Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
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In New Delhi, we didn’t really have public playgrounds—at least not when I was growing up. Around 5 p.m. each day, the kids in my neighborhood would spill out into the streets and claim territory: a swath of grass, a section of the parking lot, the alleyway behind the apartment complexes. We’d play unattended—free to transform the sole big Banyan tree into a whole enchanted forest; the parking lot into a professional badminton court; and the alleyway into an “obstacle course” to race our bikes through.
The American playground, when I first visited as a child, seemed a strange contrast. I remember walking tentatively onto a rubberized floor of the one near my parent’s friends’ house in Long Island and wondering if I’d stepped onto the skin of a basketball.
It was fascinating, therefore, to write about the pushback against cookie-cutter playgrounds. Child development experts, parents, and play activists around the world are questioning what “risk” looks like in play spaces, and whether kids benefit when it is completely removed. Check out the story here and let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we’re writing:
The selective Singapore of Crazy Rich Asians. ¤ What’s so crazy about this politician from New Zealand biking to the hospital to give birth? ¤ The New York Public Library unveils Instagram novels! ¤ “The all-white bikes, placed at locations of fatal crashes, serve as an infrastructure of grief—part memorial, part protest symbol.” ¤ What the future of Aretha Franklin’s Memphis house looks like. ¤ Unpacking the roommate relationship. ¤ “If someone asked me five years ago whether or not I thought the open-concept floor plan would still be popular, I would have said no.” ¤
I can’t pretend that my life in London has changed beyond recognition since starting the course—I haven’t even officially graduated yet—but something has shifted. Not only did it expand my community, it expanded my willingness to finding more of it in unexpected places. I didn’t discover a specific space as such; the shift for me has been more about an attitude of openness. Now, when people talk to me in passing in the street, I let myself linger and listen. When some new opportunity comes up, as an experiment, I say yes. Above all, I look at the people around me differently, being slower to jump to what I now see as essentially mechanical, learned suspicion or judgement.