India has a total land area of 3,166 lakh hectares, out of which 15% is categorized as wasteland. As per the report of the Wastelands Atlas of India (2011), Rajasthan tops the chart with about 84,929 sq.km as wasted land. These wastelands are mainly transformed into dumping grounds, as in India, nearly 91% of the collected waste is dumped in open lands. The report also declared that around 37,297 sq.km of land in Andhra Pradesh is unutilized and vacant land. The report was published before Telengana was separated from Andhra Pradesh, and thus the percentage differs now. Hyderabad, the present capital of both the states, is not devoid of having wastelands and those stand empty, unused and unfilled. Here stepped in Sri Sudha M, retired Indian Air Force Officer, and Rama Devi whose initiative to change a dumping yard into a sports complex is a classic example of being a ‘responsible citizen.’
The reason behind this thought:
Sri Sudha M: The Air Force life that I experienced was full of different activities. We got the opportunity to involve ourselves in different games as a routine. After I left Indian Air Force (IAF), I found life to be totally different outside. I felt there is paucity of space and lot of time and effort needed to be put to reach to a facility to play games or at least remain physically active. I used to drive my children to far off places for their sports classes. There was nothing very close by. Perhaps, from here the idea to build such a sporting complex came to my mind.
Plan for building a sports territory:
Sri Sudha M: Every morning I go for walk with Rama. As we walk we discuss many things related to environment and space. Sometimes back we two often discussed about how being fit could be more fun than a mere compulsion and how having a facility with required infrastructure would make healthy living an easier process for general public at relatively lower cost. Then the idea came why not we give a proposal to the government and check how they would help us realize this dream.
Sri Sudha M: Rama and I floated a company named Stratos and made a specific plan. As the land belong to them, we approached them first, with that detailed plan about the project. They were impressed and asked us to start working on it. They are extremely supportive, we approached them whenever needed and they obliged us with necessary solutions.
Sri Sudha M: It took some days to clean the whole land, fill the pits and level it to start construction. After that it did not take much long as we were clear about what to do exactly on it. We have a mini Cricket ground and a practice pitch definitely, as it is the most popular game. Next we have a synthetic Volleyball court and a Beach Volleyball court. Then we thought that what can be done for the elderly and the women. So we first placed a Jogging Track. But what else? We searched through the internet about unknown games and also for something that is suitable for women. And I came to know about Pickleball. I contacted Sunil Valavalkar, the General Secretary of All India Pickleball Association, and talked at length about the game. He gave me all the details about the game- how it is played, what are needed for it and most importantly why the game is suitable for everybody like a young person or a woman or an elderly man. So we placed two synthetic Pickleball courts here.
Benefit for the players:
Sri Sudha M: Whoever comes here to play, we intend to provide them basic facilities like kits, racquets, playing gears etc. Moreover there will be directional coaching available for players who want to take their game to a different level. Playing is important, but to some extent, playing with the right technique is also important. So we want to work in that field. Actually there are various plans that we need to implement and there is a long way to go.
Sri Sudha M: Actually, we formed Stratos to serve the society with innovative sporting ideas. Our motto is ‘Healthy Mind and Healthy Body’. This sporting complex is the first step towards it in collaboration with the Government. Let’s see how it progresses and then we will think of executing some other ideas.