Inspiring Imagination in Children of Powai – Mark & Pratibha Gandhi

Elsie Gabriel.

The world once offered thousands of delights of free play to children. Children used to have access to the world at large, whether it was the sidewalks, streets, alleys, vacant lots and parks of the inner city or the fields, forests, streams and yards of suburbia and the rural countryside. Children could play, explore and interact with the natural world with little or no restriction or supervision.
Meet Mark and Pratibha Gandhi, well known personalities of Powai, dynamic, hardworking couple who  researched on children’s playtime and put up an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle here in Powai exactly 14 years ago!
Says Mark Gandhi –Vice President of Hakone, “The lives of children today are much more structured and supervised, with few opportunities for free play. We researched and found that we could involve outdoor play activities here within the residential area’s specially for children. It was the springtime in Mumbai in 1997 when the decision to start Hakone was taken. It had to be a showpiece and an entertainment centre for all ages. After a frantic pace of activity and synergies involving architecture, interiors, logistics and selection of the best equipment Hakone made its revelation to the first customers. Hiranandani was synonymous with Hakone. Hakone is derived from Mr. Surendras three children names- Harsh- Komal and Neha.”

Children have little time for free play any more. And when children do have free time, it’s often spent inside in front of the television or computers. For some children, that’s because their neighborhood, apartment complex or house has no outdoor play spaces. Marks active wife Pratibha, has always taken active interest in forwarding the cause of Hakone to the less privileged too. Both have always been in the forefront in inviting differently abled children, cancer patients, poor communities and underprivileged children to the center often free of cost, in order to cater to all strata’s of society. Pratibha has brought various groups and events to encourage the community to partake from healthy entertainment. Today, She still finds time for Hakone even after caring for her two children 7 and 2 .She looks after the welfare of the personnel , Social do’s , kiddy parties as well as the general wellbeing of the site .  Having been a model herself her database of celebrities is profound and many do support her social causes at Hakone. Voices Pratibha, “We were fascinated when the research consistently showed that children had a strong preference to play outdoors in open landscapes, and that parents generally supported this kind of play. Developing the ‘imagination’ of children was equally important to all around development of the child. We had to make Childhood and outdoor play synonymous and thus game centers at Hakone keep evolving with time.”
Hopefully with Mark & Pratibha’s  efforts more and more kids in the city will find the lost art of imagination and play!