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“Streets moderate the form and structure and comfort of urban communities. Streets are places of social and commercial encounter and exchange. They are where you meet people – which are a basic reason to have cities in any case.” - Allan B. Jacobs, “Great Streets”
India's streets are truly a melting pot of her culture; witnessing celebrations of festive occasions as well as social change. Hyderabad recently has been witness to two simultaneous street smart events conducted in strategic locations in the city – The Happy Streets initiative and The Raahgiri Day celebrations; wherein streets are closed to vehicular traffic every Sunday morning for 3-4 hours, encouraging people to get onto the streets and just have fun!
Huge crowds have rediscovered the true meaning of Sunday enthusiasm, displayed in abundance by families with kids of all ages, groups of friends, sports enthusiasts, fitness freaks, animal lovers, dancers, artists, school children - there is place and activity for EVERYONE at Raahgiri and Happy Streets. I happened to visit both these events with my family on consecutive Sundays, and can honestly say that there is so much action happening at both places, that I have now understood why Hyderabad has been chosen as the best city to live in India!
“Happy Streets” made its debut in Hyderabad this February. This Times of India event organized in collaboration with Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) has had spectacular responses at both its venues, i.e. Necklace Road and Malaysian Township Square.
The Happy Streets venue at Necklace Road, indeed a huge “necklace” like road, is divided into various zones for different activities. Throngs of people had queued up for the rent-free bicycles at Sanjeevaiah Park offered by the Hyderabad Bicycling Club for all cycling enthusiasts wishing to take advantage of the flat, bump free terrain of Necklace Road amidst the carnival like atmosphere.
Walking a little ahead, we were greeted by the melodious sounds of Western Classical music played by Raphaelle Courtay and Abhijit of the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation, who are regular participants at the event. We were also lucky enough to catch the band Re-Ni-Sa, a band of IT employees, who had created the perfect rock show mood with people jamming, dancing and little kids singing along.
Music was also given a new dimension as the 54th Infantry Division Army band drummed their way to glory on the main podium. "People usually do not know that Army has a full-fledged band. We took this opportunity to show it to them and it appears that they like it," said an Army band member.
Our unique experience continued further ahead with a Zumba dance session by Abhimanika and team, and open air fun filled Yoga Session by the Anahata Yoga Studio, whose instructors left the crowd spell bound with some renditions of Acro-Yoga. The kids enjoyed fun races like the sack race, lemon and spoon race, etc.
The sports zone had different groups of kids playing gully cricket, badminton and roller skating as well. A separate stage had been set up for various music, dance and play performances by students from educational institutions like Meridian School, Geetanjali School, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan's and Aurora College. There was also a treat for canine lovers - a dog show by the Commando Kennels group, who wowed the crowd with simple tips for doggy care and training done effortlessly. Karate Sessions, Drawing Competition for kids, Clay Modelling for kids and adults, it seemed like every fun activity had its space and crowd at the Happy Streets!
“Raahgiri Day’ is the Indian version of a similar event that was initiated in Bogota in the 90’s to make public streets safer and more accessible, and was launched in January in Hyderabad under the aegis of the Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation and Cyberabad Traffic Police at the Biodiversity Complex, Mindspace Junction.
Our experience at Raahgiri Day was equally exciting. There too, it looked like the whole of Hyderabad was out to make the most of their Sunday morning with fresh and enthusiastic youngsters scoring goals, riding bicycles, parents of toddlers teaching their kids a game or two and elderly people taking a slow stroll.
Coincidentally, that Sunday had a special Women’s Day celebration at Raahgiri, and many women’s welfare organizations had arranged activities like Yoga, Pot decoration, Zumba etc. At this venue, the yoga, dance and fitness sessions are being conducted by Reebok Fitness Avenue, and the 8 Counts Dance Team leads the Zumba programme. Rent Free bicycles are available here too through the TAF Sports team.
Save the Tigers, Swatch Bharat, Care for Environment, Be fit- The Raahgiri road has become a 1.2 km stage to express concerns and demonstrate solutions. There are also a lot of street plays on current issues conducted here. With kids’ storytelling sessions, street sports, races and games like seven tiles and hopscotch, there was no dearth of creative stuff for kids to keep them entertained and happy while the adults practiced their zumba or yoga moves.
As an architect and a mom, I think events like these are beneficial to overall city outlook and health. Getting people to de-stress in the fresh air, participate in fun physical fitness activities, spend time with loved ones and make new friends - what’s not to like? It was a delight for me to watch my toddlers run freer than they have ever been and use their little push bikes with complete abandon with no danger from any oncoming traffic!
Happy Streets and Raahgiri Day, with their eclectic mix of health and fun, are events for the entire family. Go on, take advantage of these maximum benefit proceedings every Sunday through March and April, while the weather is still pleasant early in the morning! Don’t forget to take along those water bottles though.