This is a large room with no window. The air smells of salty sweat. The walls are painted orange and purple. Stairs go up to a smaller floor area visible from below. One can hear grunting sounds coming from there. Weight sets and dumbbells are lying on the ground floor.
Unlike the gyms of upscale Defence Colony and Hauz Khas Village, there are not many air-conditioners in Unique Gym, a health club in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj. It is located in such a narrow street (Kucha Tarachand) that the gym has to display a notice saying, “No parking facility for gym members.” There is also no shower facility. The gym has 300 members but no girls among them. The members, at least those in the evening shift, are not wearing branded tracksuits or expensive sport shoes. Most are barefoot. Their muscles, however, are as well toned as any disciplined exercise freak. At the moment they all are focused on the job.
One is lifting a dumb bell. One is doing push ups. One is busy with squats. One is working with barbell curls. The spindly looking Salim, 17, takes off his green T-shirt to show a six-pack chest. “Till a few months ago I weighed 125 kg,” he says. Friends in Nabi Karim, his neighbourhood in Paharganj, would tease him. No girl would come near him. Finally, he joined this gym.
“This was the best place to build your doley (muscles). Guruji is famous and has been a champion,” he says referring to Shiv Kumar, the gym instructor and four-time winner of Mr India Body-building championship. Kumar’s videos can be seen on Youtube. The boys look to him as their hero. “Guruji is very honest. He never shy from giving tips,” says Salim.
Has six-packs got him a girl friend? “I tried making one but she refused.” The 24-year-old Deepanshu Tanwar is sweating so much that his soaked T-shirt is dripping wet. He has been exercising regularly for three years. “I’m a coach in a gym in Sadar Bazaar and I need a fit body.”
Perhaps the most chiseled body in the gym is that of 25-year-old Shiv Kumar Rana who is exercising upstairs. For six months this man with movie star looks has been coming from faraway Azadpur in north Delhi. “First I take the Metro to New Delhi railway station and than I board the 753 blueline.”
A bodyguard by profession, Rana says, “I’m not here to impress anyone. I don’t want to win any championship. I just want to keep exercising. It’s a prerna (inspiration) from Guruji.” Rana’s admirers standing around him nods in approval. Determined to work hard to get a body like him, they go back to focus on their chests and triceps.
Monthly fee: Rs 300
Where: Kucha Tarachand, Daryaganj