Swimming Pool in Chembur

I have been around in Chembur since 1992 or so. Since then, the town has changed a lot. The municipal swimming facility in Chembur, now called General Arun Kumar Vaidya Swimming Pool. This was part of the overall naming and renaming exercise undertaken by the right-wing Shiv Sena which swept into power in 1994 in the state of Maharashtra. I do not recollect what this pool was called before being named so.

My experience in this swimming pool has not been great. When I tried to learn swimming here as a kid my skin got discolored and as a result I lost interest in swimming. From then on, I have passed in front of the pool several times without caring to learn its proper name (something I am interested in but not of importance since people just call it Swimming Pool). Hence for a very long time, this pool and its activities didn’t have my interest.

Recently, there was a news report in the local newspaper, Mumbai Mirror reported that there was a danger that the pool may be handed over to private parties through improper channels. The pool has apparently not been used for the past two years and the municipal corporation is spending approximately Rs. 16 lakhs. The picture is murky and RTI activists are digging for information.

This revived an interest in swimming and also revived an urge to spread the word about what was happening to this public space. The first thing to do was to find out what it is called. The above report swaps the names of the two pools at Chembur and Kandivali. The one at Chembur is called the General  Arunkumar Vaidya taran talav. An interest arose in learning more about the General and I reached the Bharat Rakshak website and found the information I was looking for.

The General has served India during the Indo-Pakistan Wars of 1965 and 1971 and as Chief of Army Staff he planned Operation Bluestar. Like Indira Gandhi who ordered the Operation, the General was also assassinated for his role in the Operation in Pune in 1986. The General was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra and the Padma Vibhushan.

Interestingly, in the early 2000s, a Sikh businessman operated his hotel out of the premises when the swimming pool was in the name of the General. I am not sure if he knew about the General or his role in the Operation. The hotel did not have good food and so even that didn’t provide me a reason to go there. It inevitably closed operations. Now, the fore ground of the swimming pool is being used for parking vehicles.

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