The Pokemon Go craze has hit Gurgaon and rather than being a nuisance it has, in fact, helped one of the city’s dying gardens spring back to life.
The Leisure Valley Garden in Sector 29 is one of the hotspots for catching Pokemon and is attracting the city’s Pokemon trainers – children, college students, office goers and even their parents.
“I have come to the garden after over 10 years to catch some Pokemon. I remember coming to the park in childhood to play cricket but now it is for a level up in the Pokemon Go game. It is a heaven for us gamers,” Manjeet Yadav, 23-year-old resident of Sector 18, said.
This comes at a time when the creators of Pokemon Go say they are working to remove Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, that don’t wish to be included in the mobile gaming sensation.
Recently, all vital Pokestops were removed from Peg Paterson Park at Rhodes in Australia’s New South Wales area after residents complained about noise pollution, traffic jams and a large amount of rubbish being left in the park.
The Japanese city of Hiroshima has asked Pokemon Go’s creators to keep Pokemon out of memorials to victims of the atomic bomb.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum also recently told visitors that playing the game there was “extremely inappropriate” and Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, has also banned the game.
Spread over 32 acres, the Leisure Valley Garden, was once frequently visited by children and families for picnics, walks and sports. The lush green garden with a variety of trees and flowers, swings and musical fountains attracted thousands to the park daily, and during the weekends one had to scout for the perfect picnic spot.
But as the city developed into a corporate hub, the garden next to the Kingdom of Dreams, lost its charm. The bright banners of shops and international food joints attracted residents of not just Gurgaon but the National Capital Territory to the malls, leaving the garden, like hundred others in the city, to the stand the test of time.
“I used to come here with my friends in Class 8. This was a great park and the huge gardens gave us ample amount of space to play in. But then the culture of malls and gaming zones was introduced in Gurgaon and we opted for the latter,” Shreya Gera, a 23-year-old college student, said.
Squatters took to sleeping or sitting in groups or to play cards and smoke. The trees’ shade were utilised by couples looking for some privacy.
“Last year when I had come to Gurgaon with my family, we decided to go to the park. I was born here and wanted to show my child where I have played. But instead of children giggling and parents walking on the footpath, I could only spot half-naked drivers smoking cigarettes and ogling at me,” Neha Raj, who came from Jaipur, said.
But suddenly after years, the park is being stormed by residents from across Gurgaon playing the augmented reality game. Gamers can find a variety of Pokemons – Pikachu, Charmander, Eevee, Poliwag– behind bushes, under the benches or near the fountains.
“There are so many Pokemons here! I caught 10 Pokemons in just 30 minutes. It is a haven for the virtual creatures. My friends and I have been coming here for the past three days,” Vaibhav Pabby, 21-year-old resident of Sector 17, said.
Aastha Goel, a 10-year-old, said her parents do not allow her to touch their phones but in the park she can freely play Pokemon Go. She has Eeveen caught a few “cute” Pokemon.
“It is a great game. We crossed the place often but nEeveer wanted to bring her in the park as it was unsafe. Now as the children and families are again coming here, we are feeling safer,” her mother, Neelam Goel, who was also seen roaming around the park with her phone, said.
Not just Pokemons, there are over 20 Pokestops at different locations in the park. The Roman Gazebo, Fountain Arcs and Helical Fountain are among the attraction in the park that allow gamers to collect items such as eggs or Pokeballs to capture more creatures.
“I did not know there is a point called Helical Fountain here. The game is giving us an opportunity to explore the garden like nEeveer before. I used to come here when I was young and a lot of memories are attached to these lush green gardens,” 28-year-old resident of Sector 10 Prayag Saini said.
Some people can Eeveen be spotted in the Poketrainer dress code – sportswear, cap and a bag. Walking in groups or riding solo on a bicycle, they can be seen throughout the day filling up the empty benches, broken footpath and dirty swings.
“The game has taken us back to our childhood and the park we have spent hours playing in. I am glad to be back here, again,” Kunal Asthana, an employee with an international bank, said.