Whizzer at Dialogues: Here is a series that brings to light extraordinaire people in their respective pursuits. Why do kids play? Have we ever wondered? Play is not just an activity that keeps kids engaged; it is, in fact, vital to enable a child’s growth. No matter how special or differently abled the child is, it is every kid’s prerogative to get an opportunity to play. Aditi the co-founder of Gudgudee is working towards creating equal and socially inclusive play spaces for all kids alike. COLLEGE SHENANIGANS: It was the year 2011, and Aditi was in her final semester pursuing Furniture design at NID Ahmedabad. As part of the course, Aditi decided to pursue design for special needs. Along with her batch mates, Aditi visited a school for specially abled kids and was shocked to find that these kids had never gone out to play. This stuck with Aditi as a majority of her memories from childhood were associated with play outside. QUESTIONS GIVE RISE TO ANSWERS: This gave rise to questions. Questions like, why are these children not going out to play? What are the problems and how can we be part of the solution? The answers were right in front of them in the conventional playground.   Neither were the existing play equipment safe for these kids, and the social stigma attached to differently abled children was not helping them. Aditi and her batchmates decided to make play spaces accommodative of these kids. The first instinct was obviously to put railings, increase safety measures by adding seat belts to existing swings and slides, but this would give rise to another major problem. It would create a hindrance to all other kids, and this would inevitably lead to more division amongst the kids, which is not the objective of play. As a result Aditi and her batch mates, reached out to occupational therapists, teachers, child psychologists with a fundamental question - “Why do kids play?” The answer was simple. It is necessary for kids to play because it is nature’s way of instilling growth in a child. Play stimulates development enabling the growth of certain neurons. They realized that play is as important as education. It teaches kids imagination, cooperation, empathy and so much more. This led them to the realization that the existing playgrounds, do not entirely cater to this need and nor do they propagate play in the way that it is supposed to be. So they went ahead and designed a play space that would involve senses like, sight, smell, sound which could engage all kinds of kids at some level. When they approached the school with their plan, the school was very impressed and before Aditi and her batchmates could gather what was happening, the school raised funds and they ended up executing their designs on paper into a live play space. This play space ended up receiving a lot of accolades and recognition. That was the end of college and Aditi’s college project. Or so she thought! GUDGUDEE - TICKLING ITS WAY: After doing another fellowship and working at a design studio for one and a half year, Aditi found that she didn’t want to do this. Aditi and Anjali, a friend of hers from college, identified that there was a lack of socially inclusive play spaces and the potential was limitless.   The dearth of these spaces around us only pushed them more and more towards creating Gudgudee. Their parents suggested that they sign a partnership deed and so they did. That’s how Gudgudee was formed on paper. As for the name, they had a list of names that they had shortlisted. Through a Google form, they asked all their friends to vote and the winner was Gudgudee, amongst khatta aam, hara thotha, to name a few. They also realized that the challenges they encountered were threefold With cities rapidly growing, spaces are depleting by the day and also becoming more and more expensive. Social inclusion is still a struggle for specially-abled children. The virtual world acts as an extra barrier. It also hit them that while everything around us has evolved and adapted to the specific needs of people, playgrounds still remain very conventional and monotonous. They also understood that accessibility is not just about making spaces available to wheelchair-bound kids, but also providing them with play value or purpose at the end of the ramp. Everything in their playground is of some value to someone or the other. So everyone has something to gain from the playground, even if they cannot access all of the play equipment. After drawing memories from their own childhood, and giving it some thought came out some interesting ideas and intriguing play options: TANDRUM – Drums like steps on which you can skip and jump your way through, creating and listening to the sounds as you walk through. TELEPHONE PIPE – The enlarged version of the wire and cup experiment that we do as kids. This works well across age groups and often even the laborers and adults are seen conversing over it. We have all as kids, swung on the grill of a gate and swayed along with it. At Gudgudee they have formalized this as well and made it into a swing. From catering to special schools to now being vendors to real estate, they have come a long way. They have also seen, first hand, the enthusiasm in kids who find their play spaces more adventurous and challenging as opposed to the conventional ones. With Gudgudee the idea was to create laughter and more inclusion and seems like they are on the right path.
ENTER DIALOGUES Aditi was working from Delhi initially, while her friend Anjali was working out of Mumbai. After her marriage, Aditi moved to Bangalore and was soon looking for a place to work from. Being a designer Aditi wanted space to move around and all the spaces she was seeing were all limited to chairs and tables, and she couldn’t see herself working out of these spaces at any cost. Just when she was about to give up, she stumbled upon Dialogues, through a colleague.   The varied seating and the greenery and open space all inspired her to go ahead with Dialogues. She says she cannot think of working out of anywhere else right now. In fact, when she was offered a space at a walkable distance from her home, she refused immediately. What can we say? FEMINISM KA ZAMANA: There are both pros and cons in today’s day and age. In the real estate space, a lot of men were not very welcoming to Aditi and her team, because women as Vendors is not something that we are used to. Often even the laborers weren’t easily able to accept orders from Aditi owing to the age difference. There also was a pay disparity. However, Aditi notes that she does get more respect sometimes and things are changing for the better now. GUDGUDEE EFFECT – THE LARGER CONVERSATION: Customer literacy is something they have been dealing with since the get-go. Slide, swing, merry go round is the image of a playground that we have in our mind. It takes a while to think out of the box and think of more stimulating and innovative play spaces. For example, interior designing is the rage today, a few years ago there was no such thing. Thankfully once people are informed they understand the value of it. While in the western world, the respect for public spaces is far more superior, we do not think of public spaces the way they do. That’s a larger issue that they are tackling. At a recent presentation it hit Aditi that while they are India’s only design studio that makes play spaces, it means they have to cater to the entire 1.2 billion population. It speaks volumes of the dearth of these kinds of play spaces as well as the potential that there is. So they are aiming for big things and believe that big things lie ahead.
WHIZZER’S WISDOM: Childhood has changed   drastically over the years. The access to the sea of content available today to kids is so much, that even we as adults get so fidgety without our phones. This only calls for more and more adaptability in play spaces, to lure children outside. Kids are not going to settle for the usual anymore. We have to accept that! Image Credit - Gudgudee
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