At 6 pm tomorrow, the oldest and possibly the most accessible entertainment centre for youngsters in the capital, Appu Ghar, will down its shutters forever. A brainchild of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Appu Ghar, named after the cherubic mascot of the 1982 Delhi Asiad, was set up in 1984. The closure was in the offing after the Supreme Court in January ordered the Urban Development Ministry to hand over the land, which the park’s management had taken on lease from the International Trade Promotion Council in 1984, to the apex court and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The land lease had expired in 1999. While the footfalls had decreased over the years and prices of tickets were not as attractive as before, Appu Ghar’s closure will mean the end of one of the last surviving open spaces for children in this city of over 14 million people. In fact, much before Mumbai’s Essel World, Kolkata’s Nicco Park and Kerala’s Veega Land were set up, this amusement park became India’s very own Disney World.
Keeping the legal and land lease issues aside, we can’t help but lament the closure of the park because there are hardly any more places left for the young in the city. Some would argue that Delhiites at least have the sprawling India Gate lawns, Nehru Park, Lodi Gardens and Hauz Khas Deer Park, but other than being green manicured patches, there’s not much to do in these places for children. And, the less said the better about neighbourhood parks, most of which have become dustbowls, or, worse still, encroached upon. In comparison, the amusement park was much cleaner and located conveniently, especially, if you wanted to do the National Zoological Garden-Appu Ghar-Dolls Museum circuit. The park also did not too badly when it came to upgrading with the times: Oysters, the water park, was a hit with students. As were the Ice Games. In fact, unadulterated fun in a secured atmosphere was the main reason behind its tremendous popularity.
As ‘entertainment’ gets more and more restricted to the digital world and the sanitised environs of shopping malls, the need for open/public spaces for children is increasingly becoming more important than ever before. Almost every other day, there are reports of the ill-effects of a sedentary lifestyle on children, like obesity. A sedentary lifestyle is the forerunner of unhealthy adulthood. It’s high time we think about ways how to get our children off their couches. And, to do that we need more open spaces, where children can be children once again.