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Khirkee to the World

The word khirkee in Hindi means window. When I presented Khirkee as a case study in my keynote address at the 50th anniversary IPA World Conference in Cardiff, I was in fact offering a window for looking at children at play in India to the world. An audience of 450 delegates from 55 countries saw the landscapes of play in Delhi sketched on a giant screen. The playmaps that we developed for Khirkee were a big hit. It graphically portrayed places of play and play deserts in a neighborhood and highlighted the constraints to play. I introduced Play-on-wheels at the end of the presentation. Later, many people congratulated me; what was interesting that each had taken away a different piece—the historic analysis of evolution of places for play in Delhi resonated with some, while others liked the policy analysis, but most were fascinated by the indepth study of play in Khirkee and the innovative playmaps.

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This was perhaps the best conference I have attended, certainly the most joyful one. Excellent keynotes, interesting workshops and paper presentations, ample networking opportunities, overall a fantastic experience. Play Wales, the organizers should be very proud of their achievement! One of the heartening takeaways for me from the IPA conference was exposure to national play strategies in the UK with funding available at local levels to promote better play opportunities for children. It tells me that children matter to these governments. And children’s play is considered a significant activity worthy of national policy attention and funding. Tim Gill very generously sent me the Supplementary Planning Guidance: Providing for Children and Young People’s Play and Informal Recreation that he had coauthored for the city of London. Such guidance has to be followed for making play provisions while developing new areas in the city.
I feel I have to publicize these global trends in India particularly to groups working with children but still shy about advocating play as it is not a “survival” issue. But it is a survival issue. It is perhaps the only asset a deprived child has to survive and thrive everyday despite the harshness of life.

The basic premise for developing Play-on-Wheels was creating inclusive play experiences for children in neighborhoods by intervening not only in space but also in time using loose parts as tools for free play under the supervision of play workers. Well, in Cardiff, I witnessed all this in action at the Make a Noise for Play Festival that took over a large city park next to the Cardiff castle and unleashed free play. Take a look.

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