KOLKATA: A swanky gymnasium, that had become the talking point of the erstwhile Presidency College, will soon give way to a trendy food court after remaining in disuse for the past one year.
Built in 2009, when the institution was yet to become a university, it was looked upon as one of the cosmetic changes that symbolized the change. The state higher education department had spent nearly Rs 10 lakh to get the historical gymkhana of the college refurbished into a modern gym. But with the change of guard at the top level, the process of this upgrade got a new impetus and many of those things initiated by the previous regime started dying a slow death.
Students and faculty members of Presidency were extremely unhappy with the gym going out of bounds despite several requests to the authorities. Those who have been doggedly pursuing the cause have recently been told that the gym will be "shifted" soon and a food court will come up in its place. This is being planned as part of the university's cosmetic uplift especially because a private coffee and a food chain have decided to wind up their businesses.
As things stand as of now, the university authorities are almost in the final throes of bringing in a new vendor who'll set up shop in the gym-turned-food court. Soon, equipment will be moved out of the gym to make space for a trendy eating zone. Indian Railways' catering company, IRCTC, is likely to set up shop in this space.
"We already have two canteens. If the university authorities feel that these are shabby or do not meet the standards, they can be upgraded. Why should they compromise with the gym? This simply means a waste of money," fumed Rahul Saha, the cricket captain of the university.
Though no concrete history of the gym is available, it is generally believed that it came into existence in the late 19th century when many students, who were also part of the freedom movement, used it for body-building. "During those days, exercising in a gymkhana was part of the urban intellectual psyche as right from Swami Vivekananda to Rishi Auribindo and Netaji, everyone believed that only a fit body can harbour a fit mind," said a faculty member who had used the gym regularly along with students. Old exercising instruments from the British times, like the Roman Rings, Pommel Horse, Parallel Bar that were part of the old gymkhana, were maintained and kept in the refurbished gym. The new-look gym also had modern instruments like treadmills, exercyclers, rubber dumb-bells for women etc.
"Games and physical fitness are just as important as studies and since the university is positioning itself as a world-class institution, it should realize this. How can you keep a gym to rust for a year?" asked Indrajit Sengupta, vice-captain of the cricket team and a member of the state squad.
Registrar Probir Dasgupta, however, said the university has better plans with the gym. "While we would split the gym and send them to the boys and girls hostels. A part of the gym would also be kept at the girls' common room so that the day scholars can use them. We have plans to buy a lot more equipment. Once this is done, the existing gym will be turned into a food court. Yes, IRCTC is an option we have in mind because being a government initiative it will be beneficial to our students both in terms of quality and price," he said.
Source - Times of India