Muddavaddi, Saligao: From a demure salwar-khamiz to a gym suit in one minute. That’s the time taken for the transformation of Kanika, a young lady who entered a newly-renovated first storey in this residential hamlet of narrow lanes on a Tuesday afternoon.
In one monsoon, meanwhile, Ramesh Ghadi has converted a significant part of the mind-set of his village of Saligao (Goa) into a surprisingly fitness-conscious one.
Ghadi returned after 16 years from the Gulf, and spent some time managing health-clubs in five-starred deluxe hotels back in Goa. But, quickly enough, he shed the security of a job in favour of launching out on his own dream.
Late in the Summer 2013 he launched Ghadi Fitness, at Muddavaddi, tucked a little distance off the CHOGM Road. Now, he already has over two hundred persons on his rolls, and with his cool approach takes the message of staying fit to the average middle-class Goan village.
His diversity bulges like his muscle. A Konkani poet himself, Ramesh has staged Konkani plays in the locality temple. His story is typical of the Goan youth with much talent, hidden and waiting for long to be tapped.
On the Saligao-Net group on Facebook [http://www.facebook.com/groups/saligaonet] he’s also known for charming posts about the Goa of the 1970s that he grew up in, often accompanied by a photo clicked on his mobile phone’s camera. He describes the humble folk in a charming style through the simple ways of his writings.
But ‘passion’ is a concept that Ramesh repeatedly talks about. And believes in.
He builds his gym with this emotion; and how! Not just does he attract young men with bulging biceps, but he has lured many first-timers from Saligao and its neighbourhood to think of keeping fit by sweating it out four or more times a week.
From all signs, they’re taking to it with enthusiasm.
“We do hear noise from the gym,” says Ramesh’s wife Anushka with a smile, herself in a black track suit, but seemingly enjoying the near-celebrity status her hubby has gained in his locality with his unusual approach. The gym is a floor about their traditional home, done up with earnings from the overseas stints of Ramesh and his brother Digambar (Diga).
Once you’re in, you get the idea that this is not just about any gym. It a village club. Together with his personal training, Ramesh offers personal talk. If he sees a journalist in you, the focus will go on interesting aspects of a Goa which don’t get written about.
The village sarpanch (council chief) joins in exercises here on some days. So do others whom one might not link with being fitness freaks. You can meet your schoolmate Mark, whom you didn’t spot in decades, and some mums sneak off to don their gym shoes after the kiddies pack off for school.
Don’t be surprised to see Facebook posts of the 50-something Ramesh, telling you what one gymmie has just achieved in the field of fashion. “Everyone says our police are unfit. Meet Manoj,” he says, pointing to a muscular cop who comes to work-out with Sandeep and Suwanand, who are also policemen by day. Or night, depending on their shift, I guess.
Ramesh has the gift of the written word too. He told me, in his soft-spoken and quiet manner, of an essay he wrote in the village school, Mater Dei, that a generation ago struck his teachers as unusual and outstanding even then. He’s still a man with a hundred-and-one stories to narrate. From local lore, to focussing on the village footballers of the 1970s, and even ghost stories from Saligao, he can tell it all.
But there’s a story behind the Ramesh Ghadis of Saligao too.
In the 1970s, a retired Army employee from South India — whom everyone called “Joseph Sir” — settled in Saligao with his family. He then set up a rudimentary village gym, with the rough and ready equipment available in those days of scarcity. As a result, at least four to five village boys gained life-long careers from that initiative — often working at top health clubs and as swimming coaches in the Gulf.
Today, many of them are back home. Contributing to their village in their own unique ways.
Ramesh was himself at the Ramada’s there. “I know enough Arabic to discuss gym topics,” he says with a smile.
It’s not that Saligao didn’t have a gym earlier; but that was seen as meant for more hard-core training for serious-minded young men. Now you see people in their “sweet sixties” (Ramesh’s term) to young women coming in after work. The former to stay fit, some of the latter to gain weight!
Ramesh says of his long stint in the Gulf. “Once, when visiting home for the Ganesh festival, I looked around at the village pond (the site where the festival ending culminates) and realised I didn’t recognise 60% of the people present. That was when I decided it was time to come home,” he says.
“With my writing in cyberspace, people now know I’m not just a toughie with muscle,” Ramesh told me recently. But then, you can’t blame those who meet him for noticing the bulge on his arms, chest and more at first glance!
Location: Muddavaddi, Behind St. Anne’s Chapel.
Phone : 9850450055
Timings : 6 am to 10 am. 4 pm to 10 pm.
Charges : Rs 1,000/- for entry. Rs 500/- per month.