There has been a wada pav stall next to it, some fresh protest remarks, and at least two political parties demanding it removed. A weekend visit to Marine Drive saw a good variety of people flock around the open-air-gym, at times making the space look adventurous, at times amusing, and in extreme rare moments, probably fulfilling the purpose for which it was built.
The controversy broke when allegations were raised that no permissions were sought for the open air gym, at Marine Drive a heritage space, with opposition saying rules were bend to allow Yuva Sena Chief Aditya Thackeray launch it along with actor friend Dino Morea. Many went on social media pages to even say it was mere branding for Morea’s fitness venture, with similar equipment installed at other parts of the city.
But on Saturday, there were few moments when watchers and bystanders wondered how to use the equipment, with no instructors, that priceless entity that a gym promises, at sight. Irrespective of one not knowing how to use the equipment, comprised of aluminum rods, men were seen pottering around the structure by 6 am. While the excitement continued till ten in the morning, another set of enthusiasts were seen using the installment by evening.
Morning walkers are more “accommodating”, shared Rehan Raza Pathan, 19, who aptly wore a Popeye shirt while working out, and says he has never stepped into a real gym before. Pathan spoke of how the early morning crowd was eager, but also helpful; assisting people during workouts. “I used to jog along the promenade every day before the gym opened, and I have been coming everyday” added Pathan who has been stopping at the gym since it was installed on July 15.
Not everyone knows the history of the open-air-gym here at Marine Drive. Nor are the walkers aware that it almost was removed from the sea facing promenade, dismantled by civic officials due to an alleged miscommunication and lack of proper papers.
Though a 69 year old, using the equipment, expressed great displeasure at the BMC’s attempt to dismantle the structure saying, “This place is like a boon to the poor, and the (civic) authorities haven’t even put the equipment back correctly.” Few others feared that a muscle tear was expected due to the manner in which the structure was wrongly placed back.
Girhari Ahuja, a fashion designer living in Charni Road though seemed ecstatic with the installation. Ahuja even made an exaggerated claim of having managed to leave his house without a walking stick after years since he started using the open-air- gym. “I think the gym is great and we should have six-seven more just like it,” he quipped even as he continued to dawdle around the pull ups.
Rhose who were regulars at the sea front also expressed space crunch. The one concern the people exercising in the morning had in common was the space in the open-air gym. Basu Tamanay and Kranti Bagh, two men from Kalbadevi were helping each other with crunches on the ledge right opposite, as the open air gym as the gym got very crowded. Bagh wondered if the situation would see some relief once the curiosity died. While the morning walkers and exercise enthusiasts came from slightly far off pockets, going about their drill with practiced pace, the evening crowd behaved a bit different. Oh, and yes, this was when the selfies came out.
So there were college students, going for a group selfie, evening ‘step watchers’ for a solo selfie, and then a few with their pets. Few photographs also saw grandparents preen a selfie look with their grandchildren with a little bit of metal in the backdrop. But the voices of dissidence was the highest from the evening crowd. “A lot of the people do not even know how to use the equipment correctly and will most likely injure themselves sooner or later,” said one Mark Wilson who has worked out in the gym every evening between five and six pm since it has opened. Wilson was also not pleased with the fact that the users were not even dressed appropriately. “A majority of the passersby seem to test out the equipment for a duration of five to six minutes without any proper gym attire,” remarked Wilson.
Word of the improper use of equipment also seems to have travelled far as Ayodhya Yadav, a contract painter who lives in Andheri, expressed interest in trying to find a job as a trainer at the open air gym, after hearing about how the facilities are being used. The visitors of the promenade seem to have very diverging opinions about the gym. Few of the passerby’s adhered to a live and let live philosophy. Others have expressed concern over its presence. “The promenade is meant for relaxation, and now people just come here and make a ruckus,” said Kabir Hussain, a regular jogger along the promenade – a view he says is supported by many of his co-joggers.
An interesting observation to be made is that the entire demographic of the open air gym users comprises of males, with not a single woman using it either in the morning or the evenings. When asked about why women don’t seem to use the gym most of the men simply shrugged, “I haven’t seen any woman but I have seen some guys run up and use the gym to show off when a girl is passing by,” said Hussain, commenting on a frequent phenomenon he observed since July 15.
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