When we went to Runway 9 several weeks back, something struck me as very strange. I didn’t mention it at the time because I thought that I hadn’t gathered enough information yet to speak about it. Today I gathered a little more on the subject of adults, children, and play here in India, and figured it was a good time to share my observations.
The thing I noticed at Runway 9 was that even though the activities there would normally be for children in the US, they were geared toward adults at Runway 9. The laser tag vests only came in huge adult sizes, and hung off of Addie and Ender like drapery. The go-carts could not be used by children alone, they had to have an adult with them, even children 10 to 12 years old could not go by themselves. The harness for the bungee bounce thing was very large, and I was afraid that they wouldn’t get it to tighten enough on the kids. The kids were unable to do the rock wall at all, due to the fact that there were no children’s harnesses for that activity. Each one of those activities would normally be child’s play in the US. Adults can and would do them too, but the majority of people doing it would definitely be children.
Another weekend we went to the botanical gardens. It was a pretty place, where you’d have expected to see children running along the pathways ahead of their families and cavorting through the grassy areas. Not so in India. Our children were two of maybe 5 kids that we saw there the whole time. There were a ton of people there…men sitting together in the grass, couples sitting on benches together or searching for a little privacy among the trees, men conversing while wandering the pathways. However, children were nowhere to be found. Where are they children, and when do they play?
I see the children…I see them working and selling things at the little shops that we pass on the road, I see them picking through the trash piles for recyclables, I see them following their parents through stores and markets. But when do they play?
Fast forward to today…. A friend and I took our kids to Lumbini Park. I will write more about the park in another post, but I want to discuss what I saw there. There was a kid’s play area, and there were children playing on it. There also were the adults up there with them, following unsteady toddlers and adventurous PreK’s through the maze of bars and slides. “Ah”, I thought, “Finally I see some children, playing and having fun.”
Then I saw the swings. At first all looked great…again, children on the swings, adults pushing them. However, something was out of place, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Finally it dawned on me. The kids being pushed on the swings were not toddlers or preschoolers. They were 10 to 12 year olds. Near-teenagers who had not had enough opportunities to swing in their lives to learn how to pump their legs to make the swing soar. They sat there with their legs curled back, letting the adult push them slowly back and forth. We sat there a long time, and I watched wave after wave of children take their turn, not one of which knew how to properly make a swing go. Meanwhile, Ender and Lexy soared high above, their little legs pumping like mad so that the chains of the swings nearly buckled as they hit the apex.
I have a few theories on this. Firstly, it may be due to the lack of equipment and lack of child-friendly activities here. The park we went to today was the first “decent” play area I have seen in Hyderabad. In the US, we have them seemingly on every corner, and most of us have them in our own backyards. You can take your kids to a park within a 20 minute drive every day for 3 weeks and never repeat one. Here, there’s virtually nowhere to go.
Secondly, money is in short supply here. When you have to worry if you can afford dinner or clothing, you can’t possibly worry about your kids having things to play with. When you have to work every day of the week just to make ends meet, there’s no time to take your kids to a park or activity.
Now, back to Runway 9. I was very confused at the time to see that these normally child-friendly activities were almost exclusively aimed at adults. Now I have a better understanding. It seems to me that these adults are making up for lost time. They are yesterday’s children who had no access to this kind of play. Now, with jobs and a little extra money for the first time in their lives, they can partake of what they have missed.
What an interesting observation. It makes sense that affluence creates the time and means for organized childhood play. I wonder how the not-so-lucky children in India play?