With Appu Ghar’s closure, a fantasy world fades

February 15th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) For all those who grew up with at least one visit to Appu Ghar during their summer vacations and then came back, years later, with their kids for another one of those roller coaster rides, it will be the last ride through memory lane this Sunday as India’s first amusement park sells its very last ticket. “They shouldn’t close down Appu Ghar!” cried eight-year-old Shalini Mehra, holding a pink candyfloss stick outside the amusement park even as the adorable orange coloured jumbo, the mascot of the 1982 Asian Games, rotated slowly at the entrance.

“I come here so often. My cousins, who live in Jaipur and visit us every summer, also look forward to the rides here and then a dip at Oysters (the water park adjoining Appu Ghar)…now where will we go? Will they build another Appu Ghar here?” she asked her father.

Shalini’s concern was echoed by hundreds of other children and grown-ups who are simply heartbroken at the thought that Appu Ghar is running its last few rides before shutting down forever Sunday evening.

“I can’t believe they are closing down Appu Ghar,” said Ashwin Kumar, an engineer.

“First it was the Chanakya cinema and now Appu Ghar. These are the places we associate our childhood, our youth with. We have grown up in these places…they are a part of Delhi’s charm, its history,” 30-year-old Kumar said.

However, Masifa, another eight-year-old, was too busy to be saddened. She had come all the way from Kashmir to New Delhi for the first time and couldn’t wait to hop in for all the rides at Appu Ghar.

“We have come here earlier too, but for Masifa and my son it’s the first time,” said Quratulain, her mother.

“Achha hua hum aaj aagaye (Good that we came today). We didn’t know that it would close down on Sunday…that’s such a pity! In Pehalgaon in Kashmir, there is an amusement park, but Appu Ghar is special and different. That’s why a visit here was a must when we were planning our trip to Delhi,” she told IANS.

Inaugurated in 1984, Appu Ghar was the first amusement park in India, It is now making way for a wing of the Supreme Court that will house a library, lawyers’ chambers and offices. A part of it will be used by the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) to build a metro station.

“It’s been 24 years since I have been working here. Indira Gandhi wanted this park to be built and that’s how it was born in 1984. At that time we used to charge Rs.10 per ride. From those days to today, when the ticket is Rs.220 (for a package of all the 21 rides) for children, we have come a long way,” Harish Singh at the ticket counter, with his grey hair gleaming in the sunlight, told IANS.

“We are devastated by the Supreme Court’s judgement to close it down,” he said.

Ram Kumar, one of the guards at the entrance gates, said: “There are about 300 employees in Appu Ghar - the people at the ticket counter, guards, those manning the rides. But nearly 1,000 people will be affected because the vendors here are dependent on Appu Ghar for their livelihood. What will we all do?”

Ajit Sharma, who sells things like camera films, toys, pens and key chains at the amusement park, said: “If the Appu Ghar shifts to some other place, it will still be good news for us. But from what it seems, I don’t think that will happen…we have been here for as long as Appu Ghar has been. We will be seriously affected.”

Appu Ghar, which normally receives nearly 1,000 visitors a day, especially during the summer months when the children have their vacations, is now recording a lower footfall of around 500.

“Actually there were talks going around that Appu Ghar will close down on Jan 31. That is why some people thought that it’s already closed…we get numerous calls everyday enquiring about it. Also because it’s the exam season, children are not coming in as many numbers. In any case now the end is approaching,” Singh said sadly.

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