All for traffic sense -- in kids!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Jun 2018 09:51:25


When it was first thought of, Traffic Park in Nagpur was truly a novel idea. Kids would learn traffic rules there as there would be proper traffic signals, proper intersections and proper roads on which the kids would ride their bicycles or tricycles, the people were told. That was really exciting!
But then, there was a very long gap -- of several years -- between the first words uttered about the proposal and the first rush of kids and their parents into the Traffic Park through the gates thrown open after a proper inaugural.

No matter that delay, the people lapped up the idea with gusto. Right from Day One, Traffic Park in Bhagwagar Layout in west Nagpur became kids’ favourite. There was never one single hour when evenings in the Traffic Park were desolate. For, the park often overflowed with kids and their families -- the whole jing bang, father, mother, grandmother, aunts chaperoning the kids around -- on the toy train, on the cycle rides as the kids stopped at red lights at intersections, proceeded when the red turned green through amber, on various swings and sliding shoots and trampolines and jumping jacks ...!

And what a place has the Traffic Park been! Just out of this world! Just wonderful! Just so full of joy, so full of newer possibilities of enjoyment, possibilities to look for newer frontiers of celebrating childhood! Everything in Traffic Park is just good, idyllic, ideal. For, their playing area, too, has a
wall-to-wall spread of acrylic carpet that saves the kids from getting hurt. Of course, now many parks in the city have such carpets. But back then, well over ten years ago, Traffic Park was the only place that sported such a carpet.

Yes, even I enjoy visiting Traffic Park with kids at home. Once inside, the kids are lost to us, as if they do not belong to us and we to them. They are on their own, unmindful of our presence. Of course, the two-three important tasks left to do are to protect the kids’ shoes and offer them a sip or two from the water bottles we hold, and occasionally take them to the washrooms (which are rather unclean). These tasks done, we become perfect strangers for the kids. For, in those playing arenas, the kids find their friends, make new ones, and hug one another and fight among themselves. We, the poor adults, are only the by-standers with little role in the frenzied activity.

Of course, over time, Traffic Park has changed. It is now dominated by a lot of commerce. The kids have to spend quite some money at each stop to participate in the activities. And then occasionally, all the entertainment comes to a grinding halt as the contracts of the vendors come to an end and there is no activity at the Traffic Park, just as what is happening at present. The kids feel so disappointed to see “our” Traffic Park closed. True, the kids do go to other parks nearby, like the Shivaji Nagar Park or the Shankar Nagar garden. But Traffic Park is Traffic Park and nothing else can match its appeal, its magnetic pull.

Initially, learning of traffic rules and imbibing of traffic sense were the two main activities at the Traffic Park. Now also, all the infrastructure is in place. But then, there is little conscious effort to teach the kids the traffic rules and expose them to what we generally understand as traffic sense. Initially, the people were told that there would be some adults teaching the kids all about traffic rules which the kids would imbibe as they rode their bicycles or tricycles. But for many years now, such an arrangement does not exist, much to the disappointment of many. And since there is no one guiding the kids in that regard, the kids just don’t look at the traffic signs and signals and just carry on regardless.

This is something that hurts.
For, when the society in general is beset with people who care a damn for traffic sense and rules, the learning activity at the Traffic Park could have been a great thing to happen. Unfortunately, that is missing.

My mind darts back to my childhood when I rode a blue-coloured tricycle around. My parents often taught us kids -- my sisters and me -- the importance of following traffic regulations. One of the most distinct memories of my
childhood is my medical practitioner father acting up a traffic cop, gesturing us to stop or proceed. For, in those days, traffic signals were a rarity found only in big cities like Mumbai or New Delhi or Calcutta (now Kolkata). Those were also the days when elders encouraged the kids to march up to the cops at intersections, salute them and say
‘Jai Hind Police’. Today, no parents ever push their kids to such a nice things. Alas!

Today, teaching the kids traffic sense is a dire need. Yet, we somehow ignore it, much to our own disadvantage.
In such an atmosphere, one realises the important of an idea like Traffic Park with a sense of purpose and not just raw entertainment for the kids. We do need institutions such as Traffic Park to teach the kids the importance of traffic sense and benefits of following traffic rules.
Currently, the Traffic Park is closed with a lot of rumours flying around about the reasons of closure.

I understand that the vendors’ contracts are to be re-worked. No matter that. For, whenever the contracts get re-worked and the Traffic Park re-opens, the traffic-teaching activity must also get started with a renewed vigour. That alone would make sense to the name of the place -- Traffic Park.