Now, a new attempt is being made to restore the decades-old Boat Club to its former glory and people, particularly young couples, are loving it.
"Earlier we either had to go to a mall, or even sitting in a small restaurant meant spending Rs.150-200. But now, with boating resuming here it is cheap and different fun altogether," a smiling college student Pranay Sharma told IANS, while his friend Swati gazed at Rajpath, the grand boulevard that stretches five kilometres from the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace to the memorial to the Unknown Soldier at India Gate.
In between, the boating had shifted to another water body near India Gate and even though this meant you could club it with a picnic, the longing for the original still remained.
"We were conducting boating in water channel near India Gate with the CPWD (Central Public Works Department). While boating had been sealed near India Gate and surrounding area after the December (2012) gang-rape, boating has been revived at the original Boat Club from July 1," Delhi Tourism chief public relations manager Sudhir Sobti told IANS.
"The Boat Club was revived to provide an added place for the people to unwind. We have future plans of replacing the old boats with new ones and even building a small ticket counter," Sobti added.
With 20 paddle boats and 19 row boats, the 500-metre-long and two-and-a-half-foot deep water body, flanked by a verdant green lawn on one side and the imposing Krishi Bhavan (home to the agriculture ministry) on the other, has become a hangout zone for young couples, friends and families.
"Though I am from Delhi, I had never visited this place. This is such a nice location and easy to travel to as well. Once we are done here, we are planning to take a walk towards the India Gate," young executive Vanisha Khullar, who had come with her boyfriend, told IANS.
The visitors are charged Rs.50 per person for a 15 minute ride and Rs.100 for 30 minutes. The boating timings are from 2p.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
"During the weekends, we get a lot of people, but even on weekdays 20-25 boats are hired and we earn close to Rs.1,000 a day," said Sukhbir Singh, who is in-charge of the facility. The figure goes up some three times on weekends.
The area around the water body is being maintained by the CPWD.
"As the site was not in good shape, we are working intensively and within a few months' time the area will bloom. The regular cleaning of the lake is also being done by us," a CPWD official said.
And, with the onset of winter, the area will soon bloom with myriad varieties of flowers.
"I have come to Delhi for the first time and it is nice to find boating, as my kid is very fond of water," said homemaker Sarla Sinha, who had come to visit Delhi from Jamshedpur.
Apart from providing a platform for leisure, the Boat Club has also opened avenues for a few people to earn some money by rowing the boats, though officially Delhi Tourism has employed only one full-time in-charge and one lifeguard.
"It is the decision of the customers but we charge Rs.20 from whoever want their boat to be rowed,"said Shiv Prasad Nishad from Uttar Pradesh.
The India Gate Boat Club is one of five such that Delhi Tourism operates.
(Shradha Chhetri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 11-08-2013)