have are not playgrounds in the correct sense of the term. They are just open grounds where children can play,” he said.
Roy said despite the enthusiasm of the residents, there was no encouragement from the authorities. “None of these grounds have any grass or a cricket pitch. There is no proper maintenance by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).”
“Even the other parks are not maintained by the MCD. The ornamental parks in CR Park are all maintained by residents themselves,” he said. “The Melaground too is maintained by the Puja Committee.”
“I’m against ornamental parks as I find them crowded with plants and flowers that are not necessary and just a waste of money. This money could be diverted to build other facilities,” he said. “We would rather have normal parks where children can play.”
Another area in the city where ornamental parks are yet to gobble up playgrounds is Sarojini Nagar in south Delhi.
This government colony has small parks along side each row of houses. Apart from this, there are bigger parks in each block.
“Thankfully there are no ornamental parks in our area. Children can play anywhere they want to and nobody really rues the lack of flowerbeds or creepers in our parks,” said Gautam Mukherjee, a resident. “For those who like their morning and evening walks in pristine surroundings, there is a beautiful Sanjay Park that has an artificial lake too.”