Bhanu Bandapadhya, known for his extraordinary wit and humour, used to cut jokes out of the ordinary. One of his celebrated joke concerns football as he poses the question, why so many boys are running after one ball when they each can have one and do not have to vie for a single ball. Similarly, an extraterrestrial innocent being arriving on this planet can ask why millions of people are huddling together in a claustrophobic environment of cities when there are open spaces all around.
Space gives the much needed relief to eyes and in its turn to the heart. A lack of it is missed by people and some old people rue over the construction spree that has overtaken spaces in cities and towns. DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam recently complained that housing estates approved show playgrounds within the complex but later on no such space is found there. He named the names of a number of housing estates where the approved playgrounds have conveniently disappeared.
Anyone can see that the concrete jumble modern civilization has ended up creating is unhealthy for living. Looked from some distance, with no greenery to soothe eyes, the spectacle is ugly and lifeless. People are more like caged animals detached from Nature. Dissociation with trees, herbs, shrubs, grass, vines, undulating crop fields, streams, lakes, rivers, hills and mountains has turned the human soul rigid and devoid of empathy and emotion.
Particularly the young generation glued to smartphone, tablet and computer screens hardly know how enchanting the living world around them and in particular verdant meadows, crop fields, pristine woodlands or forests are. Objects intervening space has to be pleasing to the eye. But today's children are deprived of this aesthetic gift. In cities and towns, some small playgrounds were set aside for children to play games albeit in not so systematic a manner. But at least those grounds could provide the venues for physical exercise and if not anything else at least some freedom for expression of childish exuberance.
In Mohammadpur area of Dhaka City, there are quite a few such playgrounds in different localities. But lo, those are now hijacked by the elders. Some of these playgrounds have been compartmentalised with walkways inside and in between flower and decoration plants have been planted. There is no space for children to arrange any game or sport. Then a few others are used for commercial purposes. Weekly or bi-weely markets of mostly women's apparel, cheap jewelry and other such commodities are held. Seasonal mina bazaars are also arranged for days together. What happens on playgrounds in city's other areas may also be brought under review.
The fact is that children are neglected. They are not allowed to be sporting and physically strong. Well, the pandemic forced them to remain confined to their homes. If the playgrounds were well maintained, they could now come in droves to at least run helter-skelter if not engage in sports and games. Thus their pent-up emotion and claustrophobic experience within the four walls of their homes could be overcome to a large extent. But this is not to be, because most of them are required to be book worms of the worst type. The pressure is on them to make up for the learning losses during the pandemic.
Education thus becomes unbalanced. Children grow self-centred and do not look back if they can successfully complete their studies. No wonder, the more equal among them choose studies and settlements abroad. The elders are to blame for not allowing the children the space they need. In their lexicon, space for other does not quite exist. It is the wellbeing of the self and a drive like this turns the highly educated not only self-centred, corrupt and robotic but also devoid of humanity.
Space may mean distance but it is necessary to realise the precious value of closeness of souls. So the value of space and time can be better realised in terms of human relations, in not in the scientific explanation. Create space for not only for your own kind but also for other living species and that is how a sustainable balance in Nature can be struck for preservation of the creation.