The Leisure Valley is one of the few open spaces with some tree cover in Gurgaon – at least on my side of the highway. A couple of days last week I had to drop off Udai for a 10 o’clock Science workshop which was being organized at the Rajiv Gandhi Renewable Energy Center (RGEEC) at Leisure Valley. One day Aadyaa was with me and she happily played in the park and admired “the forest’.
On the second occasion I had not had my morning walk and since it was a relatively cool day with the temperature around 30 degrees, I decided to walk around the park. The area is fairly large, houses the RGEEC at one end, has a play area for kids, and a paved walking path and unpaved jogging track around the periphery. I took this route and found it well lined with tree cover with only occasional sunny patches. As it was 10 am on a working day, it was reasonably clean and a couple of young men were doing some raking up of the fallen leaves. On my progress around the park I came across a locked building, which seemed fairly new and was a designated aquarium. Supposed to be part of the Fisheries Department, it probably was built to meet some spending target!! Further along, there are these wide water channels with no water, thus exposing a complex set of pipes and boosters. These look fairly ugly, and are probably part of the set up for the “dancing fountains’ that the large boards announce. However, I could not find anyone to ask if these work and if so, when the shows were! The distal boundary runs along the back side of one of the large office buildings – and I could guess that a number of eating places functioned here both by the stale smell of food and the kind of litter lying around. The opposite end of the park had become a bit of a dumping ground. And the center of the park has a rose garden which is cordoned off with a stout fencing. It showed no evidence of anyone having paid any attention to the poor roses for a long time! The lawns themselves are reasonably green and there was ample evidence of them being watered. The toilets, as far as I could see, were locked.
The physical elements be they as it may – what of the human elements? The RGEEC end of the park has the ROOTS cafe and the children’s play area. The cafe is popular both with young couples and families and serves a simple, reasonable priced, organic menu. It has dispersed seating under the trees and on this morning it had a fair share of clients. The play area is also popular and usually frequented by families with young children often with a picnic basket in winter months. On this day, there were no families – only a bunch of laughing, brats who were led by a slightly older girl and were enjoying the slides and swings. They were probably from some nearby construction labor colony, I presumed, as there is no urban village or slum in that area. I had not seen this lot on earlier visits and made me wonder whether they knew when to find the place to themselves – and were as uncomfortable to mingle with our kids as our kids were to mingle with them!!!
As I walked around the periphery, the usual couples (of varying age groups) that are a feature of every public park, were just wandering in to grab the isolated benches strewn across the park. Their stories would be interesting I thought, the younger ones not allowed to meet by folks at home and maybe older ones meeting illicitly for various other reasons!! And in fact, many maybe married couples finding a quiet spot to spend some time together, a thing not possible in their own homes. Such are the pressures of urban life.
There were also the young men fast asleep on the benches with their bags under their heads. Now, theirs would be another set of tales – come on errands, with no affordable hotel or just working double shifts and catching a nap between shifts or getting away from an overcrowded home or….. any of hundreds of possibilities. Also, number of young men were just hanging about – and since the park is large and towards the distal parts fairly deserted, I did have a sense of discomfort. Why? Could anything happen in broad daylight? Maybe snatch my bag? I have never had such insecurities before – is it living in Gurgaon that is doing this? or is it the general response to what one reads and hears all the time? I was cross with myself and forced myself to do the second and third rounds! But was it wise? And as I was making my 3rd round, the kids who had been in the play ground were wandering towards the exit and couple of them came to me to ask for money! This is not begging I am sure – just taking a chance that if they can extract a few rupees from some kind soul and treat themselves to packet of kurkure!
But all in all, it is a welcome piece of open space in this concrete madness and I only wish we had more of these – sone closer to where I live in Sector 48, for instance!