The Subhash Park recently got a makeover, which was long overdue. I’m an occasional visitor to this charming park located next to the backwaters. It’s a soothing oasis in the din and chaos of the city. Signs of decay had become apparent over the past few years, however, and a rehabilitation was in order. After all, it’s an old, old park, a park with pedigree. It was originally named Irwin Park in honor of the then viceroy, Lord Irwin. Sometime after independence, the name was changed to the present name, Subhash Bose Park.
I have mixed feelings about the glitzy new post-makeover Subhash Park. Oh, it’s undoubtedly a huge improvement on the old park, but I wish they’d paid attention to a few points. Point number one: Some sculptures by renowned sculptors were reportedly ruined by the unsupervised workmen, who, among other crimes, painted many of them a uniform white. They meant well, as the sculptures were in a sorry state, caked with the dirt of years of neglect. However, the sculptures were not meant to be painted a ghostly (some would say “ghastly”) white; one, in particular, which looked sorry and decrepit and rusted and headed straight for the scrap yard, was actually intended to look like that. Artists protested loudly. The concerned workers, I’m sure, are still scratching their heads and wondering what the fuss is all about. (And, between you and me, so am I.)
Point number two: A large number of slimy green reptiles (one specimen is visible in the bottom-left corner of the photo, which I took last week) have been smuggled in and planted at strategic spots in the park grounds. They compete with the trees in number. (And they probably reproduce sneakily at night and are spreading all over the city like a plague. Ugh!). The trees spread shade quietly, while the reptiles blare music loudly. Many visitors come to the park for some peace and quiet after a rough day. They must now be prepared to brave, for example, Abba hits at full volume. I kid you not. From Money Money Money to Super Trouper, I heard them all at the park on a Thursday evening. And at the southern end of the park, visitors are treated to fusion music: the music of Subhash Park fuses with the music wafting in from the laser show next door. But people are trying their best to adapt. I spotted one man stuffing wads of cotton in his ears. He had tears in his eyes. An old man sported fancy ear plugs that looked like they had been mailed to him by his son in America.
Point number three: After dark the park is lit up like a concentration camp. There’s no place to hide. Bright lights are at odds with peace and repose. A few strollers were wearing dark glasses to shield their eyes from the glare of the lights. Others were squinting painfully. Let the authorities also please note that a public park is not complete without a few shadowy zones that amorous couples can melt into. I did spot a few hapless couples looking very uncomfortable, frozen like deer impaled by car headlights, seemingly afraid to even hold each other’s hands. As it is, the couples do their best to adapt to the thin cover. More than one creative couple, in a valiant attempt to salvage some privacy, had worn dazzling silver-colored clothes to blind passing strollers with the high-beam reflector effect. I also spotted a desperate couple crawling under a bush. What is the use of giving a public park a makeover if couples can’t make out?
Still, all things considered, I’m not complaining: the authorities deserve a pat on the back for rescuing one of the long-standing charms of the city from dilapidation. True, they have unfortunately gone overboard and transformed our genteel old maid into a brazen hussy. But all is not lost. The music can be stilled, or supplied in small doses, or at least softly piped, and the selection improved. And the floodlights can surely be toned down to something closer to soothing night lights. Then we may yet reclaim a beautiful, restful public park from what is now a cross between an open-air disco and a hotel lawn lit up for a wedding reception.
Because when people visit a park, most expect just that: a park. Nothing more, nothing less.
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