There was a festival for toddlers at the Maharashtra Nature Park over the weekend. It is generally such a lovely green space that i was most excited about this. We usually go there on Sundays for the Farmers’ Market but this would be a different experience for the children. So we went there last morning…the twins, Amu, the nanny and myself. We got there around 10 am and first stood in a line to ‘get registered’…which meant Rs. 150 a head + stickers for the kids with their names, my name and contact info on it. (which is a good idea in case any of them were to get lost). We also received a schedule…and when i looked at it, i realized there was actually very little going on. there were gaps of unto 2 hours between events and performances…which meant that for all that “in between” time we would be simply obliged to visit the commercial stalls that had been set up or engage in yet another paid and directed activity like stamping or pottery. I have no issue with paying…i can afford it…but it saddens me to see how even a simple event in a lovely space that i guess belongs to the city is immediately made inaccessible to the non affording families. The park usually charges a nominal entry fee…but 150 a person becomes steep for a lower middle class family. And honestly, there was nothing that warranted that fee.
A reading was conducted in the amphitheater which was quite decent. Then there was nothing to do between 10.45 and 12 (which is a long time for toddlers). So we sat on a mat, ate sandwiches we had packed, played with pinwheels, walked around looking at plants and some butterflies and generally rolled around in the grass (more amu than anyone else). Let the boys try their hand at pottery…they liked it although i found it extremely over guided and structured…with the result that everyone left with nearly identical looking pots and diyas. Not my idea of engagement or creativity..but it let them get their hands into the mud and onto the potter’s wheel which was a new experience for sure. (i was then stuck carrying wet clay objects around on a stiff piece of paper)
It was finally noon and time for the next performance… music by the shankar mahadevan music academy and the miraya foundation. Since all three kids love music this was something I was looking forward to. However, the introductions took so long that the nanny left with Amu to wait outside as he was getting restless.
What followed was very very average. A group of kids performed for us…and I admire that…I respect and understand that this was their first performance. However, having worked with kids myself, i felt let down by the level of prep…especially the notes as they were often off key. The twins got fidgety after 4 songs and so we waited for that group to finish and decided to leave.
The food counter was doing brisk business and styrofoam plates were piling up in the large trash cans. The next event was another couple of hours off and i figured there was nothing more for us to do here.
I felt sad that nature wasn’t better incorporated into the plan (or maybe it just wasnt for the 3 hours that we were there). Sure, the stalls were set up under the trees but they could just as well have been in any other venue. And the plastic and styrofoam waste probably added to the carbon footprint of the event.
It is nice to see that people are trying to do stuff like this for kids (we really need it in mumbai). But i wish these things were better planned, less commercial and more accessible to the larger public.