Up me Up High!

Up me up, Daddy,
Up me up high!

Up you go and down again,
My little pumpkin pie!

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“It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents”.

Eric Hoffer

Looking at the desolate concrete of the School at Thalaiyattumund, we decided to create a small play area for the junior children, a swing, a slide and if we could stretch the budget, add a seesaw.

When we consulted the ever-buoyant HM, Radha, she said “Why buy? Use the equipment stored in our shed!” To our horror, she assured us that a couple of swings, a climbing stack, a seesaw, volleyball posts, were all kept in storage for a number of years under lock and key.

Recovering, we got happy, thinking that our budget would be greatly benefited. Little did we realise that resurrecting old equipment would actually stretch the budget. Dealing with masons, smart-ass welders and  ‘mud-guys’  took a toll on patience, time and resources. Work was done, undone and redone.

The slide was the easiest part. Ordered from a manufacturer from Coimbatore, it got majestically installed  in a corner of the play area. As a bonus we bought a rocking seesaw which needs no installation.

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But then, children sliding down got hurt when they hit the rough concrete . The landing area beneath all the play equipment had to be covered with a soft material. Mud contractors quoted ridiculous amounts. Sand prices  had shot up incredibly. The felt like soft landing material seen in the play areas of fancy high rises was too fancily priced.

Research on the Net, consultations with a Professor at IIT, Chennai ; trips to school playgrounds followed. Local play areas had  beaten down grass underneath.  The IIT Proff suggested wood chips or strips of old rubber tyres instead. The new ideas met with resistance from the school staff . Eventually they turned out to be too expensive and we had to go back to haggle with the  the mud contractors.

One fine morning.. ‘ Its done’ he announced. Rushing there we found that he had covered the area with more rubble than mud. Asked him to remove it . While we searched for an alternative. For days after that, he would appear like Hamlet’s Ghost whenever we were in the vicinity, asking to be paid for the ‘work done’.

More consultations, haggling , and several peace talks later, he accepted to get better mud in place and cover with turf. The work is still in progress.

But looking at the happy faces of the children, its all worth it , don’t you think?

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