Park your troubles for an hour

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Back in Dhaka, I take my dogs on morning walks to the lake. Between fasting for Ramadan and the rain, on some days there are very few people there. An elderly man in a bright yellow vest drifts in a small wooden boat past a brilliant explosion of water lilies. The trees glisten from the rain. The wide brick path looks particularly attractive and spacious both clean and empty. But I miss the people, the greetings, the snatches of conversation. This is part of the ebb and flow of public life. The concern is when popular spaces become neglected and then abandoned; the beauty is when a space, like “Needle Park” in New York City, becomes revitalized to where Bryant Park is now a popular destination, so well-used that there are now games tables, with no fear that people will demolish or steal the games. And I am thrilled that part of my work is to ensure that public spaces are well-used and to help revitalize those that are not. Many of the problems people face have no easy solution, but the opportunity to escape to an attractive spot and enjoy the company, actively or passively, of others can be an important solace, and revitalization of community can lead to cooperation towards solving larger problems. Once Ramadan is over, the area around the lake will be filled with people enthusiastically greeting each other, with exclamations of Eid Mubarak!!, with the urban vitality that does so much to compensate for the less good parts of living in a megacity. If only such vibrant spaces were more widespread, there could be a lot more joy in people’s everyday lives.