By Rahul Vaishnavi, New Delhi, Aug 25 IANS | 4 months ago

Skateboarding on the roads of Connaught Place or cycling around the bustling Chandni Chowk may not have been the ideal way to spend a Sunday morning a few weeks back, but thanks to the city's civic agencies and police, residents of the national capital are reclaiming Delhi's open spaces and turning them into playgrounds every weekend.

"Raahgiri Day" was started in Gurgaon, a Delhi suburb, a couple of years ago by a group of citizens and was brought to the capital in July this year by the New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Police.

Every Sunday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the inner circle of central Delhi's commercial hub Connaught Place the roads are closed for vehicular movement. It is a welcome site to see people playing football, exercising, cycling, skateboarding, and dancing in the middle of the roads.

No wonder the campaign has caught the imagination of Delhiites in a short span of time and taken the city by storm.

For 28-year-old Saurav Sharma, the event is an opportunity to connect with the community.

"For a day, it feels like you are not in a metropolitan city but on a wide expanse where you can do anything -- dance, exercise, make new friends," Sharma, an avid cyclist, told IANS.

NDMC chairman Jalaj Shrivastava said the participants were increasing at a rapid pace every week and the most popular activities are cycling and skating.

"On the opening day (July 13), 2,000 people participated while the very next Sunday, the figure was 14,000," Shrivastava told IANS.

"Cycling and skating are the most popular activities followed by Zumba dance, martial arts training and yoga," he added.

"Raahgiri has become a Sunday morning ritual for me and my family," said Anita Devgan, a 44-year-old banker who resides in west Delhi's Punjabi Bagh and has been participating in all "Raahgiri" events since its inception.

"Delhi has limited open spaces and even those are not fit for cycling or walking because of the vehicles. This initiative is godsend," added Devgan's 46-year-old husband, Shantanu, who works with a travel agency.

While the couple loves the Zumba dance training, their two children swear by the unarmed martial art classes.

The venue was shifted Aug 15 to Chandni Chowk as part of the Independence Day celebrations. Yet people came out in large numbers.

"It's a dose that I now need every Sunday to carry on for the rest of the week. After five or six days of working in close confines of an office, 'Raahgiri' lets you feel free and alive," said Shabnam Khan, a 26-year-old HR executive.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at rahul.v@ians.in)

(Posted on 25-08-2014)

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