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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Open air space for kids: BMC to open seaside children’s park in October

The seaside children’s park, set to open in October, is part of two new parks, Bandstand 1 and Bandstand 2, situated between the promenade and Bandra Fort.

Written by Benita Fernando | Mumbai |
July 26, 2021 1:13:38 am
The upcoming children’s park is about 11,000 sq ft and will be nestled in Bandstand 1. (Express photo)

AT THE southern end of Bandstand promenade, a new park will offer children and their parents yet another reason to choose an open air space over a mall in this pandemic. The seaside children’s park, set to open in October, is part of two new parks, Bandstand 1 and Bandstand 2, situated between the promenade and Bandra Fort. Assisting the BMC’s Garden Infrastructure Cell on the parks’ planning is Rinka D’Monte, 38, a Bandra resident and an architect.

The upcoming children’s park is about 11,000 sq ft and will be nestled in Bandstand 1. In keeping with D’Monte’s plan, usual fittings of a park, such as a spiral slide and a set of swings, are seen at the space now. However, D’Monte’s design takes it a step further. Children can explore various sections, including floor games such as hopscotch. Much like a map, a pathway in the park will encourage children to use their bodies instinctively, from jumping to revolving.

“A slide and a swing are not enough to make a children’s park. You have to entice children to come again. You have to make them want to explore the park on their own. You can do that only with design,” said D’Monte, who came to live in Bandra in 2007 from Allahabad.

D’Monte’s interest in parks came about as she sought out play venues for her young son, now aged four. In her commercial practice, she didn’t have to necessarily think about open areas, she said. Once her son came along, the need for parks was felt more than ever. “We had to take him to a park every evening and that’s when I realised there weren’t enough in Bandra. When it comes to your child, you start thinking,” she said.

Till date, D’Monte has assisted pro bono on six parks in Bandra, including a play area at Joggers’ Park and the Indian Navy Park at Bandstand. The children’s play area at Joggers’ Park was planned to stimulate children’s innate sense of curiosity and their love for bright colours and different shapes.

D’Monte is among other architects in Bandra, such as Alan Abraham and the Bandra Collective, who have shared their expertise pro bono in the interest of sprucing up their locality. D’Monte’s father-in-law, late Darryl D’Monte, was a noted environmental journalist (and former resident editor of The Indian Express), to whom a garden was dedicated and named after in Bandra earlier this month.

Bandstand 1, in which the new children’s park is located, and Bandstand 2 are parks that are more than forty years old but had fallen into disuse and disrepair..

Asif Zakaria, the Congress corporator from Bandra, who moved the proposal to revamp the old parks in 2018, said that their location by the seafront is strategic.

“The pandemic has definitely taught us a lot of things, including the need for open spaces. Unfortunately, in today’s urban life, the only option was going to a mall, which has changed post-Covid. We need to have more usable open spaces than ornamental,” Zakaria said, adding that his eventual plan is to connect the Bandra coastline’s recreational spaces, from Carter Road to Reclamation, via Chimbai, Bandstand and Bandra Fort.

“The old park didn’t add to our idea of recreation,” D’Monte said. The architect believes that Mumbai residents need more open spaces, but also purposeful open spaces. In the toss-up between malls and parks, people may like to go to a mall not always to shop but out of interest, she argues. “Similarly, there has to be a point of interest in a park,” she said, citing the example of Reclamation walkway, with its uninterrupted view of the city’s skyline.

The need for open air spaces became more pronounced in this pandemic, with children stuck indoors with little opportunity for interaction with people their age. “It’s psychologically difficult for them,” said D’Monte, especially since they are not attending play school either.

What one can do, however, is to make the public more aware of existing parks in their neighbourhoods, D’Monte said.

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