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Seated in her Nepean Sea Road residence, 11-year-old Taarini Lodha is concerned about her career in equestrian discipline of dressage. Sneha Jaiswar (18), a first-year BA student, is tense in her residence at Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh. Both may be thousands of kilometres apart but the reason for their concern is the same as several others connected to the Amateur Riders’ Club (ARC).
Ever since BMC chief Iqbal Chahal did not acknowledge ARC’s presence at an open house held at Mahalaxmi Racecourse last Thursday, all people connected to ARC have been having sleepless nights, said a member.
“I must practice almost every day to sharpen my skills. If ARC shuts down, where will I practice? It is the only such facility in Mumbai,” says Lodha, winner of dressage gold medal at nationals in her age category.
“Ever since my father told me he is likely to lose his job at ARC where he has been working as a horse handler for over 28 years, my family is tense here. How will I continue my studies?” Jaiswar told TOI on Saturday.
Nestled in one corner of Mahalaxmi Racecourse, ARC has been providing riding and equestrian training to civilians for more than eight decades and has produced Olympians and Asian Games medallists. One of its members, Hriday Chheda, was part of the Indian gold medal-winning team at Hongzhou Asian Games in China last year.
Among members, the club also has industrialists such as Anand Mahindra and Ajay Piramal, Bollywood personalities such as Aamir Khan, Jackie Shroff, Prahlad Kakkar and Randeep Hooda, and lawyers such as Janak Dwarkadas, Dinyar Madan and Shyam Mehta.
Now, faced with questions over its existence, ARC members are a worried lot. “We have peacefully coexisted with RWITC and people of Mumbai in the best way for over so many decades. ARC has produced several National champions, Olympians and Asian Games gold medalists, leading jockeys and trainers. Envisioned by pioneers, it’s the only place in the city with a facility like this. We cannot be ignored and unhoused for no fault of ours. All we need is a fraction of the 211 acres to stable our horses and exercise them. We are afraid that our interest and survival are not being considered,” says Milan Luthria, Bollywood filmmaker and head of equestrian activities at ARC.
Bobin Tshering, a coach of equestrian disciplines for over 15 years, says if ARC is forced to shut shop, it will be a huge setback for budding talents in Mumbai. “I train about 30 kids in various age groups here and have seen many talented youngsters who have honed their skills here and gone to represent the country. The next facility to learn this sport is in Pune. How can our kids travel to Pune every day and do their schooling and college here?” he asks.
Chahal had said he will speak to chief minister Eknath Shinde about the concerns. ARC chairman Shyam Mehta said, “I have already written to BMC chief requesting him to revert to me after speaking to the honourable CM, which he kindly said he would do. I have also again extended an invitation to him to see our facilities, so he is fully aware of what we do. I also offered to meet him and the honourable CM to explain our position. I’m hoping for a positive response.”
CREDITS: Shailendra Awasthi | TNN |