Friday, April 18, 2014

Scenes from the Greens

The tiny, sloping, grassy patch near the lake in The Greens doesn't even qualify as a park, but in a city starved for green spaces and play areas, it's a welcome oasis, and every evening it draws a swarm of kids, nannies and young mothers.

The littlest ones wave their tiny fists and gurgle as they take in the world from their prams. The toddlers practise their gross motor skills with varying degrees of success, the uneven ground presenting both a challenge and an opportunity to develop their fledgling muscles. There are a few limestone boulders strewn about the green patch, which are about a foot tall. Occasionally, an adventurous child will attempt to clamber atop one of the boulders, under the watchful eye of an adult.

The best time to visit this little patch of green is just before sunset. There's a golden sheen on the water, and a cool breeze brings respite from the day's fierce heat. The gulls fly in low, lazy arcs and hit the water surface, creating gentle ripples. The mynahs and sparrows swoop and hop as close as they can dare, ever watchful for a fallen tidbit or for hunks of bread flung by fascinated tots. Sometimes, one of them will lead a wobbly toddler on a merry chase, before spreading out its wings and soaring to the skies.

The nannies sit in clusters and exchange news and gossip, the words tumbling out in exotic-sounding languages - Nepali, Yoruba, Sinhalese, Somali, Tagalog... They watch over their wards with a sort of distant attentiveness. The young mothers bond over stories of their kids' milestones, sleep challenges and food allergies. Play dates are planned and coffee mornings are slotted.

Dog owners walk their pets around the track that lines the lake. There are an astonishing variety of dogs - little furry terriers, solemn looking mastiffs, even a muzzled hound who the owner assures is friendly. The little children watch the canine parade with a mixture of curiosity and uncertainty. One of them growls and says, 'Wuvv wuvv' and goes out towards one of the dog with arms outstretched to pat it. The dog responds enthusiastically, neck stretched forward, nose quivering. The little boy is suddenly unsure about what to do with the clammy tongue that's licking his chin and backs off a little, his chubby fingers now attempting to grab the animate tail.

A variety of toys lie strewn around. Walkers, toddler bikes, trikes, balls, rattles and so on. The kids routinely make a beeline for the toys not their own, and power battles ensue which end in tantrums and tears. The one toy that gets most of the kids excited is the bubble blower. They watch in awe as the translucent orbs form and disperse. The smaller children wave their arms and clap as the bubbles descend on them, the bigger ones rush around trying to 'burst' the bubbles.

The resplendent lake surface turns darker and the gulls waddle faster to their hiding spots. The little ones are bundled into prams or tucked under elbows and shepherded home. The 'park' empties out, and the joggers and pet walkers move more assuredly unimpeded by the wee obstructions. 

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