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Where do the children play?

Neurotron | 14 February 2005, 9:36am

Where Do The Children Play?

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorryloads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems you can't get off.

Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air.
Will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

- Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), from Footsteps in the Dark

I must have heard this album when I was 4 or 5 years old. Cat Stevens is a hugely underrated songwriter in the league of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, and the simple music is salve for the soul, though, regrettably, nowhere near as well known. Songs we sing happily today, like 'Father and Son' by Boyzone (ugh), or 'Wild World' by Mr. Big, were originally by this man. The song that captured my imagination then was the first track on the album called 'The Wind', and I absolutely love it even today. The song that I really understand today is this one above. These sounds remind me of days more carefree, of laughter, and lessons learnt on the playground.

I've lived in the same house all my life, and one of the biggest blessings we have is a playground. I felt an immense sadness about two weeks ago when I saw that the slides, monkey gyms (do kids today even know what those are?) and other play structures I grew up with have been removed. This, by a colony association filled with new people with children of an electronic generation, who are too busy with tuitions and cellphones to be bothered with a change like this.

Those play structures were the last standing visual representations of a community that grew up together; sentinels of simpler, happier times. Now the whole park had been laid with grass, with a track around it, and benches where elderly people who use them about twice a month can sit. Mounds have been introduced in the name of aesthetics, effectively removing chances of playing a decent game of cricket or football. An additional pang was brought on by the realisation that the secretary of the colony association now is my father.

I remember a time when I was 3 or 4, and we kids were playing at one end (the park is rectangular, about 60 metres X 20 metres). The bigger boys were playing football over the rest of the ground, and my father would stand between them and us. If the ball came anywhere near us, they got a tongue lashing. Those were also days when teenagers respected people older than them (I think this is one of the greater losses of our society today), so the boys would try their best to not kick the ball too hard if they were near us. We bachchaas learnt so much just sliding down the jaarabandas, and climbing on various old-fashioned solid cast iron structures.

Then, at about age 7 or 8, we would hang around the older boys, hoping to be asked to join them. Then we join their sports and are treated like the kids we are. Then as you score more goals and runs, fall down and pick yourself up again, you earn respect and the right to participate in team decisions. So many bonds built over cut lips, intense sporting rivalries, fights, and patch-ups. Then you become one of the 'older' boys and take on the responsibility of taking care of the young children playing on the slides and monkey bars.

The lessons learnt on a playfield are of incalculable value to a child, boy or girl. It saddens me deeply to see the children of today hooked to their computers, the internet, online gaming and their cellphones, at an age when they should be out there getting their knees scraped and their hands dirty. In building our concrete jungles, we have forgotten to leave space for green pastures where childhood lessons and memories can be planted and nurtured. Then, we go further and remove the very instruments of learning that we built social skills and broke teeth on.

Tell me, father, where do the children play now?

Current Mood: Worried
Current Music: Cat Stevens

Posted in General | Next | Previous | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)


  1. 1. By jai  |  14 Feb 2005, 10:36am

    We call this evolution, my friend

  2. 2. By Aran  |  14 Feb 2005, 4:09pm

    Isn't evolution supposed to better things - than what they were before? Is this truly evolution?

    When I think of what our neighbourhood used to be earlier... and my maternal grandfather's house... sigh. Lovely memories. :)

  3. 3. By Jai  |  14 Feb 2005, 6:51pm

    but better is a very relative term Aran, u know it. whjat i think is better might not be the same for u. well, maybe the muncipality thinks its better to replace the old and fading park with something " better". just like nature thought that it ll replace the dinosaurs with some thing better, and it ended up with us humans. irony, but still, evolution. Right Aran

  4. 4. By Neurotron  |  15 Feb 2005, 9:29am

    Hmmm, interesting points there, Jai.
    I guess there are way too many facets and angles to this discussion than can be written in one 'post'. I was just speaking about one aspect, and what I feel about it. :-)

  5. 5. By Odette  |  15 Feb 2005, 9:41am

    nice blogs. my favorite cat song is "The First Cut Is the Deepest".

  6. 6. By blur  |  15 Feb 2005, 10:37am

    argggh long post....valentines day talking about neuro u think baap gotta give it to ya :-p

    i dint really read da post so if its not related to da comment dont think am dumb....well i am but then againnnn

    oh hell nevermind
    think whtever u wanna

  7. 7. By jai  |  15 Feb 2005, 1:19pm

    Ya, thats night Neruotron, but just validating my hypothesis for aran s comment

  8. 8. By Neurotron  |  15 Feb 2005, 2:04pm

    Odette, yeah, I love that song too. :-)

    Aran, I guess you've understood what I was trying to say. Old neighbourhoods...ahhh.. :-)

  9. 9. By Neurotron  |  15 Feb 2005, 2:06pm

    Blur, heh re, why ever would I think you are dumb? ;-)
    If I had said all I wanted to, the post would have been EVEN longer...imagine that!

  10. 10. By george  |  15 Feb 2005, 6:47pm

    sitting here at the reliance web world surrounded by hoards of maniacal kids gaming online... i totally relate.
    its really saddening .. why dont they go out and play? sigh!

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