Where have all the flowers gone?
I once asked a student to write about his favourite game of sport, and what he wrote about was Assassin’s Creed! I was very much startled by this and when asked him whether he played any games outdoors, he replied innocently, “Where shall we play?”
This is where the mass urbanisation has taken its toll on Dhaka by erasing the scopes for the young ones to have a healthy childhood. The city is no longer child friendly as it fails to provide the amenities and environmental factors needed for the physical and psychological development of children.
Those of us who grew up in the nineties, we grew up hearing stories from our parents about vast fields where they played Kabaddi, Ha-du-du, football, or may be the timeless games of “Borof Paani” or “Hide-and-seek” in the gardens during their childhood. On the contrary, we were left with narrow alleys to try out a little game of alley-cricket. If we compare and contrast between our childhood and the present, we would feel remorse and despair about the childhood we are offering to the children these days.
What children now-a-days end up with is a childhood of enclosure. There is no playful ecstasy there; instead there are piles of books and long schedules of tuitions and coaching classes. Now they are only meant to move ahead in the rat race of “getting enlightened” when they were supposed to explore the charming aspects of being the young ones!
However, the angels of urban development have not completely forgotten about recreation for children. In some condominiums there are often basements or rooftops with some facilities for toddlers to play. The irony is that, such a day is not very far when these children would learn these consolatory enhancements as the definition of a ‘playground’!
These days even the students of play group do not have the pleasure of playing. Instead they have a weeklong routine of attending classes carrying a heavy bag on their small shoulders. To add to that, let us not forget the admission coachings or house tutors after school hours are over. The only bit of entertainment they have include watching Cartoon Network while munching their meals or may be an hour of playing games in the X-box or Play-stations. Talking of physical exercise, oh come on, let us not even talk about that!
Apart from that, let us look at the other forms of recreation there are for the children in this metropolis. There are only a couple of modern amusement parks besides the ‘ancient’ Shishu Park that we have for the thousands of children in the city. The problem is, they are situated in the suburbs of the city and it is not very convenient to travel there in a city with severe traffic congestion. You would also find tenfold more adults in those amusement parks instead of those they were made for in the first place. Such irony!
When was the last time you heard of a film for children have been released? I am quite sure the only names you can even remember are probably ‘Dipu Number Two’ and ‘Amar Bondhu Rashed’ from the recent past. Yes, our film makers have almost forgotten that there is a huge population of child audience just in Dhaka city alone who are completely ignored in their professional ventures. Instead, they are busy making ‘social action’ movies or ‘romantic comedy’ films which are hardly fit to be watched by children.
Even a few years before there were TV dramas made especially for children such as “Ha-Ka-Robin” and “Biprotip” and a few others. There were at least one or two single episode dramas telecasted during the two Eids. Unfortunately, TV programs at present mostly include chick-flick dramas and the talk shows that garner the highest TRP (Television Rating Point) these days!
Talking about Dhaka’s environment, have you ever wondered how the children are growing up amidst this loud noise of honking buses and cars and the smoke and dust? Every single day they have to face the hazards of urbanisation when they are out on their way to and from schools. The regulations of vehicular movement near the schools weep silently in pages and papers. Nobody cares about what might be the effect of noise well above 90 decibels, the threshold that children, such as four or five year old toddlers, can sustain. The air pollution in Dhaka is causing them growing up with respiratory complications right from the beginning of their lives. Despite all this, the average life expectancy of people in Bangladesh is increasing. I keep wondering how!
And I also keep wondering, where have all the flowers gone?