I recently came across an interesting article in the NYT about dress codes in some New York clubs.
This led me to remember another very interesting incident in India at the Calcutta club about which my favourite news paper reported under the heading “Days Of The Raj?”
To get the full flavour of this post, please do read the two articles in depth.
The two articles talk about two different types of clubs. The former are the night clubs whose sole purpose is to provide entertainment, drink and food for their clients. The latter epitomises the social clubs which offer much more like sports and games, gyms, functions, gathering place etc.
I am a member of three clubs in India and have resigned from one very old club membership as all the three clubs that I am a member of have reciprocal arrangements with it. In two clubs I have already earned the qualification of life member and annual fees have been exempted on that score. In the other, I should hopefully be earning that distinction in the near future. I am therefore eminently qualified to write on this subject.
My home club, the Poona club the pavilion of which isfeatured above is 125 years old, with a rich history. It is a vibrant club with a great deal of activities and membership is now extremely difficult to obtain, as the infrastructure is already groaning to provide service and facilities for its members. I am a member but very inactive for the past many years but intend to change that in the near future. On the odd occasion I use the facilities to meet with people who come from the other side of the city, as the club is located in the center of the city, I make resolutions to visit more often, but laziness overwhelms me.
Many older clubs of other cities in India, like the Poona Club, are in a similar situation and with increasing population, newer clubs are sprouting in all towns and cities of India providing similar facilities. Many are better equipped and more modern, but old timers like me still feel more comfortable in the older stodgy clubs.
Apart from a very few, like the Calcutta club featured above and possibly the Madras Club, now have dress codes, though there was a time when almost all of them had. Now, if dress codes are imposed, members will simply stay away! So, the snobbery that is the thrust of the two articles linked above, is really not there. It however exists in different ways. Members of the older colonial clubs and their rival clubs started by Indians, tend to look down on the parvenu clubs and their members! Employees of the former also consider themselves to be superior! Very interesting conversations can take place when members of the older clubs meet up with members of the newer parvenu clubs and the clubs are compared with each other! I have been involved in a few, mostly as a bemused observer with little to contribute.
I am looking forward to visiting another very old Poona based club, which is just short of being 100 years old, The Deccan Gymkhana, this coming Saturday, when I attend our alumni association’s local chapter meeting that has been arranged there. I have lived in Pune the last 21 years, but have never visited that club. Shameful really.
To end this post, an interesting exchange between Big John and me in his post “It’s my turn to wear the blue sash” is worth a read. Please do read his post and all the comments in there to get a flavour of the Raj and its relics. You may even come to understand the peculiar relationship that India and Britain share.