Before December 2010, Nasha Khan could only watch other children of Byculla’s Rustom Baug play in the Parsi colony’s garden. Now, the garden is the high point of Khan’s life as she plays with her friends every evening on the thick green ropewalk and the wide bench swing.
Khan, one of the dozen special children in Rustom Baug, suffers from a genetic syndrome causing delay in her mental and physical growth. The garden that has brought a smile to her face is the Hope Inclusive Children’s Park, created by a resident of the Baug.
“Play is crucial to every child’s development, but regular parks are not designed to include children with disabilities,” said Cyrus Bagwadia, a business advisor and the man responsible for transforming the Baug’s dilapidated children’s garden. “I wanted to do something different so that children with challenges could have fun as well.” Bagwadia, whose 10-year-old daughter also has a development deficiency, was inspired by the Bangalore-based non-profit Kilikili, which has modified ordinary swings, slides and other play equipment to suit special children.
Rustom Baug’s new garden includes a broad climbing wall with a steep section for able children and a section with a gentle slope for special or younger children. Besides a set of regular swings, there are tyre-shaped swings with extra rods to hold on to and plenty of gaps to secure the child’s legs and reduce fear.
There are also bucket and chair-shaped swings usually meant for toddlers who cannot balance in a larger size for older children with autism or cerebral palsy.
For Khan, the thick ropewalk is enjoyable because it gives her a chance to balance as per her capacities.
“I have never balanced before,” grinned Khan, a cheerful Class 12 open school student. Though Hope is a private garden within the Baug premises, special schools can seek permission to bring their students to play in batches.