Matunga Gymkhana is one of the few public institutions which are fortunate enough to complete 85 years. The history of the birth of the institution and its growth through the stages of infancy, adolescence, youth, and maturity is certainly interesting.
Its early struggle for existence laid the foundation for its present and stature. The outcome of the travails and tribulations it had to face during its earlier uphill journey through rugged terrain.
It is a matter of great rejoicing for those who planted a tiny sapling 85 years back, to see it grown into full-fledged trees in full bloom with a number of branches and sub-branches. To the pioneers and founders of the institution, it is gratifying to note that their planning for posterity has been very fruitful and that the younger generation is reaping the benefits of the tender love the pioneers have showered.
It would, therefore, be the fitness of things to review in brief, circumstances surrounding the birth and the growth of the institution. In the early twenties, the need for Physical culture and methodical health habits was scarcely felt by the educated middle class in the city although a few gymnasium and gymkhana had started their activities in the south of Bombay for the benefit of students and the middle class younger generation.
Dadar Matunga area was then a vast open land interspersed with reads and vacant building plots, marked by the then Bombay Improvement Trust.
The Birth and The Threos Preceding The Event
Four middle-class residents of PIROJ Building as it was then named now known as MAHAVIR BUILDING, joined this Gymnasium took a keen interest in its activities for a litter organized physical culture development Centre for the locality, and mooted the idea of starting such a center in 1927 under the name of MATUNGA KREEDA MANDAL.
Their main objective was to attract the student- world and the younger generation towards Physical culture.
The activities of the Kreeda Mandal, in those days, were restricted to Indian Games such as Dund Baithak, Lathi, Kho kho, Markham, etc.
Turning the corner
As the economic conditions gradually improved, prominent social and political workers in the locality were approached and a well-equipped gymnasium in its own building was aimed at catering to the needs of the fast-developing neighborhood. Seth Velji Lakhamsi, the head of the house of Napoos, whose name is given to the main road by the side of the Gymkhana came forward to give a fillip to the activities of these workers, support to the project, and personally attend the playground of the Kreeda Mandal.
Along with Seth Velji contributed Rs. 100/- each and collected RS. 1,300/-
A Leap Forward
At this juncture, the project of having a full-fledged Gymkhana was envisaged and the informal meeting was called.
Offering facilities through various spheres and departments of sports, games, and other items of recreation.
Thus these thirteen original contributors became the founder members of the Gymkhana.
A Feather added
At this time some senior members of this group of thirteen approached Sir Vasantrao Dabholkar who then was a prominent citizen and was the most influential member of the Corporation and the Improvement Trust. He took a very keen interest in the proposal and secured the proposed Gymkhana, the first lease of the playground plot for the period of 25 yrs at the nominal rent of Rs. 10/- per year.
Widening the Orbit
The Estimated cost of the proposed construction was a little over Rs.5,000/-. The number of voluntary donations made by these thirteen members was too short to meet the target. The generous Seth Velji Bhai most willingly offered to advance such sum as mayor required from time to time and the construction work was thus assured smooth sailing.
On the 10th Nov1932 after five full years of activities of the Kreeda Mandal on the open plot the foundation stone of the Gymkhana building was laid at the hands of Seth Velji Lakhamsee Napoo in the presence of a fairly large gathering.
Thereafter M.G.kept on extending the building by adding broad verandas, rooms for indoor games, and other recreational activities Shri K.K.Modi Badminton hall was constructed in 1953.
n the fifties M.G. was fortunate enough to be managed by a team of sincere and dedicated managing committee members, led by Jt. Hon. Sect. Mr. T.N. Mukundrao and committee members. They established a tradition of clean and efficient administration which made M.G. a leading sports Institution in Bombay. The club provided playing training and coaching facilities in Tennis, Billiards, Table tennis, Cricket, Gymnasium and minor games. Although the managing committee was held in high esteem one and all.
The Annual general meeting was lively affairs where management was thoroughly grilled about all expenses, lapses, and oversights.
On one occasion there was a 10 minute s heated discussion on the cost of repairing a badminton net, which the members felt was a bit too high! The Salve of the question was usually fired by Late Mr. Rama Rao, elder brother of Jt. Hon Secretary Mr. Mukund Rao proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the Managing Committee for the good work done by them.
M.G members were so determined to continue the club’s emphasis on sports and games that all attempts to introduce a beer bar and card games like rummy were rejected outright. Card Department was named Bridge department and no other card game was permitted. If given the choice M.G. members would have preferred Martunga Gymkhana to remain a purely sports-oriented organization. However soaring electricity and water charges rising maintenance costs of 60-year-old buildings, ever-increasing municipal rent, and staff salaries had a crippling effect on the economics and sports activities of M.G.
Therefore an expansion project was core needed to put M.G. on a firm financial footing through enrollment of new members.
A 9.7 crores mega project for expansion & modernization was launched in 1999 and successfully completed in 2003.. As a result, today M.G.. is a magnificent sports complex with a cool- blue swimming pool, Floodlit tennis courts, Two regulation badminton courts, an international standard table tennis hall, a squash court, an air-conditioned billiard room with two tables, a card room, a state of- the – art health club with Sauna and steam, a clubhouse for Cricketers’ and a fully equipped auditorium. A full-fledged restaurant a well-stocked bar and an enchanting terrace garden are on the anvil.
Seventy-five years ago when the visionary foursome started the small ‘ Akhada’ they were probably subconsciously aware of the proverb. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step’. Though a lot of ground has been covered since then the journey is by no means complete. By encouraging all types of sports & games by making special, affordable playing & coaching arrangements for talented youngsters from low-income groups. M.G will continue to promote excellence in all sporting physical & cultural activities. No one can be certain about the future. But to make it as Bright as possible will be the main thrust of Matunga Gymkhana.