For months, a group of young men in Marundeeswarar Nagar in Thiruvanmiyur had been trying to meet their MP Jayavardhan. They had a prayer: Would the MP renovate the community gym in their area?
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Once up and going, this historic gym served a population of more than 3000 slum dwellers. These men are the youngest in a long line of similar groups that have been using and taking care of the MGR-era gym. An earlier article in The Hindu talks of how the gym came into being and how these young residents had been striving to keep the gym running, pooling money from time to time.
Before relinquishing office, in October 2016, Saidai Duraiswamy, the Mayor of Chennai, had ordered equipment for the gym, but all the pieces were found defective when the boxes were opened. Once the Anganwadi, which is in the same compound space as the gym, is shut for the day and the kids leave, the place turns into a den for drinkers and substance abusers.
“If the MP restores the gym, more people will visit it and with their contribution we can hire a watchman and better manage the place,” says Ramkumar, one of the young men holding the key to the door. He and his friends have been running it, but the equipment is hardly what can “shape you up” and the place, littered with garbage, is not what you might call “surroundings conducive for healthy exercise”.
MP assures help
After the group visited the MP’s office and submitted a petition, MP Jayavardhan came down for an inspection on the morning of May 22, 2017. He walked around the area accompanied by his personal aides and a district secretary of his political party. The MP spoke to Ram Kumar and his friends about what was needed to make the gym functional and clean. He even looked at the garbage that had piled up behind the building. He spent about 45 minutes discussing the possibilities.
“Will do what I can,” he said, finally. “Will definitely arrange for the equipment.”
Ramkumar and his friends now live in hope. “We are looking forward to a gym that the entire area can be proud of,” he said. “It should be open for all – those in Marundeeswarar Nagar and those in the areas around it. Together we can maintain it. We can make it a place where functions are held and the community members meet.”
Once the news spread that the MP was in Marundeeswarar Nagar, a group of elders met him outside the gym. The sewage connections in the area were in a very sorry state, they said. Could the MP do anything about it?
Jayavardhan said that the Metrowater department should conduct an inspection and prepare a plan and an estimate. He could only contribute the funds for revamping the system. The residents now hope to pursue the matter to explore ways in which the MP could help them.