Shah Jehan is mostly occupied with household work and even though she looked forward for some personal time, she couldn’t. Besides, in the absence of a dedicated place for women in her area, the housewife from Nizamuddin Basti had no choice.
Most of the burqa-clad women like Shah Jehan who are shy to speak to others, their homes packed with people, and living in the narrow congested lanes of the Basti, the ambience hardly offered them any freedom.
However, six months ago, things changed when a women’s meeting was held in the Basti. Every single attendee demanded a ‘gymnasium’. And as a result, Avaam Fitness Centre came up, with exclusive timings for women. “I wouldn’t have gone far away. But with the gym nearby, I come regularly,” said Yasmin Qureshi, a crochet pattern artist. Like most other women, she comes covered in burqa, removes it while exercising and gets back into her conventional clothes again while stepping out.
Trainer Vimalesh (she goes by single name) starts the regime with stretching exercises. Then the women are guided according to their individual requirements, from aerobic or yoga exercises to cardio exercises on the machines. “I have to consider their background, their age and also their fitness before I chart-out exercise routine for them,” Vimalesh said.
The gym is run from a community centre and area councillor Farhad Suri was instrumental in setting up the gym and liaisoning with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
The civic body has signed a MoU with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) under the urban renewal project. Shveta Mathur, programme officer for AKTC’s urban implementation programme, said, “During the need assessment meetings with parents, children, women and all such stakeholders, this (gym) was one demand that had come up persistently from the women themselves. We are happy with the result today.”
Each woman’s record is kept properly and attendance marked even when the facility is free of charge.
Sualeha Farheen Siddiqui, manager of the gym, said: “Women here are very happy and the demand has been increasing. We cannot accommodate them all.” The gym has about 30-40 members each in three batches between 9.30am to 12.30 pm.