Gurgaon, the Millennium city of India, organises ‘Raahgiri Day’ every Sunday. This is a unique concept where a section of a street or road is kept closed for cars, scooters and other automobiles for fixed hours. It is then open for the public exclusively for walking, jogging, cycling, skating, exercising etc.
Gurgaon is the first city in India to hold this event, followed by Delhi just recently. The name ‘Raahgiri Day’ has been coined using two words, ‘Raah’ and ‘Giri.’ ‘Raah’ means a path to reach a goal, and ‘Giri’ comes from ‘Gandhigiri,’ which is a colloquial expression popularised by the 2006 Hindi film, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, to refer to the tenets of Gandhism. The organisers of this event believe that sooner or later, it will encourage the people to leave their cars, get out of their homes, get moving and promote physical activities at least for one day in a week.
The Story Behind ‘Raahgiri’
Have you heard of Ciclovia? Raahgiri Day is in the same line as Ciclovia, an event that started in Bogotá, Colombia, in the year 1976 and later spread to other countries. Ciclovia means the closing of certain streets to automobiles and keeping it exclusively for cyclists and pedestrians, for a fixed period of time. The practice is also called ‘open streets.’ Every Sunday, almost two million Bogotá residents from various corners and walks of life enjoy a full day of around 70 miles of automobile-free street, exclusively for them. This concept gained its popularity and cities of several other countries followed suit, including India.
Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon
In India, Raahgiri Day first started in November 2013 in Gurgaon. In the first Raahgiri Day, over 20,000 people participated. The event was initiated by a team of NGOs like India Cycle Service, I am Gurgaon, Pedal Yatri, EMBARQ India, and Road Safety Officers. It was also supported by the citizens’ groups in Gurgaon. The first car-free Sunday was November 17, 2013 and since then there is no looking back.
Every Sunday, a particular street or a section of a road in a locality is kept closed to cars and other automobiles in the morning, the time fixed from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm. And the street is open only to the public on foot and they can use it according to their will. The citizens on that day get involved in recreational and leisure activities. With passing time, Raahgiri Day has become more elaborate and fun, offering opportunities for street dancing and live music.
With grand success in Sushant Lok, Palam Vihar, DLF Phase 4, 5, Sector 23 and some other areas, the city is now planning to spread Rahgiri Day in every nook and corner of the city. The reason being Gurgaon has seen a significant spur in vehicular traffic, lack of public transport, cycling, and walking streets, along with bad road conditions and severe pollution. The lives of pedestrians have become very difficult in Gurgaon. The idea behind organising Raahgiri Day is to create an increased awareness about the serious problem of infrastructure shortage in the city and the need to build more bicycle paths and pedestrian footpaths through its ultra modern landscape.
A basic reason for its popularity and success is that it has been able to bring the people of all classes, castes and religions together. In many localities in Gurgaon, it has been observed that people are enjoying Raahgiri Day more than at community festivals celebrated regularly. Also, this event has made many people to come out of their cocoon and explore the wonderful nature outside.
Raahgiri Day in Delhi
After the superb success of Rahgiri Day celebrations in Gurgaon, it’s now the turn of Delhi. Raahgiri Day made its debut in Delhi at Inner Circle, Connaught Place, on July 13, 2014, a Sunday. It’s just been four Sundays now, but the response has been very good.
Delhiites from various parts of the city have become a part of this grand event. With music all around, Delhiites were seen cycling, jogging, walking all around the circle, including doing other leisure activities on the last 4 Sundays. There were zumba session, Gym training, as well as street football and cricket. Children and adults alike were seen with their roller skates and bicycles. Last Sunday, August 3, 2014, the Friendship Day was also celebrated along with Raahgiri Day. People turned up in large numbers and some additional events like as puppet show, music and dance performances were also organised.
This event has been organised by Delhi Police and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) along with Embarq India. At present, in Delhi, Raahgiri is limited only to the Inner Circle, CP. After the superb success in the last four Rahgiri Days in CP, there is no doubt that this event will very soon spread to other areas too. Highly satisfied by the enthusiastic response, the organisers feel that Raahgiri Day in the coming months will encourage more and more people in Delhi to turn Sundays into more fun and more healthy by cycling, walking, and exercising.
Let’s Take It to More Places
It’s time now that other cities in India also start organising this grand event. The basic aim behind the Raahgiri event is to promote social integration, protect the environment and facilitate sustainable transport. Let every Sunday be a day for bonding and also for improving fitness, reducing pollution too, indeed!