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Madras Gymkhana Club Estd. in 1884


Madras Gymkhana Club

The Glory Years CONTENTS Epistles

05

One for the Ages

12

Brothers in Arms

38

Creating Space

46

A Legacy of Sport

58

Bon Vivants

86

Red Letter Days

100

Roll of Honour

112


The Glory Years - Madras Gymkhana Club 125th anniversary First published 2009 Š 2009: The Madras Gymkhana & Raintree Media ISBN No. 978-81-906620-2-4

Editor-in-Chief: Sandhya Mendonca Project Editor & Principal Photographer: Savita S Rao Editorial team: Kavita Mohandas & Jacob C Anand Illustrations: Jai Iyer Design: Mishta Roy Design team: AV Manjunath & G Suresh Printed at: TWP, Singapore

Published by RAINTREE MEDIA PVT LTD 7/1, 1st Floor, Ebony, Hosur Road, Langford Town, Bangalore - 560 025

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in The Glory Years - Madras Gymkhana Club 125th anniversary. Neither Raintree Media nor The Madras Gymkhana Club take any responsibility for errors or omissions. All brands, products and trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved: No part of this publication shall be reproduced, copied, transmitted, adapted or modified in any form or by any means (except as quotes in reviews/articles). This publication shall not be stored in whole or in part in any form in any retrieval system. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Global Village Publications India Ltd for permission to use images that were first published in the Best of Chennai Volume 1


ocial clubs and the practice of clubbing date back as far as recorded history can recall. From the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, social clubs were ubiquitous, popular features in any city, big or small. Largely organised according to business or trade, they ran the gamut from the business club, whose members were able to elect the Emperor as their patron, to the manual labourers club whose members were slaves. These were not unions or guilds; their prime function was to serve as social clubs where members would meet and interact with each other over feasts and banquets to further mutually beneficial causes and opportunities as well as to ensure that each member got a proper burial in the club grounds when they died.

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Rules and regulations were established and enforced to ensure smooth functioning of the social body. Entry fees, monthly dues and regulatory measures were all part of the norm, even in those early days that preceded the advent of the Gregorian calendar. As a case in point, part of the bye-laws of the erstwhile Association of Diana & Antonionus, retrieved from excavations of the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica, read as follows: “It was voted unanimously that whoever desires to enter this society shall pay an initiation fee of 100 sesterces (Rs. 20,000) and an amphora of good wine and shall pay his monthly dues of 5 asses (Rs. 25). It was voted further that anyone who has not paid his dues for six consecutive months will not have his claim to burial considered when the common lot of mankind befalls him. It was further voted that if any slave member of this society becomes free, he is required to donate an amphora of wine... Any member who uses abusive or insolent language at a banquet shall be fined 20 sesterces Rs. 4000)….” While the above is perhaps a startling revelation of how inflation-proof club entry and monthly fees have been over the centuries, the more important takeaway is the fact that clubs have been functioning much the same way as they do today since time immemorial. As clubs and clubbing found their way into Victorian society in England, they evolved into gentlemen's clubs members-only private clubs set up by and for English upper class men - that extended their reach to middle-class men and women in the late 19th century. Clubs became an arena that allowed their members to easily mix business and pleasure and to spend time together to find mutually beneficial opportunities. The East India Company helped the spread of clubs into the Colonies and thus exposed Indians, at least the very elite few, to the practice of clubbing. These crown jewels of the Raj, the Gymkhanas - all of which were established in the 19th century - have maintained this spirit of camaraderie and mutual well-being and benefit among its membership while preserving their aura of exclusivity. Businessmen, executives, doctors, lawyers, accountants, media barons, investment bankers and retired colonels can all be seen socialising and relaxing with each other under an air of mutual self-congratulation. "We have made it" is the unspoken sentiment. That self-satisfaction is clearly justified with the emphasis being on the ‘we’ – that collective sense of belonging to an institution beyond compare.

Our very own Madras Gymkhana Club has been the cynosure of all eyes in our city from its very inception in 1884. Over the years, it has continued to adapt and transform itself to keep both its facilities and the very Club itself relevant to the changing times and the needs of its august membership while preserving the unique pedigree and great traditions that were laid down with that foundation stone on the Island a hundred and twenty five years ago. This coffee-table book, being released to commemorate our quasquicentennial, is a celebration of all the members, office bearers and staff, past and present from that morning in 1884. It is but a humble recognition of their immense collective contributions that have helped in preserving and fostering the charm, mystique and privilege of owning a membership of the Madras Gymkhana Club. People from various walks of life meet each other within the luxurious, calming confines of the Club, much like those early days in Ostia Antica; an incomparable body of individuals who collectively epitomise that unique characteristic which is the very essence of the sweet smell of success-the ability and desire to meet people towards finding opportunities for mutual betterment, enjoyment and relaxation. Clubbing by any other name, with due apologies to the Bard of Avon, would still smell as sweet.

ARVIND RAMRATHNAM

MGC - The Glory Years

President - EPISTLES


MGC - The Glory Years

EPISTLES - Honorary Secretary “Out of comradeship can come and will come the happy life for all.� Heywood C. Broun, American journalist deep sense of camaraderie distinguishes the Madras Gymkhana Club and each day that I come here, I am particularly struck by this spirit. It is a privilege to serve as the Honorary Secretary of this iconic institution, and one feels a great sense of responsibility in the shaping of its future.

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The 125th year celebration is an opportunity to soak in the wealth of history, and to plant milestones for the years to come. The

primary objective of this Committee is to reinforce the historic quality of the Club, while ushering it into a prosperous future. After a long hiatus, there has been a flurry of activity, some of it already under implementation and part in the immediate offing. Foremost among these is the automation of all systems and procedures to make for efficiency of service and accuracy of administration. Yes, the Club is ancient, but the upkeep needs to be in synchronicity with the times. A new plan has been made to upgrade all the existing facilities. A blueprint has been drawn up and a project implementation team commissioned to ensure speedy and transparent progress. The swimming pool, the kitchen, the bar area and the residential quarters are being revamped to state-ofthe-art status. A bowling machine for cricket, with the facility to be played under lights, has been installed and is already a huge hit among the players. The tennis courts will soon see improved lighting and dug outs. Sports have always been a priority area in the Club and we are ensuring that it remains so for the years to come. This is also the most apt opportunity to thank those who give the Club its inimitable quality. That list is a long one indeed, from the Committee and the members, to the patrons and staff, who preserve its traditions with dedication and affection. Many would think that memberships are coveted for their exclusivity and the prestige that is conferred on those who are admitted into this circle; members however, would know that the sense of belonging that the Club induces takes precedence over these. This is the place where promotions and anniversaries are celebrated, where children take their first awkward paddle in the pool, and where business deals are concluded over a game of golf. You could walk in at any time and be sure to find a friend here, and remain assured that your favourite dish will always be consistently delicious. This coffee table book is homage to eras past, and Club activities that have become a matter of habit. It is a gauge of how far we have progressed, while serving as a reminder of the citadel of values and traditions that the Madras Gymkhana Club was designed to be. It is a chronicle for future generations, a memoir of what the Club once was and certainly, what it aspires to be.

PVS VENCATASUBRAMANIAM


“In life, only a few persons influence the formation of our character; one friend, one teacher, one beloved, one club.� Jean Paul Richter, German novelist and humourist

ur venerable home away from home, the Madras Gymkhana Club, has in its 125 years of existence seen personages of distinction, captains of industry and the cream of society adorn its membership rolls. As has been wisely observed, men may come and men may go, but the institution goes on forever. It may even be said, the history of our club is intertwined with the history of India.

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I feel deeply privileged to be a part of the Committee that is organising the special events that will commemorate this historic year. I trust that the volume now in your hands, that captures the essence of our Madras Gymkhana, will give you much pleasure and be a treasured source of information and constant delight. I take this opportunity to wish all of you and your families well and pray to The Almighty that he will continue to shower on all of us His Grace and that this wonderful institution with which we are privileged to be associated, will grow from strength to strength and continue to be a home away from home for the generations to come until time be with us no more.

NA MIRZA

MGC - The Glory Years

Vice President - EPISTLES


MGC - The Glory Years

EPISTLES - Honorary Treasurer Oscar Wilde once famously said, “I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering.” hen we first thought of a coffee table book, I wondered if we were only creating a nice hardcover of the memories of the Madras Gymkhana, which would eventually find its way to our living rooms, only to just sit there and possibly instigate some gossip to ease boredom. But the more I thought of it, the more I became convinced that we were about to create a piece of history by recording our history for posterity! Definitely not a modern memoir, Mr. Wilde!

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Growing up, our dining table was always replete with stories of my grandmother, eminent patriot, Rukmini Lakshmipathy, fighting the British for our freedom, while my father, a senior member of the Club, at the same time, was saluting the Union Jack! Naturally, I have always been enchanted by the entire aura of the British Raj and could well imagine, at the Gym, the ‘dorais’ and ‘memsabs’ sipping pink gin in the sweltering heat, served by white liveried bearers! Don't get me wrong, I don't have a colonial hangover but I am a true traditionalist at heart with a healthy dose of the modern, since a lot what we do today has been inherited from the Raj, not to mention many of our draconian legislations! To be closely involved with this book has been a great honour for me and the fact that I will be a part of this monumental legacy, till thy kingdom come, is a huge rush. Readers of my generation would recognise author Louis L’Amour, a favourite of mine, and his words strike home-“No memory is ever alone; it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations.” Though I have only been a resident member of this august institution since 1989, I have been coming to this Club since the early 70s and my association with Gymkhana has been more than a dozen trails, each with a significant association and all to be cherished. Today, as the club’s Honorary Treasurer, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to be a contributing factor


in taking our Club forward, building on the tradition that has been handed down to us, over these past 125 years. One of the first things that I did, upon assuming this office, was to peruse old minutes, very conveniently stored in the workspace assigned to me. Reading these minutes actually transported me back in time. To see the minutes painstakingly transcribed in longhand makes me believe that we, in the modern age, have it pretty easy. A Committee meeting of 1885 records the election of a Sub-secretary for Paper Chasing! It took the internet to tell me that a form of crosscountry running in the early 19th century was called paper chasing, or hares & hounds where the ‘hares’ started a few minutes before the others and left a trail of paper scraps to be followed by the ‘hounds’. There were Sub-secretaries for Polo, Trap Shooting and Hunting as well. I sometimes wish we could bring these back to the Club!! One of my erstwhile predecessors, a Major Sidney Smith, RE, God bless his Soul, recorded in 1885, a Balance of Assets over Liabilities at Rs. 1966, Annas 7 and Paise 8 and the sum deposited with Agra Bank was Rs. 1000. A great deal of money, I'm told, for those days! As the money man, I certainly am charged with the task of spending our monies judiciously in our desire to modernise and leave a lasting legacy for our progeny. I am also hopeful that when I demit office, our coffers will have substantially more than what Major Smith left us with! At the risk of repeating myself, let me leave you with the inspiring words of American writer & broadcaster, Garrison Keillor “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”

A Peek into the Past racing 125 years in the life of the Madras Gymkhana Club has been a delightful exercise. An institution is a microcosm of the world at large, and as much as its members seek to carve out a special place for themselves, events and trends invariably impinge upon them and affect the institution too.

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MGC - The Glory Years

Editor - EPISTLES

In the following pages we have put forth the challenges and the triumphs, the lovable idiosyncrasies and the laudable achievements of the Gymkhana. The genesis of the Club during Colonial rule to its evolution as an institution with deep local roots is fascinating. Today, it looks towards the future with its flag flying high. We sincerely hope that along the members of this great Club, this book will be appreciated by anyone who is interested in Chennai, Colonial history or simply enjoys a good read. In putting this book together, we have relied largely on the minutes of the meetings, the reminiscences of members and reference materials to substantiate the events that occurred both in the country and in other parts of the world. We gratefully acknowledge the opportunity afforded to us by the Club's Executive Committee to publish this book and thank all the members and staff who have generously spent considerable hours with us in compiling it.

SANDHYA MENDONCA

I commend this book to your reading pleasure and I do hope you enjoy it as much we did putting it together.

ISHWAR ACHANTA

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Seated (L-R) Mr. SBP Anand Mohan, CMDE. Rajiv Girotra, Mr. NA Mirza, Mr. Arvind Ramrathnam, Mr. PVS Vencatasubramaniam, Mr. Ishwar Achanta, Mr. S Arumugam


Standing (L-R) Mr. AP Suresh Kumar, Mr. ST Gauthaman, Mr. SBS Raman, Col. PN Anantha Narayanan, Mr. RL Narula, Mr. Arun Mehra, Mr. V Murali


{

CHAPTER 1

One for the Ages

}

“Every Englishman is convinced of one thing; that to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is.” Ogden Nash, American poet


Brigadier Gen. Johnson with Brigadier Gen. Alexander Arbuthnot, penning the proprosal for the Club.


MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

n the sweltering month of April in the year 1884, the River Cooum threaded its way through Madras with dreamy languor. On the 17th day of the month, at the Island grounds that were part of vast tracts of army land, local luminaries of the East India Company and the British army were engaged in a matter of some importance; they were laying the foundation of the Madras Gymkhana Club.

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The British always had lofty thoughts when it came to institution building, but it is unlikely that even these adventurous founders had foreseen that they were creating a unique establishment that would survive for well over a century, with the barest of changes to mark the passage of time. Within the tropical boundaries, its purpose defined by its very name (Gymkhana being the Hindi word for a locale for sporting events), the Club enshrined a sliver of England and the customs of Ye Olde England were richly accentuated and meticulously preserved. Yet, inevitably, its very setting and the resulting mĂŠlange of cultures, imbued it with a flavour and zest that could never have been in the colder climes of the mother country. Brigadier General Johnson sat in the Strangers Room of the Madras Club to frame the rules of what he christened The Madras Gymkhana Club, and from a modest tent grew an institution that thrives robustly to this day.

The historic proposal in 1884 that led to the birth of the Madras Gymkhana Club.

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A Child of Interesting Times he year that the Gymkhana was founded, 1884, was a watershed in British Indian Raj. The Ilbert Bill was enacted after much protraction, allowing Indian judges and magistrates the power to try British offenders. The Bill, introduced by Lord Rippon, caused serious debate across the country. On its heels, in 1885, the country’s first political party, Indian National Congress (INC) was formed. Both the Ilbert Bill and the INC had the blessings of the Colonial authority which surely had no inkling that in a good

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60 years, the British Raj would end as a dramatic and epochal slice of world history. Within the closed confines of its world, few of the rumblings and effects of the Ilbert Bill or the Congress made it to the precincts of the Gymkhana. Here, sport and a good life were prized above everything else. The Gymkhana represented an oasis of carefully balanced calm in a turbulent political scenario; it was a social leveller where a member was measured by skill and erudition rather than race. It was one of the few places where Indian Rajahs and British officers met and played as equals, well before the tide of political change had turned. The Club culture was inherent to the British, and favoured by the Army. The Gymkhanas, to quote Captain Ernest Lindsay Marryat and Lieutenant Carmichael Light Young, the men instrumental in setting up the Bombay Gymkhana Club in 1875, were created “to offer young sportsmen of small means the opportunity of indulging their proclivities at a minimum cost to themselves and at a maximum production of enjoyment to the general public”.

In Madras, as anywhere else, the British went about creating clubs with thoroughness. The venerable Madras Club was founded in 1832, the Madras Cricket Club in 1846, and the Cosmopolitan Club in 1873. Each had a clear objective and its own social set. The Madras Gymkhana joined the ranks of several such clubs that were cropping up in India and grew from being a sports pavilion into a much bigger club. Being the youngest kid on the block, the Gymkhana filled a sweet spot; it encouraged all field sports as well as music and dance, thus drawing people from a wider social set. It was a culmination of the interests of three distinct entities: the Garrison, the New Age entrepreneurs and the Indian royalty. The Freemason movement added an influential dimension, while the burgeoning Indian professionals became the enthusiastic endorsers.

The first committee meeting was held on April 14, 1884.

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Colonel Subramanian, Secretary General of MCCI

Men of Action he proposal for establishing the Gymkhana had an influential supporter: Brigadier General Alexander ‘Alick’ Arbuthnot who strode the sporting and social scene of Madras like a colossus. He founded the Madras Cricket Club (MCC) and was a key force in establishing the University of Madras; he eventually became the Vice Chancellor. He also served as Chief Secretary and Acting Governor of Madras, and was crowned by the Empire with two titles—Knight Commander of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India (1873) and Companion of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire.

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The first peg: The Garrison he Madras Garrison is the oldest in India, dating back to 1650. By 1884, the army officers and soldiers formed a sizeable segment of the British population in Madras and nearly 40 top-ranking officers were posted here. They were serviced by the regimental mess, which had irksome limitations such as strict timings, limited access for families and guests, and afforded very little amenities for civilised socialising and dancing. The lack of a convenient club and congenial company was sorely felt.

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Accessibility being the key issue, a plan took shape for hewing a brand new club on land which belonged to the army and that was well within walking distance of the Garrison.

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Arbuthnot became one of the Club’s founding members and his proposal was seconded by W Davidson. It was established on land leased by the Army, and several armymen like Gen. Johnson played a significant role in the formation of its character. This created a strong rapport between the Army and the Club, fuelled by constant sporting matches. It also extended honorary memberships to military officers who were posted to, or were visiting, Madras.

TT Raghunathan, Executive Vice Chairman of the TTK group

The second peg: The New Age Entrepreneurs our years after the formation of the Madras Club, in 1836, the Madras Chamber of Commerce was founded with 20 businessmen as members. The arrival of the Railways, Post and Telegraph began changing the scale of commerce, presenting unprecedented opportunities for businessmen to make their fortunes by dealing in new commodities and services. Most entrepreneurs became suppliers to the army and other British institutions.

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The Chamber provided a platform for businessmen and lobbied for their interests. This called for delicate liaison with the Maharajahs to secure safe passage for cargo that had to pass through the many princely states and provinces, and to negotiate minimal taxes. Colonel Subramanian, Secretary General of Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry recreates the social scenario, “Temples and durbars were exclusive, and functional. Existing institutions did not provide a platform for entertaining.” A neutral venue was needed where native businessmen could mingle with associates and discuss new ventures or strategies. Such a venue would also solve the vexing problems raised by religious taboos and local social etiquette. TTK Raghunathan, Executive Vice Chairman of the TTK group, a leading industrial conglomerate, recalls that his father TT Narasimhan felt that the Gymkhana solved his biggest problem, which was of entertaining meat-eating European business associates. A devout vegetarian, he simply could not offer them the expected hospitality at home and was delighted that the Gymkhana could solve his social dilemma.


MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

The late Raja DV Appa Rao Bahadur

The third peg: The Indian Royalty he Gymkhana afforded a common meeting ground for the British army, bureaucrats and the new breed of businessmen who had to deal with the most influential local entity, the Maharajahs.

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It was no coincidence that the first few Indian members of the Club included the Rajah of Venkatagiri, Maharajah of Vizianagaram, Kumara Rajah of Pithapuram and Kumara Zamindar of Vuyyur. Indian royals and affluent Zamindars were invited to become members as the English considered them equals, and they went on to patronise the Club. As the entrepreneurs met with and lobbied with the royal officials, the Rajahs’ visits to the Presidency increased. Many of the younger aristocrats, like the late Raja DV Appa Rao Bahadur, who had moved to Madras, sought membership at the Club. A member from 1946 until his passing away in July 2009, Raja Appa Rao recollected, “Only two things would get you

The Rajah of Venkatgiri

into the Club. You had to be a man of erudition or a man from the landed class. I was from the landed gentry.” Many of the forest, fishing, land, construction and other permits rested with the sports loving Maharajahs. The Club became a natural platform to cultivate these hugely influential persons and for the subtle social intermingling with the royalty, which was otherwise unthinkable. The Rajahs brought to the Club their love and skill of sport, their mantle of prestige and their characteristic generosity. For instance, the Rajah of Venkatagiri donated the grandstand that replaced the tent which had earlier sheltered the sports enthusiasts.

As a sign of respect for its benefactor, the Club decided to display a portrait of the late Maharajah of Venkatgiri.

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ONE FOR THE AGES

Freemasons enjoy a pre-dinner fellowship at The Buttery.

The Masonic Connection asonry, one of the oldest fraternities, became a formal organisation in 1717, when the first English Grand Lodge was formed. In India, Masonry has been in active and continuous practice for 300 years, starting in 1730 in Calcutta. By 1752 the first Lodge in Madras had been set up, and the fraternity grew from strength to strength.

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Contributing to the Gymkhana’s Masonic connection is the colonial food, something that has evolved as a Gymkhana distinction. In the English Masonic context, dining is an important ritual and is referred to as the Festive Board. Time is set aside for the pre-dinner drink and dinners are always sitdown and serviced.

Often underestimated in the social fabric of the 1800s in Madras, the Masonic connection had a far-reaching impact on the City and on the Club. One had to be introduced to the Masonic order, and this usually happened at the Club, where one met a Freemason. There was a period in the 1960s, when about 70 percent of Gymkhana members were Freemasons.

Masonic dinners in Chennai have hinged around the Gymkhana. Until about 1960, the Freemasons dined at the Freemasons Hall in Egmore. When that practice was discontinued for a time, the dinners were held at The Connemara for almost 20 years between the 1960s and the 80s. In the 1980s, the Freemasons began using the Gymkhana instead and it continued till 2002. In 2002, the Gymkhana’s Catering Manager, Balakrishnan, on retirement, was prevailed upon to work at the Freemasons’ Hall after its kitchens were renovated. Balakrishnan has since moved back to the Gymkhana Club on a post-retirement assignment and so have the Masonic dinners.

Almost all the landed gentry of Madras were members of the Freemasons’ fraternity and the Governors of Madras, such as Lord Connemara and Lord Ampthill, were District Grand Masters. The original Spencers Hotel, now The Taj Connemara, was named after the Governor who was also the District Grand Master in 1888. Leading barrister C Mutthanna, prominent industrialist K Eswaran, founder of Easun Engineering Co, and all the directors of Spencer & Co, including ZR Irani (after whom the Irani trophy is named) were Gymkhana members and Freemasons.

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Today, the Gymkhana counts 150 Freemasons amongst its members who add much to the eclectic mix of what makes the Club such an interesting place.


MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

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Trivia THE GOOD DOCTOR - AUGUST 1948 It was brought to the notice of the meeting that the doctor, who was provided with free lunches at the Club, had recently been ordering larger meals with the result that the cost of his lunch for one month was within a few annas of his salary and the compounder’s allowance. The Hon. Secretary was instructed to inform the doctor that in the future the lunch he orders at the Club must not exceed one rupee or he would have to pay anything in excess of this amount.


Is He Clubbable?

committee members who asked themselves, “Is he Clubbable”?

n bringing together people from distinctly different social backgrounds, the Club never lost sight of its dictum, that it would be a gathering of high-calibre, ‘Clubbable’ gentlemen.

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What they were asking essentially was, whether he could drink without getting drunk, could he string sentences together, could he play a sport? If he could dance, it was a bonus.

To join the Club, the applicant’s name had to be proposed by an existing member. This strategy worked well, as members would not risk their reputation and membership for someone that they were not sure of. Once a name was proposed, the hopeful applicant would come in to meet the

A prominent member has a clear recollection of his meeting with the committee, 50 years back. “When one came in for the Gymkhana interview in those days, one looked out for buttonholes, those were the committee members! They asked a couple of questions, mainly what sport one played and so on.” Buttonholes changed to tie-pins, but the definition or criteria did not change. Colonel Subramanian, who has served on the committee as the Garrisonnominated Vice President, says of the need to enforce a code of conduct for members, “After all, that is what makes the Club a nice place that you would want to come to.”

The Young Professionals he growth of commerce and industry gave rise to a new breed of professionals, British and Indian, coming from Oxford or other European Universities, ready to start a career. Young and eager to make their mark in life, they were also on the look-out for a cultural space where they could integrate into the social environment.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

These young professionals found exactly such a place in the Gymkhana Club. Many young Indians who joined notable companies such as Best and Crompton were introduced by the top bosses of the companies, and God forbid if they were late with their mess bills. Not only did the Club provide safe and pleasant company, it never closed. Young bachelors working late, or returning from tours, could come here at midnight or even two in the morning, and still get their dinner. The Gymkhana also donned the role of a finishing school; it was here that gauche men and shy women learnt to waltz or do the foxtrot. It was here that the traditional Madras palate tasted cold cuts and also where women discovered bridge, a seminal outcome if one counts the many ardent fans of the game who play with single-minded attention.

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An Institution is Crafted

MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

or the British, the Gymkhana was a home away from home and they recreated their preferences in the ambience, food (which in due course took on indigenised flavours), sport and dancing. For the local young Indians, the world of the Club opened a window, offering a peep into a lifestyle that was otherwise unattainable.

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So it was that the officers, businessmen and royalty came together to form and shepherd the Gymkhana. The Club kept in mind the broader benefits of all the members even as it formed rules and introduced changes. Order was of paramount importance in behaviour, maintenance and accounts. Audits were regular, as were improvements, and the Club grew. Its food became legendary as did the swimming galas in the city’s first ever swimming pool. With older distinguished clubs seeking reciprocal arrangements, the Gymkhana membership was soon coveted and flaunted as the hallmark of social cache. An institution had been crafted and would go on to live a long, illustrious life.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - The Formative Years

The Gymkhana in the Pre-Independence Years y 1885, the Gymkhana’s members numbered a respectable count of 228, of whom four were Life Members, 90 were Annual Members and 134 were Monthly Subscribers. Membership fee was Rs. 3 a month. With the founding members being posted out of the Madras Presidency, a new Committee was elected to steer the nascent Club.

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The Club stayed true to its purpose and took its sport seriously, demonstrated by the fact that apart from the regular roster of Club officials, individual Sub-secretaries were appointed to take charge of polo, golf, trap shooting, paper chasing and hunting. Sports held the members in thrall, so much so, that while only a fraction attended the Christmas meeting of 1887, the Grand Annual Meeting, which was to discuss sports in detail, drew a full house. Beneath the tent that formed the focal point of the Club, Maharajahs and Englishmen tried their hand at pig sticking. Boar hunts on

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MGC - The Glory Years

The Formative Years - ONE FOR THE AGES

horseback made for capital sport, and was encouraged by the army as a form of training, as was polo. The muted sounds of galloping hooves on grass and graceful sweeps of the mounted riders were a common sight on the Island grounds. As the Club’s popularity grew, the tent was replaced with a grand stand gifted by the Rajah of Venkatagiri in 1890, who was a member of Legislative Council (Madras) in 1888 and winner of the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal in 1900 for distinguished service to the Raj. The Gymkhana hosted every kind of sport, “the only Gods an Englishman knew”, and the sounds of diverse sports echoed through it; the jolly banter of men as they played cards well into the night, teasing and challenging opponents to another game; the bursts of noise that symbolised rugby as teams vied fiercely on the field and united to enjoy a post-game drink together. Paper chasing, billiards, golf, boat races and rugby were all played with gusto with, of course, cricket holding its own amongst all the games. Members were attended to by courteous and trained staff, dressed in uniforms that resembled the costume of attenders at the court of the Nawab of Arcot. The attenders wore flowing robes with big skirts and a round flat cap forming the crowning glory of their uniform. Over a period of time, the uniforms were changed after many of the royal members lobbied against the costume which they considered a mockery of Indian royalty.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - The Formative Years

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The process of inducting new members became more formal in 1917, when the Proposer forms sought more detailed information from both those who sought membership and the members who proposed their names. The Club was constantly upgrading and improving its facilities using debentures to raise funds. In 1918, it purchased three bullocks, solving two problems at one shot. The bullocks could graze on the golf course while drawing water carts. By 1920, several new buildings and a children’s park were added. The First World War sobered the celebratory mood at the Club, and it stepped up its efforts to contribute to the success of the war campaign, even seeking to expel German members in a show of loyalty. This was a significant gesture, for there was an influx of Germans who sought to do business in Madras in the days preceding the War and they contributed to a substantial number of memberships to the Club. The end of the war came to be commemorated with the Poppy Day dances or the Armistice Ball. In the 1930s, the Governor’s band started playing at the Club and Panatrope concerts were organised. In 1938, the Club made serious efforts to get a first-class dance band and advertised across the nation in newspapers such as The Statesman, The Hindu, The Times of India and The Allahabad Pioneer. Music and dance got a further impetus when Lady Willingdon, wife of the then Governor of Madras Lord Willingdon, suggested that the Club should provide a dancing pavilion. This eventually resulted in the cherished spring dance floor. The years between the two World Wars passed quickly in a flurry of change. The Prince of Wales (later to

become Edward VIII) visited the Gymkhana in 1921, and the grand frontage was decked with multicoloured lights that twinkled into the wee hours of the evening, while members dined and danced.

MGC - The Glory Years

The Formative Years - ONE FOR THE AGES

With the start of the Second World War, the Gymkhana curtailed most activities due to the restrictions on lighting and supply of petrol. Only a few activities like moonlit concerts to raise funds for the troops continued. The War Services Exhibition Show was held at the Club’s football ground, which was dug up to recreate a model encampment with trenches and tents. This well-intended action had the unfortunate effect of ruining the football field and Club officials had to wait until the monsoons to restore it. In the second half of the 1930s, solicitors Messers King & Partridge were retained to frame amendments and bye-laws. For a club that always acquired the latest machines, such as an addressograph and an accounts totalisation machine, it refused telephone connections twice, feeling that “a telephone is not required by the Club”. Despite this inexplicable nay to change, the Gymkhana was quite open to new ideas; when The Hollywood Art School of Makeup came touring, they were invited to lecture to the ladies at the Club. With the completion of the swimming pool, the first swimming gala was held in 1938 to a packed audience. In the latter half of the 1940s, the Club focused on recovering from the war. It had to curtail expenditure while restoring sports and entertainment, no easy task, given the grave economic conditions that prevailed. Into these not very cheerful times blew the winds of lasting change as India moved to the threshold of freedom.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

Trivia SINGLE WOMEN WELCOME While a single woman has an easier time getting the coveted membership of the Club, once such an independent lady member gets married, she ceases to become a member, and has to apply for fresh membership again.

FOR FRIENDS ONLY A member's connection with the Club shall be terminated by the declaration of war between the State of which he is a subject and the Republic of India.

A STRICT DRESS CODE Like most clubs, the Gymkhana is strict in enforcing a dress code. Members and their guests shall not sit in the Lounge at any time unchanged after playing tennis or other games. Should members or their guests so dressed be forced to occupy the Lounge because of rain, they may do so, but must not remain longer than necessary. In case of infringement of this bye-law, the management may refuse ‘service’ to any person not conforming to these regulations after allowing a 10 minute interval in which to comply with the rule. Should another member seek to overcome the embarrassment by ordering a round of drinks or food, here again, the Management may refuse service.

CROWS & CATAPULTS The Club is a favourite haunt of not just its members but is the perennial playground for its raucous, winged residents. Upset with their influx, in 1977, a member proposed that the Club buy an air gun to scare the crows away from the lawn and swimming pool. This proposal was not approved but a couple of weeks later, it was decided to obtain catapults to scare the crows - once again in vain. This avian threat continued to harass lunching members until finally in late 2008, a series of protective nets were placed around the verandahs.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - Defining Moment

August 15, 1947 The Chairman put forward the following recommendation: “That the dominion of India flag be flown from the Club’s flagstaff on August 15, after which the Club’s house flag will be flown in place of the Union Jack, the house flag being a white flag with the Gymkhana monogram in the centre”. Mr. Gill proposed, Mr. Arton seconded and the resolution was accepted. It was decided to hoist the flag at 5.30 am.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - Traversing Eras

The Gymkhana in Independent India hange at the Gymkhana came but gradually; much the way the country obtained its hard-won freedom. As the British community started to dwindle when expatriates chose to go back home, the Club began defining its new identity in independent India. The changes were defined by subtle shifts; uniforms of the waiters became less ostentatious and in the mid-50s, Indian food made its appearance and ethnic clothing became acceptable on occasions.

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Independence Day, Republic Day and Deepavali celebrations were now held with the same gusto as the New Year’s Eve Fancy Dress Ball, Derby Night, and the Boxing Day Dance. KM Nanjappa was the first Indian to be elected as President of the Club in 1957. The First Indian Honorary Secretary, TTP Abdullah was elected in 1959. In 1960, membership was opened up to an additional 250 people, and the lawns were filled up. Renovations saw the addition of the Buttery and the Mixed Bar, and more recently, the addition of a new restaurant, Rendezvous. TK Singaram, member since 1959, who accompanied his father as a young dependant, looks back at the only hint of trouble at the Club. “The staff did a lockout in September 1986 and the Club was closed for 10 months. We had our annual meeting at the Taj Connemara.” Mrs. Singaram shared that adventure.“We told them to open the Club and volunteered that the women members would do all the work. We opened the gates boldly, and went in. We moved furniture and dusted. And when the staff saw us doing all the work, they resumed their duties.” Women soon came to be accepted as individual members in their own right and Mrs. Ahmed Ali became the first Independent Lady Member in 1971. Until 2002, only men were allowed as Junior members which meant while members’ sons could rightfully lay claim to membership, daughters could not do so. A member wrote a letter pointing out, “Sons and daughters are the same in today’s world. This resolution should not differentiate between sons and daughters.” In 2002, women (daughters of existing members) were given the privilege to be Junior members too. They contribute in no small measure to the profile of the Club’s membership which comprises erstwhile royalty, captains of industry, uniformed gents, sportspersons and achievers in several fields.

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Today, lady members play an integral role in the Club’s activities.

With its genesis and formative years having come about as part of the complex well-oiled machinery of the British Raj, the Madras Gymkhana has continued to survive and thrive as a venerable institution, rightfully proud of its heritage even as it adapts seamlessly to contemporary societal shifts. It is a place to celebrate the good things of life: sport, food, drink and congenial company; above all, it is a place that confers on its members the undoubted cache of belonging to the right social milieu.


MGC - The Glory Years

Traversing Eras - ONE FOR THE AGES

Bibliophile’s Delight he Gymkhana library is a treasure trove of books that range from history and technology, romance and crime fiction to religion and philosophy. It was moved from its earlier location on the first floor as the weight of the tomes was too heavy. Its current location is close to the children’s park and next to the gymnasium. Members drop by after a game of tennis, or sink deep into the cushioned chairs after dinner, skimming through fashion magazines or perusing the neatly stacked works of fiction. The Library allows members to borrow up to eight books every two weeks, and while it seems like a staggering number to read, the Club is filled with enthusiasts who welcome the challenge.

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The library is a cosy retreat for members.

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MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - Traversing Eras

In Tune

The Magic of Cinema

he six-member band which played at annual dances grew in popularity. In 1954, All India Radio asked the Club band to perform, and a feather in its cap was added in 1958 when the Madras Musical Association requested the band to perform at its annual show.

he Club acquired its own projector and obtained permission to screen movies in September 1978 and screened classics like A Farewell to Arms, Anatomy of a Murder, Mary of Scotland, The Story of the Count of Monte Cristo and Roman Holiday. The Club added its own twist to suspense, horror or mystery movies. The ending of the film was screened in the beginning, and then the film would start all over again!

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Songs like ‘Around The World I'll Search For You’, ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Jealous Hearts’ had their supporters and a little later, the cha-cha-cha numbers drew people to the dance floor. With changing times and tastes, the band performances gradually gave way to concerts by well known musicians such as Usha Uthup, Pankaj Udhas, Aruna Sairam, Sivamani and Hariharan.

Renowned ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas performing at the Club.

Versatile musician Hariharan performing at the Club.

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Today, Tamil and Bollywood films are major draws and a group of members with eclectic tastes, called the ‘Gym 3S’, screens classics and parallel cinema, which draw their own niche crowd.


Concerts by well-known artistes are regularly held and draw large audiences at the Madras Gymkhana Club.


MGC - The Glory Years

ONE FOR THE AGES - Traversing Eras

Trivia THE CABARETS The Club played host to cabarets in the past, which were enthusiastically attended by the men. Funnily enough, many men who must have been young boys during the cabaret period, insist that women members have made up the account of the cabarets! Here’s proof from the minutes: Cabaret dance organized for the All India Regatta in 1934, The Sunshine Girls performed at the Club on May 9, 1938 and Hugo and Jacqueline performed on June 18, 1938.

DIVINE WATERS The Club, like the rest of Madras, was so parched for water that in 1936 it hired a water diviner all the way from Bangalore, Mr. Belafontaine, to come and find water on The Island.

DC TO AC One of the first changes in the post-independence era was literally electrifying. Starting in August 1948, DC circuits were converted to AC, in keeping with global changes to AC.

IF HE REPUDIATES Lonely and bereft as she was, the Club gallantly stood by a Mrs. Chadbourn who had enquired about her position in the Club after her husband had left her in 1948. The Club ruled that she could still use the facilities, and that the bills would be sent to her husband. If he repudiated these, she could become an Independent Lady Member.


{

CHAPTER 3

Brothers in Arms

}

“There is no more sure tie between friends than when they are united in their objects and wishes.� Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman


The Gymkhana is the common meeting ground for civilians and members of the armed forces.


MGC - The Glory Years

BROTHERS IN ARMS

In 1926, Garrison members availed a special membership subscription rate.

Major General Nitin Kohli

“We wish the Club the very best; we do support them and we will continue to do so. We wish to see them grow.” en of action needed a place to let off steam and the Gymkhana Clubs, with their unique mix of sports and social pleasures, filled just this need. Gymkhana Clubs were established in the British Presidency capitals of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras and in Jorhat (modern Assam).

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The Madras Gymkhana was proposed by Brigadier General Johnson, and almost all the others who signed his proposal were also senior Garrison members. Although set up by Garrison members on defence estates, the Gymkhana, from its inception, was a Club for civilians as well. “The Madras Gymkhana has an exemplary military-civilian interface”, says Major General EJ Kochekkan, AVSM, SM, VSM (retd), a former patron of the Club. With good reason, most Gymkhanas have unique arrangements for their management, and at the Madras Gymkhana control rests with the committee that includes Garrison nominees. This has been a mutually beneficial relationship from the very beginning. While the Club draws upon the organisational skills, sporting abilities and

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the experience of top-performing army officers, the armed forces gain from the heritage and cultural depth of civilian members. For the Garrison members, the Club was a window into civilian opinions as they interacted with local businessmen and Indian royalty, and it continues to offer similar opportunities. Major General Nitin Kohli, the Chief of Staff and Officiating General Officer Commanding, HQ, Andhra Tamil Nadu Karnataka and Kerala Area, says that the Garrison members see it as a mutual exchange. “We infuse colour into the local populace and we also imbibe local culture. Sport is important, but it is even more important to have discussions on a wide range of subjects with well-informed people.” An unstated army influence is discernible in the Club rules. The strict code of conduct, dressing, punctuality and accountability appear to be an extension of the regimental way of life. Small wonder then that visiting regiments such as the 2/5th Hampshires, the 2/4th Devons, the 7th North Staffordshire, the Scottish Rifles, the Seaforth Highlanders, the Green Howards and the King’s Own Regiment felt completely at home. The courtesy of offering honorary memberships to such visiting troops was almost de rigueur. Many of these units presented their crested shields and at one time, they adorned the walls of the ‘Dirty Bar’. This bar owes its name to the fact that dress regulations did not apply here; it was located on the


MGC - The Glory Years

BROTHERS IN ARMS

For many years, the Mesopotamian rifles were a prized possession of the Club.

verandah, off the lawn so that rugger and soccer enthusiasts could wet their whistles while watching the games. The Club’s cordial relationship extended to the navy. Madras was a port of landing for most British ships and post-Independence, for the Indian Navy as well other naval vessels. In a quirky moment, in August 1934, the recommendation that the officers of the incoming ships could become members and use the Club without having to pay the entrance fee when they were in port, was rejected. Among those who enjoyed the privilege of membership were officers of the USS Pittsburgh. In the years that followed, officers of Yugoslavian naval ships Galeb and Split, the Australian ship Vampire, and other Thai and Russian ships were accorded membership privileges during their visits, as were the officers of INS ships Bombay, Konkan, Bengal and Madras among several others. Such interaction with people of varied nationalities made the Club truly cosmopolitan. When officers alighted from their ships and found their way to the Gymkhana, the bar would be noisier as news was exchanged and tales told. A friendly rugger match between the visiting officers and the members would be organised and it was hard to tell what the men in uniform looked forward to more, the game or the dancing that followed.

The Club was seen as a prominent rugger patron. So much so that in 1934, the North Staffordshire Regiment applied to the Gymkhana for financial assistance to send a team to the Annual Rugby Tournament in England. Many an evening was enlivened by the regimental and army bands. The Lancashire Fusiliers Band played on a Saturday every month, with an entrance fee of Re. 1. Other bands that added to the spirited music and dance evenings were The Madras Guards and The Tank Troops. The Club’s own band came to be when ex-serviceman, Erwin Klien proposed that he form a Club band with local talent that he would train. The band became a huge success. The Club also hosted important army officials including Sir Arthur Hope, then Military Secretary, who in a personal letter to the Club committee, expressed his appreciation for hosting him and his wife in Madras in March 1946. At the end of the First World War, the British regiments that had fought there brought back interesting memorabilia from their battles which were displayed at army messes, or sometimes at public places. Two guns from Mesopotamia found their way to the Gymkhana, where they occupied pride of place for several years. During the Second World War, the Club pitched in for the war effort in every way it could. Moonlit concerts and Victory dances were held to raise

Major General E J Kochekkan, Retd, who has visited many Gymkhana Clubs in the country during his service in the Indian Army pays singular tribute to the Madras Gymkhana Club,

“The activity level at this club is very high; it’s a wonderful institution.” funds for the British troops. ‘At Homes’, held at the Club, hosted officers of regiments and all balance funds from the event were handed over to the Ladies War Depot and the Serbian Relief Fund. In pre-independence days, army events such as the Naval & Military Tournament, Armistice Day and Poppy Day dances were regular features of the Club calendar and the proceeds were given to ex-servicemen. In 1985, several landmark amendments of the Club rules cemented this long-standing collaboration. The General Officer Commanding HQ Andhra Tamil Nadu Karnataka and Kerala Area (GOC, HQ ATNK and K) became the exofficio Patron of the Club.

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MGC - The Glory Years

BROTHERS IN ARMS

The Garrison finds representation in the committee, one of the two Vice-Presidents is from the Defence Services nominated by the GOC, HQ ATNK and K. The GOC also nominates three members to the General Committee from three Defence Services. Colonel Subramanian, who served as the nominated Vice President from 1989-92, offers his perspective. “How much the nominated VP gets involved is up to the individual member. In my time, I ensured discipline and adherence to rules. That’s what makes the Club a pleasant place. After all, the committee has a greater responsibility to its members.” Introduced at the same time as the amendments, two new bye-laws eased billing logistics by allowing consolidated bills of Garrison serving members to be sent to their mess committee; it was also decided to have an Army bar at the Club. The limitation of rights of Garrison members, which had resulted in heartburn, has been addressed by a recent amendment. From September 2008, the amendment allows up to 25 retired Garrison members to be offered permanent membership in the Club on the recommendation of the GOC. Today, Garrison members are a sizeable section of the regular Gymkhana crowd, and it’s not just the sporting infrastructure that brings them here; the food and cultural events are big draws as well. For people who are often on the move, it offers a valued opportunity to form relationships. The Army and the Club have served each other well, with each drawing upon the strengths of the other, resulting in a pleasant synergy.

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Club Camaraderie ith their founding members being peers and friends, a deep sense of social order and camaraderie lead to lasting relationships amongst the elite Clubs in Madras.

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KRN Menon, member since 1963 looks back on the precision with which the system worked. “This was the drill: when you started out, you were a chokrah, and chokrahs became members of the Cricket Club or the Boat Club, as young and strong men could be useful in these teams. In the office, there would be a notice put up on regatta days: ‘rowers are permitted to leave at 3.30.’ When you rose up the ranks to manager, you became a member of the Gymkhana.” (This pecking order has long since changed and Clubs have become more egalitarian- Ed). The Clubs shared their infrastructure with each other. The Gymkhana Island Grounds were requested for fairly often by the Flying Club (which offered subsidised flying lessons to the Gymkhana members), the Race Club and the Madras Sports Club. Incidentally, the test flight of the first aeroplane in Madras, happened at these very same grounds in 1917. In the same gracious spirit of camaraderie, in 1920, the Madras Race Club stewards volunteered Rs. 2,000 to meet alteration expenses at the Guindy Golf course. The Clubs actively encouraged participation at each others events. As the Adyar Club invited Gymkhana members to become honorary members for the Rugger Fancy Dress Ball, the Madras Cricket Club invited them to take part in their Invitation Cup Tournament. The Gymkhana always reciprocated; it granted honorary memberships to the visiting Colombo Regatta team and the Commonwealth Cricket team.

The Gymkhana band was much in demand; with a special request that it play at the annual Caldonian Ball at Adyar Club. At one time, arrangements had been made with the Madras Club for Lady members to use the Ladies Saloon at the Madras Club. Now, of course, it boasts of its own Ladies Beauty Parlour. It was not only about sharing all the fun and frolic. In 1947, all the Clubs met to discuss common pay scales. In a move that would go well with today’s corporate human resources strategy, it was decided that no Club would employ a servant of another Club without the previous employer’s approval. Over the years, several inter-club tournaments have been played. Of these fixtures, the Merchants and Bankers Snooker tournament is now a part of history, but the Phadke Trophy and Spencer Trophy for Billiards continue to bring the clubs together in a spirit of friendly battle. Fittingly, though other ways of interaction may have dwindled, it is sport that continues to unite the Clubs in unshakeable camaraderie.

S Venkataraghavan, famed spin bowler and former captain of the Indian cricket team and umpire, and Gymkhana member from 1976: “I clearly recollect instances of camaraderie shared between the clubs in Chennai. One memory that stands out is that of the interclub snooker trophy called the Spencer Trophy. There was a friendly rivalry between the clubs like the Cosmopolitan Club, the Madras Cricket Club and the Gymkhana. But once the match was over we would come to the Gymkhana and vice versa, and the hospitality was always great.”


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{

CHAPTER 5

Creating Space

}

“Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.� Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, German architect


The Gymkhana is a little citadel that meets diverse needs of its members.


MGC - The Glory Years

CREATING SPACE

pace and the way we use it is one of the most visible clues we have to the lifestyle of any age or country. This is certainly true of the Gymkhana Club.

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The main building is basically of colonial type; it has retained a simple and quaint charm through the years and has the effect of instantly putting one at ease. The design was fundamentally eclectic and reflected architectural subtleties of the British Raj at that time. A lime-and-mortar building with brick, there was no RCC or reinforcement used in its construction. This clearly reflects the purpose and priority at the Club. It was meant to be a sports pavilion, and thus had no need for the trademark cupolas, or intricate spires and arches that adorn many a heritage building in Chennai.

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The main building is about 15/16 feet high, with the lounge area being as high as 12 feet. The flooring and indeed all the wood that had been used in the construction was Burma teakwood. That was the most popular teak wood in those days and is still at least 30 percent more expensive than other teaks, if available. Adding character to the wood and white colonnades are the French windows. These windows, which evolved from Roman architecture, were used extensively by the British in most of their constructions. In the hot tropics, it was particularly useful as it allowed ventilation into the Club premises. With no structures to hinder the breeze from the Marina (an element that is maintained even today), what better way to take a break from the dancing or sport than to sit in the comfortable cane chairs and enjoy the breeze? On a


clear day, light streams in through the chiks draping the window, making an interesting interplay of light and shade, and creating a hushed atmosphere. Additions to the building complex started in the early 1900s. In 1913, it was decided that the floor of the extensions to the Club building should not be of wood. The year 1917 saw a host of changes proposed and estimated for: roofing the front terrace, enclosing the ground floor entrance, removing the staircase, constructing a new store room and altering the bar. Dances, which followed sport, were held in the ballroom that gave the Gymkhana its signature period look and feel. Old teakwood beams and rafters were supported by loadbearing structures lined with thick masonry walls. It was part of the construction approach in those days to decorate and make even the most functional parts beautiful. This is reflected in the columns and in the grillwork. The columns of the building were basic; yet even today, their aesthetic impact is tremendous. Small touches, such as the patterns on it, made it more attractive. The grill-work was detailed, with floral motifs and created an opulent ambience, even though it was simple. It also amply complemented the sparse but elegant look of the lounge, and made it mellow. The colonnades as well as the ironmongery in the arches have been kept intact through several renovations. However, the old ballroom was soon converted to a billiards room in 1926 and a new dance room came up

to the east of the present building. A ‘sprung’ dance floor was constructed in the ballroom to withstand force and cushion heavy treads. A few years ago when the level of the lawn was raised, the old springs were removed. The floor was concreted to prevent damp and covered with wood that retained the look of the original wooden floor. Two long verandahs along the dancing room provided enough seating space that was semioutdoors. The door from the dancing room to the tennis courts was a much later addition, added by Prynne, Abbot and Davis, in 1947. The gate that is associated with the Club is also a much later addition. In 1958, it was suggested that a column or pillar be erected at the entrance of the Club premises with its name thereon. The primary challenge in all the renovations at the Madras Gymkhana has been to create additional seating space, or areas for new sports. This had to be done without making away with the wide open spaces that gave the Gymkhana its ambience and allowing room for privacy amidst crowds that also gave children enough area to run around as well. Whenever there was a renovation, it was a creative exercise; space that had to be created, aesthetically, and inconspicuously. In its many renovations, the old library made way for a comfortable bar. This was necessary because the floor was sagging with the weight of all the library books! Needless to say, the library is now at the ground floor.

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Cosy cane chairs allow for repose while the ‘chiks’ (bamboo screens) offer shelter from the heat.


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CREATING SPACE

The Buttery Bar is being redesigned once again. During the earlier redesign 25 years ago, the main focus was to increase seating space. The bar space, with bar stools and some open seating space retained the colonial manner of using spaces. To keep up with the authenticity of that time, the interiors of spaces such as the Buttery or the Mixed Bar are also made of teak, and since Burma teak is no longer available, a different variety is used. Not everything has changed though, for the building has remained pristine and refreshingly white for a long period. White was chosen for many Raj era buildings simply because it was the ideal colour for tropical heat. It reflected heat and thereby kept the temperatures low. Being centrally located, the Club is the perfect place to host relatives, friends or even a corporate team.

Careful restoration has led to the historic preservation of the original building.

Members of the Gymkhana from all over the country and the members of affiliated clubs frequently use these facilities. The Club’s residential quarters currently have 14 rooms: three deluxe rooms, six regular rooms and six suites. The accommodation is spacious and amenities include air-conditioning, refrigerator, TV and wireless internet. The guests’ quarters are being upgraded to offer luxurious accommodation. The Gymkhana’s architecture is a medley of styles and a number of neoclassical elements have been incorporated into the recent building renovations. The constant endeavour of all committees has been to retain its distinct old world charm. While the number of members has steadily increased at the Gymkhana, the quantum of space has remained the same, yet the Club accommodates all of them comfortably.


A heritage preserved The Tsunami in 2004 and tremors following major earthquakes in other parts of India led to a few deep cracks in some portions of main building of the Gymkhana. A worrisome fact was that the main pillars in the Club, which propped up the building in the main lounge, were bearing the brunt of supporting the whole building. Detailed investigations by a structural engineer revealed that over the years. the girders of the iron sections which formed the basic framework of the building had almost completely corroded. It was feared that the load of the books in the library, which was then on the first floor, would cause a collapse. With the problem demanding urgent attention, the Committee had to choose

between getting rid of the pillars in the lounge area and go for a modern look, or to rebuild the pillars retaining the building in its original design. The consensus was to preserve the heritage building which was over a 100 years and carry out renovations by propping up the building. Initiated by the then President of the Club, Mr. CS Sivanandan and the then Secretary Arvind Ramrathnam, the restoration was supervised by Mr. Alex Jacob, a leading structural engineer and also a member of the Club. The Gymkhana’s successful efforts is a matter of pride for the city of Chennai. This article has valuable inputs from SA KHARCHE Mr. Kharche came from Bombay to Chennai 45 years ago to set up his architecture practice. He became a member of The Gymkhana Club in 1969 after hearing about it from his colleagues in England and his son Prashant Kharche has been a member of the Club since 1999.

MGC - The Glory Years

CREATING SPACE


Guests at the Gymkhana can look forward to luxurious accomodation after the planned renovation.


The proposed lobby in the guests’ quarters.


MGC - The Glory Years

CREATING SPACE

Trivia DOE A DEER Many of these gentle creatures used to graze softly on the short grass of the Club for years and allowed children to pet them and feed them. Whatever the reason, the Club decided to keep only two and to give away the bigger animals to any member or others for keeping as pets. There are no deer in the park now.

DOLLS HOUSE Apart from the deer park, children loved the dolls house. This was a small, one-room place opposite the deer park. It had a miniature kitchen, equipped with a stove and crockery. The children pretended to be couples, the girls would pretend to run the house while the boys played outside, or pretended to work.

THE PHANTOM SIGNATURE Usha Suman, member for the last 40 years, reminisces, “Young boys who would bring their girlfriends here would sign as Phantom or Spiderman. and the bearers would get into trouble. The poor men were illiterate, so they would not be able to read or know the name or signature was wrong. Then the bill-keepers would yell at them. I recognise members today who used to sign as Phantom, but I’m sure they won't admit it now”.

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{

CHAPTER 6

A Legacy of Sport

“Sports is human life in microcosm.” Howard Cosell, American sports journalist

}


Sports of various kinds are at the very core of the Gymkhana’s existence.


MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

n the initial days of the Madras Gymkhana, along with games of rugger and tennis, local sports that were patronised by the Indian royalty were eagerly adopted by the English when many rajahs became members of the Club.

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Shikar (hunting) was the foremost sport that had amply captured English fascination, making it the quintessential Indian sport at those times. Boar hunting or pig-sticking was also a royal Indian recreation that the English readily took to at the Club. Soon, the amalgamation of cultures gave rise to sports such as modern polo. The ‘game of the kings’ was first played in Manipur and was called Sagol Kangjei. An aggressive game played by two teams of seven members each, the matches had no rules. The English modified the game, toned down the aggression, reduced the number of players to four in a team and specified that the game was to be played within the confines of a field. ‘English polo’ soon became de rigueur around the world. Sports that were inherently English like rugby, tennis, cricket and the like caught the fancy of the local populace and soon, a sporting culture came to be firmly rooted. Dedicated to the promotion of the verve and vivacity of field sports, the Club has had members who have played at the International Olympics such as Eric Prabhakar who was a quarter finalist in the 1948 London Olympics and Muneer Sait who was a goalkeeper in India’s Olympic hockey team. Another member, V Jaganatha Rao, took part in and won prizes in many international athletics sports meets, including the World Games in New Zealand in 1981 and the Asian Games in 1962. The Club’s own Gym Olympics was introduced in 2006. The event brings together eight teams, each captained by a prominent sportsman who is a member, and comprising 15 members. The teams battle it out in matches of basketball, tennis ball cricket, rummy, swimming, volleyball and tug-of-war. It culminates, in true Club style, in a beer-drinking competition at midnight. True to its flexible and vibrant past and present, each sport at the Club has its own charming tale to recount, as its patronisation waxed and waned over the decades in the Club’s fields and courts.

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“Nothing can compare to the rush of wind through your hair and life through your veins that signals you are so alive, in a game of polo.” Herbert Wilson, British polo Olympian POLO game that calls for dexterous skill, requiring the player to manipulate both the ball and the pony, the British took to it with immediate zeal. This was especially true at the Gymkhana, where polo was one of the most extensively played sports. With feet firmly placed in stirrups atop their ponies and swishing mallets gripped firmly, players clothed in Jodhpurs played the game with gusto.

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Though the expenses for the equipment and polo ponies were quite heavy, the sport was accorded much encouragment at the Club, to the extent that loans of up to Rs. 1,000 were given to members wishing to buy polo ponies. In the initial days, two polo matches were held every week on the Club grounds. Enthusiastic members managed to keep the sport alive, well into the 20th century. The polo committee of the Club even arranged for a horse show in 1927, where graceful polo ponies displayed their strength and skill. The Club grounds were so perfectly suited for the sport that the Madras Polo Club often requested for permission for its matches to be held here. The Club even played host to the annual Madras Polo Tournament. The Club also hosted its own polo tournaments, of which the Novices Cup was keenly contested for. Though polo faded out in the first half of the 20th century, it is a cherished heritage at the Club.


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MGC - The Glory Years

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“The secret of cross country is to do everything we do on the track and take it into the bush.” Mike Koskei, former national coach of Kenya PAPER CHASING trong legs, a robust body and a fair sense of mirth is what makes paper chasing an enjoyable sport. Very popular in the early years of the Madras Gymkhana Club, paper chasing added some zest to what would have otherwise been just plain running. In this, a set of runners called the ‘hares’ used to leave a trail of paper bits as they ran across the countryside, with a second set of runners called the‘hounds’ chasing them, as they followed the trail. While seemingly frivolous, ‘hares and hounds’ was serious sport indeed for those who played it, proven by the fact that it was quite popular at the Club well until 1923.

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In time, paper chasing soon morphed into the more serious cross-country racing that is popular in Europe even today. At the Club however, the sport was given up in favour of the newly revived Madras Hunt which sought patrons to keep its legacy as the first British Hunt Club in India alive.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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“Try it before you judge. See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full.” Lord Baden Powell, Chief Scout of the World PIG STICKING hen the English first landed on Indian soil, what was before them was a veritable playground; a vast expanse to explore and toy with. On an alien land where the flora and fauna were unique and strange, a valid reaction would have been to explore and experience. What better way to do this than to embark on an adventure that doubled as a sport, pigsticking.

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For a novice English swashbuckler in India, pig-sticking would have been a means to absorb the unique flavour of a new land and also gain ostensible military training. Away from a country that underscored fine demeanour, the rustic sport was an indulgence that was manifested even at the Madras Gymkhana Club. Facing a raging boar, spear in one hand and the reins of a horse firm in the other, thundering across the dusty Indian terrain, must have been fascinating as much as tiring and reason enough to head back to the Club’s bar for a refreshing drink later in the day. This was an exciting enough incident to warrant a dramatic letter to loved ones back home. As the years rolled on, pig-sticking was branded brutal. But then, not willing to let go of such thrilling sport, the boar was replaced by a stuffed bag for some time, to be played by women mostly. The sport soon faded, leaving behind an archaic legacy.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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“Before shooting, one must aim.” African proverb SHOOTING f there ever was a sport that captured the magic and mysticism of an age gone by in the annals of history, it was shooting as practiced by Indian royalty. The image of an erstwhile Maharajah would quite be incomplete without a sturdy rifle buttressing his regalia, and many a portrait in surviving royal houses today is a testimony to that. At the Madras Gymkhana, with the earliest Indian members being Rajahs, shikar was a very popular sport. As the Club stepped into the 20th century and with the inducements of other sports gaining strength, this sport lost its popularity.

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In 1971, the late Raja DV Appa Rao Bahadur with other members, notably Mr. SM Ispahani, decided to revive the shooting culture at the Club. They set up a 25 metre range, behind the tennis court number 4. Pistol and rifle shooting soon became a rage, the Club’s shooting team took shape and the Club premises reverberated with shots and bangs. The club hosted many Members’ Shooting Championships for avid shooters, on patterns laid down by the Rifle Shooting Association of India. The competitions comprised five different matches with 22 free rifle, .22 standard

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pistol, and .177 or .22 air rifles, in the aggregate, prone, kneeling and standing positions. May 7, 1972, saw the first Madras Gymkhana Club Shooting Championship held at its range, and there were separate categories for juniors, lady members and even subjuniors. Incidentally, rifle shooting was one of the few sports at the Club to receive immediate patronage by lady members. In 1973, the first ever interclub shooting competition between the Madras Gymkhana Club and the Madras Rifle Club was held at the MRC range in the compound of the Office of the Police Commissioner, with as many as 55 shooters participating.

The Club’s erstwhile shooting range.

The Madras Gymkhana Club went on to have a very strong team of shooters that brought home laurels. Competitions held by the Mysore State Rifle Association and the Madurai Rifle Shooting Association were but a few instances when the team proved its mettle. In the Madurai Rifle Shooting Championship held in 1971, the Club’s junior team strutted back with 14 Cups. Though the sport began with a bang at the Club, a high cost of maintenance and dwindling interest finally led to rifle shooting making a exit. DV Seetharama Rao with one of his rifle shooting trophies.


TRAP SHOOTING nother form of shooting that was equally popular in the earlier days of the Club was trap shooting or clay pigeon shooting. Introduced in Europe in the 18th century, live passenger pigeons were used as targets in the sport before they were replaced with clay targets in the 1880s.

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A clay target flying into the air and then blasting to smithereens was a common sight at the Club grounds, before mounting costs in terms of importing clay pigeons left the sport high and dry. When rifle shooting was revived at the Club, an attempt to revive trap shooting was also on the cards. Many an enthusiastic game of trap shooting soon unfurled on the Club grounds, but with rifle shooting failing to hold fort for long at the Club, trap shooting too followed suit.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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RUGBY ugby had pride of place as one of the many British pastimes in India and while many a club earnestly promoted the sport in India, down south, the Madras Gymkhana Club adopted rugger with much enthusiasm. One of the founders of the Club, Gen. Alexander Arbuthnot was a student of the illustrious English Rugby School, and it was he who introduced the sport to South India in 1842.

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Played on the grounds adjacent to the lawn of the Club, rugby was as thrilling a sport for the spectators as it was for the players. Whenever ships docked at Madras, the naval officers on board were made honorary members of the Club, and the whole association was almost always capped off with a friendly rugby match between the officers and the members. The Rugger Week was introduced in the Club in 1900 and was held every October making the Gymkhana a rugger enthusiast’s delight. Teams that played during this week vied for the prestigious Madras Gymkhana Rugby Football Challenge Cup. The event was a time to treat oneself to entertainment, off the field too, with bands playing through the week that ended with a special dance at the dance room. The Rugger Dinner that was hosted during this week was a special fare and was officially called the ‘Rugger Dinner given by Hosts’ as it was a personal gesture from the Rugby sub-committee to the members. The tournament always drew huge crowds that hooted and yelled through the balmy afternoons for all the seven days, with the finals being the highlight. In fact, the week was so popular that the Club’s staff had to work on the double to cater to the increasing demands. It was hence decided that the staff would be given a bonus during this week for the extra work. The hallmark of the rugby fascination of yore at the Club was the All India Rugby Tournament, which the Club hosted in 1932 and 1935. The game had a temporary setback in 1943 when the rugby and football grounds were rendered unfit for play after the War Services Exhibition was held on them. The Rugby Tournaments were a chance to pit the best teams from India, against each other and teams from other countries. Most of the talent was concentrated in Karachi, Lahore, Assam, Calcutta and Sri Lanka. For people who could not follow the matches on the field, there were broadcasts over the All India Radio. The Club records an interesting incident during the All India Rugby Tournament in 1952—The Planter’s Club, Annamalai, asked the Madras Gymkhana Club to reimburse travel expenses for its rugby team

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members, because the Club's bar had made a large profit when the tournament for that year was hosted at the Club. A sporting deal, if ever there was one! The Club’s rugby team proved its mettle in 1957, when it brought home the All India Rugby Tournament trophy. To mark this momentous event, the members of the winning rugby team were allowed to keep the jerseys they had worn during the match. The Club’s team also regularly travelled to Munnar, in Kerala and Mumbai for tournaments; and it was traditional to give honorary membership to teams that visited the Club for matches. In anticipation of continued patronage, the rugger field was re-laid in 1952; but ironically, soon after that, the game reached a final touchdown as it gradually began losing favour with the Club’s members. In 1969 the Club decided that a separate sub-committee was not required for the sport anymore as rugger activities had almost come to a standstill. After its glorious stint, all that remains of rugger at the Club are memories of animated whistles of the referee, of feisty young men charging ahead and of lively beer evenings.

FOOTBALL he Madras Gymkhana was the first Club down south to include football in its sporting cache. Though it was not as popular as rugby at the Club, football had a sizeable number of partisans and an Association Football Committee. The Madras Football Association and the Madras Gymkhana Association football sub-committee were in regular correspondence and organised many exhibition matches at the Club. The A and B football teams of the Club, comprising of members, made best use of the grassy rugby grounds, perfecting that tackle or getting that header right. The game had its own share of tournaments at the Club that rendered football adherents amply satisfied.

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The sport was rejuvenated after the Second World War. Sturdy young men with a lively streak in them, tackling the ball towards the goalpost, were quite a common sight on the grounds, well into the 1960s. By the end of the decade though, football’s popularity faded.


“Rugby is a state of mind, a spirit.” Jean-Pierre Rives, French rugby player

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MGC - The Glory Years

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TENNIS he swish of the racquet as it slices through the air in a sturdy back-hand, that split second silence as numerous pairs of eyes follow the ball across the court, collective gasps as the ball is missed by the opponent and a flurry of excited whispers as the umpire calls out his decision; this is a cycle that has oft repeated itself at the tennis courts of the Madras Gymkhana over the decades.

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Tennis at the Gymkhana is as old as the club itself, with the first matches played at around 1885, just about two decades after tennis originated in England. Soon enough, tennis was a celebrated sport that drew huge crowds, despite the Club having only two courts in the beginning. After a brief interim during the Second World War, a more robust tennis culture took root at the Gymkhana. The club got two new hard ground courts in 1949. After the ban on night-lighting was lifted by the Court, the clay-courts were soon flood-lit, commissioned to none other than General Electric. The 1950s saw tennis beginning to take pedantic proportions; with stewards walking up to players not dressed in tennis whites, and asking them to step off the courts! With the revival came numerous tennis tournaments that only fed the serious and growing appetite for good tennis. The summer and winter tournaments, also called the hot and cold weather tournaments, were a time when families at the Club used to form teams and play against each other with gusto. The spectacle of wives, sons, daughters and parents wielding tennis racquets with the panache of professionals, as other family members cheered and vouched for them, was an endearing sight. This was a time to foster relations amongst members as the matches were played with bonhomie. Matches that featured tennis stars used to be keenly followed and the stands were packed with rooting supporters. All in all, these tournaments were a personal slice of Wimbledon for the Club. The other tournaments that were popular at the Club

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were the Mixed Drawer Doubles Matches and the Exhibition matches by visiting foreigners. Another important tournament that the Club regularly hosted until as recently as 2000 was the South India Tennis Championship. Even the army got to serve and volley, with the Services Tennis Championship that was played in 1947. Then there were those special and rare celebrity matches, with the likes of the late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran and industrialist and sporting enthusiast MAM Ramaswamy taking part. In 1977, the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association requested that the All India Hard Court Championships be held at the Club. With the sport being endorsed with so much fervour, it would have been surprising had not a real tennis champion emerged from the Club’s courts; and it was Ramanathan Krishnan who did the honours first. As a talented teenager who had already won the Junior Wimbledon Championship, Ramanathan Krishnan graced the Club’s members list in 1956. After that began his rule as India’s undisputed international tennis star in the 1960s. In the 1962 Wimbledon, he was seeded number four, the highest ranking that any Indian tennis player has gained to date. He also played a key role in steering the Indian team to the finals against Australia for the Davis Cup in 1966. Ramanthan Krishnan’s son Ramesh Krishnan continued his father’s legacy into the 1980s, by sweeping the Junior Wimbledon and Junior French title in 1979, instantly winning the number one ranking in international junior tennis. Both these tennis legends continue to be august members of the Club. For children growing up in the 1970s, Vijay Amritraj was an inspiring icon and the legend honed his skills on the Club’s very own clay courts. Vijay put India under the international tennis spotlight for good. With 16 singles titles and 13 doubles titles under his belt, Indian tennis belonged entirely to him in the 1970s. The Club also had and has many other members who brought laurels to Indian tennis—Rabi Venkatesan, the other two Amritraj brothers, Anand and Ashok, J Royappa and Amritha Appa Rao.


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An enthusiastic Chief Minister, MGR, jumps over the railing to congratulate the winning Indian tennis team.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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“A combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their racquets and their courage as their weapons.” Yannick Noah, pop-soul singer, former French tennis player The pinnacle of the Club’s association with tennis was when the Eastern zone matches of the 1979 Davis Cup series were held at the Club’s courts. The most electrifying match to be played in the series however was when the strapping combination of Anand and Vijay Amritraj was

pitted against the Australian team comprising Ross Case and Geoff Masters, in the doubles semi finals. The Amritraj brothers beat Case and Geoff, bringing the packed stands to a deafening roar; and the first person to jump on to the clay courts to congratulate the Indian duo was none other than the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MG Ramachandran.

Club has five tennis courts, four of which are flood lit, making ‘tennis after office hours’ a favourite phrase among tennis buffs. Members play tennis at the Club today to relax and unwind; basking in the monumental legacy bequeathed by the stars.

All tennis players at the Madras Gymkhana owe much to the ball boys and tennis markers on the courts who give tennis at the Club that extra edge. The boys dressed in blue are an enthusiastic bunch who closely follow the game and aspire to rise up to the rank of a marker. Interestingly, these youngsters get to wield the racquet if talent is spotted in them. This makes tennis the only sport at the Club which non-members can play and the Club’s tennis markers are even allowed to enter the City’s YMCA tennis tournament. The growing popularity of the Club, as its tennis stars brought home one victory after another, led to the addition of a third clay court. Presently, the

Legendary tennis player Ramanathan Krishnan & his son Ramesh Krishnan are amongst the eminent members of the Club.

Its five tennis courts have made the Gymkhana eligible to hold international tournaments. Inset - Tennis champion Vijay Amritraj and his brothers grew up playing tennis here. He remains an active member of the Club.

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Trivia “LET ME KEEP THE CUP� The Club received a letter from a certain Mr. Argyrakis, the winner of the Madras Gymkhana Swimming Challenge Cup in 1939, that since there had been no competition in 1947 (competitions were suspended during the War years), he should be awarded the Cup as it would appear that it was not likely to be competed for within the next year or so. Sadly for Mr. Argyrakis, the Club replied that it was not in a position to award the Cup out-right to any individual and he was requested to return the Cup to the Club.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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GOLF he yellow-wattled lapwing can be heard faintly in the distance as a gust of wind rustles through the sparse shrubbery, and the sky is a brilliant blue with a mellow patch-work of matted clouds; the perfect setting to nail in that tee, grip the golf club and get set for action at the Madras Gymkhana Golf Club Annexe, which is the oldest ‘links-style’ golf course in the country.

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inimitability and uniqueness. A course so challenging that many members still laugh over how the caddies, golf balls and they themselves used to get lost in the rough terrain, interspersed with the tall ‘elephant grass’. Unique in other very interesting ways too, for the grass was checked for overgrowth by using two official bullocks to mow the course! By now the sport was, however, still only within the reach of the British. This was to change when many decades later, in the 1930s, the Guindy course saw its first Indian members, the Princes of Orissa, Vizianagaram and Pithapuram.

Golf at the Madras Gymkhana has received continuous patronage, right from its inception and has had an interesting tenure, and the longest. The sport was initially played at the Island grounds that exist even today, With Independence came the opportunity to include more Indian towards the south of the Club. It was an area created in the early 18th members, most of whom were Indian officers. Also included were more century by then Governor of the Presidency, Thomas Pitt, to pass time golf holes to the course in the decades to come, with the holes increasing through leisurely walks. Soon enough, the serene environs of the stretch from 12, later 14, then 16 and finally to the present 18. The 1930s was also were used as a golf course, with the earliest recorded match being played by the time when more English women began to enjoy golf. The Hutton Cup, one AF Brown in 1870. In 1877, golf was formally welcomed into the The Winfred Milne Cup, the Knock-Out Cup, to mention a few, were especially instituted for Club, with Col. Ross women, making it one of the Thompson being made the first Golf Clubs to do so. first Golf Captain. The very The Club continued to next year, a special match encourage women golfers was arranged between the and in 1950 it resolved that Gymkhana and the lady members would not be Bangalore Golf Club, which charged green fees. has now become a timehonoured tradition. The A notable incident in 1949, match has also found pride Arnold Palmer, American golfer at the 19th hole of the of place in golf history as one Guindy, deserves special of the oldest inter-club mention. A group of golf competitions in the world. enthusiasts, relaxing here with drinks after an exciting golf game, hit upon In 1885, the Government requested the Club to shift its golf course from an idea. The prohibition on drinks required avid drinkers to declare the Island grounds to the present Guindy stretch, and in 1887 the Madras themselves as liquor ‘addicts’ to avail that special chota peg; it was hence Golf Club and the Madras Gymkhana Club merged, with Kerr Greig decided that all the liquor ‘addicts’ would come together to pursue another becoming the first captain of the Madras Gymkhana men’s golf section. addiction, golf, and form the Golf Addicts Society. The Guindy course has The shift was however a drawn out process and only materialised in 1904. since then hosted a variety of golfing events initiated by the Society and to During this period a unique golf practice evolved at the Club, unlike any date remains the nominal headquarters of the Golf Addicts Society.

“Success in golf depends less on strength of body, than upon strength of mind and character.”

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other. Golf aficionados at the Club used to play the first seven holes at the Island grounds, then ride on horse-back to the Guindy course and play the next four holes there and then charge back to play the last seven holes at the Island grounds again, an enterprising combination of two differently invigorating sports. The practice soon ended after the Guindy stretch was ready for golf, with an impressive 9-hole course.

The 1960s saw more Indian men taking to golf at the Club and Indian women like Lakshmi Dogra, Leela Ratnam and Padmini Devi Rao also wielded their clubs in Guindy's vast expanse during this period. The decade also witnessed another landmark in the Club’s record, when an Indian, DR Dogra, became the fist Indian Golf Captain in 1963.

From the very start, the ‘browns’ at the Guindy course were reckoned challenging and tough to conquer, which only added to it that aura of

Talks began around 1974, to convert the Guindy course’s rough ‘browns’ to ‘greens’. A generous gesture by the Madras Race Club made this possible,


when it decided to hand over the proceeds of a race day towards the conversion. The collection of Rs. 500000 that was made possible through this was spent towards successfully converting the Course to ‘greens’ in 1977, largely due to the initiative of G Mohan Rao, the then honourable Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Golf Association. Rao, who gave South India its first ‘greens’ through Guindy, also urged the Bangalore Golf Club and Coimbatore Golf Club to do the same.

MGC - The Glory Years

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The Guindy Golf Course is all set for an overhaul with key renovations in the pipeline, thanks to the initiative of the Club’s Honorary Treasurer, Mr. Ishwar Achanta. With plans to develop sewage water treatment mechanisms to rejuvenate the course greens and British golf champion Peter Thompson showing keen interest in sprucing up the course, the Guindy golf annexe aims to soon take the contours of a world-class golf course.

TOM THUMB GOLF hen rooftops of skyscrapers, lawns, gardens and parks in England were getting their first Tom Thumb Golf (miniature golf ) courses, it wasn’t long before the Club got its own. In 1951 the Club’s Tom Thumb Golf course was constructed next to the children’s park; at that time, it was the country’s only such course. The course soon became a favourite among children, and sometimes even adults could be seen wielding the mini-clubs in earnest.

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The aesthetically designed course is still retained in an excellent condition. Children and adults who wish to indulge in some no-holds barred golf are encouraged to take hold of a club and put the course to use. At times, the course just becomes an extension of the children’s play area. The pursuit of golf appeals to members of all ages.

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MGC - The Glory Years

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A GOLFER'S ANAMNESIS! BY ISHWAR ACHANTA, MEMBER IN CHARGE-GOLF

I first remember swinging a cut down 2 iron, that my father, A Rama Rao, gave me, in 1974, at the age of 8! Golf, at that time was the purview of a few. I distinctly recall G Ramanathan (GR), Shri Prakash, HS Doshi, Bhaskar Das, KSG Murthy, Sridevan & Kripa Shanker, all of whom became my dad’s 4 ball, a little later. Seniors, like Mohan Rau, VS Dhanashekar, V Srinivasan, PL Reddy, KRN (Ravi) Menon, Leslie Nazareth, N Kumar, Jayanto Nandi, Ashok Nanjapa, AD Nanaiya ‘Sunny’ Bopanna and ‘Speed’ Rangaraj were then the mainstays at Guindy, which at that time was all browns, 14 holes and a wonderful place to grow up in. The transformation to greens started in 1979, under the Captaincy of GR and subsequently continued by others including KJ Ramaswamy, Dad’s friend and my boss for many years. Learning to play golf on browns was great fun, what with using a broom to sweep the sand to that perfect consistency! I must have obtained my first handicap in 1975 or 76 and I remember Suresh Sundaram, giving it to me, albeit at Cosmo. Loganathan (Logu) and D.Sadanand (Sada) and Sagayam are some of the staff, etched in my early memories as is Arjunan’s fantastic omelettes and pot coffee at the 11th hole hut (then the 7th hole). As a student of Padma Sheshadri, my classmate Raghunandhan (Raoji’s son) and I would make a beeline after school to either of the 2 courses to play as many Ishwar Achanta takes a swing.

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holes as we could. There were not too many youngsters of my age playing Golf then. Om Prakash or Omi as he was called, was one of the most talented golfers of our time. A little later, came along Virendervale, another glorious swinger of the Golf Club. The brothers D Nagaraj and D Ponkumar were (and still are) good golfers and the number of trophies they have won stands testimony to this fact. Kunal Banker, of course, dressed better than he played golf! Jokes aside, Kunal was and still is, a decent golfer. The older ‘boys’ of that time were Ajith & Dilip Thomas, Srinath Rajam, Nanda Alaganan and ‘Rolls’ Srikanth. Dilip, arguably, was one of the best ball strikers of our times and he and Nanda have donned Indian colours at some time. Srinath, still, is a very talented but underachieved player (a liability and lay up artist, as he is called today). ‘Rolls’, as you may have guessed, got his nickname from his swing, a smooth Rolls Royce type! Rolls and I, in the 90's tried our luck at the All India Amateur at Mumbai, with disastrous results! More recently came along Gurunath Meyappan and Vijay Mahtaney. Guru and Viju have probably hit more balls on the practice range than I have hit on the course. They are fine gents, amongst two of the finest golfers, ever to have graced our Club. Today’s youngsters include CV Yudvir, who dabbled in pro golf for a while, Sandeep Syal, now a full time professional, brothers Darshan and Tarun Veeraraghavan and Pradyumna Prakash, all of whom have a great game and are working hard to play well on the National Circuit. The younger crop has the likes of Akshath Vidyanath, Shivnarain, Pranav Sachdev, Anirudh and my son Ashwath.


As the Hon.Sub.Secretary for Golf in 1999 and thereafter in 2003, it has been a privilege to work with two Captains, N Balakrishnan and Abhay Doshi. Under Abhay, we set up the Junior Golf Development program and I hope that this legacy will in time will make our youngsters National Champions. To have played in the MGC’s InterClub team for many years has been another great privilege! As the world's oldest interclub event against Bangalore Golf Club, played bi-annually since 1888, any amateur worth his salt, would want to play in this event. At one time, the cut-off for selection was a 4 handicap. Such was the intense competition! Stories of matches won and lost are folklore! Viju and Guru losing to Ramu & Shyamu (BGC’s geriatric team!) and flying off to the US the next day for lessons and Srinath and I beating BGCs A team, Sujay Ghorpade and Gaurav Diwan, when our Captain had given us up as bakras! Another great tradition that started at Guindy, was the Addicts Golfing Society of Southern India. The Society’s logo is the two palm trees on the 3rd and MGC is the home of the Addicts. Having experienced my first Addicts in the early 80s, many thanks go to Col.‘Fat’ Pat and his brood for this fantastic tradition, mostly at the 19th hole, handed down to us. “If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age”, goes the old adage. Truly, I have had the privilege of taking up to this game at an early age and I must confess though, I never lived up to the talent that I once possessed. If I could live life again, I would, playing Golf at the highest level. Nevertheless, I am truly grateful for what this game has afforded me and it is payback time. What has this game given me, you may well ask. Playing this game at a young age taught me never to give up, in life as well! Nothing is over, in this game, until the last putt drops in. Many of the names I have listed above will tell you stories

The next generation lining the putt.

of games won or lost on the last hole. Over the years, I have learnt to become much more patient, which was never a virtue! Exposure to the game has allowed me to travel to St. Andrews and qualify as a Referee and with this qualification; I had set forth and officiated in some of the most prestigious events, worldwide, including The Open, as the very first Indian to do so. Having been elected as the Club’s Hon.Treasurer, our President, Arvind, has also allotted to me the Golf portfolio. This has afforded me the opportunity to represent our Club, as a founder member, on the Council of the Indian Golf Union, the apex body for golf in India. My tasks are manifold. Apart from being the custodian of our monies, I have created systems that should shake us out of our lethargy and take us to where we belong. For the Golf Annexe, my task was to convince the General Body of the need to invest monies in the course and in the EGM on March 20, we did just that! We are now embarked on ensuring that all investments made on the course are done so with proper agreements with the Madras Race Club, in place. On the IGU Council, I have an opportunity to contribute to changing the face of Indian Golf and as the Chairman of the Technical, Rules and Amateur Status Committee, the President of the IGU, Ashit Luthra, has put his faith in me to do just that.

MGC is probably only one of two courses in India that allow a 7 ball. For those of you who have not practiced this esoteric art, I invite you to do so. There is no greater fun in playing 2 vs 5, the 2 ball playing 10 matches and the 5 playing 4 matches each, all auto press. The intensity of the game, not to mention the language, has to be seen to be believed. This form of the game separates the men from the boys and is the greatest stress buster I have ever known. I am so grateful to my buddies Abhay, Vijay Pai, Dhananjay Das, HR Srinivasan, N Bala, D Vasu, Sunny Maindiratta, Rajan Verma, Vikram Agarwal, Venky Rajagopal, Mohan Cherian and Arun Murugappan for their friendship and continued patronage of this art form. There is no camaraderie that I know off that beats this and for us, the night is young, even at 2 AM!

MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

We have all been guilty of being very parochial. Our course has not developed and transformed into a quality golf course much like Bangalore Golf Club or Coimbatore has done. Guindy has the potential to be an International quality links type golf course and all we need is a little will power to set our differences and egos aside and get together. The General Body has given us the opportunity; it is for us Golfers to seize it and create an everlasting legacy for the future generations. Col. Ross Thomson and his mates have done us, in 1877, a huge favour; 132 years on we cannot continue to live on this legacy, we must move on and move on, we shall. As I wind up, I must thank my Sub-Committee for backing me in my efforts and sharing the vision that I have for Golf at Guindy. My General Committee has been a great source of strength and I am truly grateful to you, gentlemen, for your faith in me. Mr. Achanta is Managing Director of a shipping company and an amateur golfer with a handicap of -5, the lowest having been at -2 (May 2003). He is one of the eight qualified Indian Golf Referees, having passed the exam at the 12th R&A Referee School at St. Andrew’s, Scotland, January 2002. He has the distinction of being the first qualified Indian to have officiated in several prestigious golf tournaments outside India and has also refereed at ‘The Open’ in Scotland and Liverpool.

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SWIMMING he cool blue of the glistening pool and the rejuvenating feel of water against oneself is enough artillery to defeat the Sun God. And the Madras Gymkhana’s vast swimming pool amply arms anyone willing to give its welcoming waters a go. With a flight of stairs leading to its clear waters, it seems as if the pool is perched atop an altar dedicated to pure fun and gaiety. On any given day at the Club, the pool can be seen brimming with happy worshippers.

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Discussions began in 1937 to get a ‘swimming bath’ constructed at the Club. The following year the swimming pool was built; it was the first swimming pool in the city, and certainly the first club down south to get a pool. Thrown open to members in 1938, the swimming pool instantly became a unifier of sorts, bringing together all the members—men and women, young and old, making it a place for families to relax and unwind together. The swimming pool was soon a coveted asset for the Club and utmost care was taken to ensure the pool and the swimmers got only the best; even to the extent of planting trees on the north side of the pool to block the sun’s glare or reprimanding a royal member for having taken drinks into the swimming pool. The Gymkhana Swimming Challenge Cup was introduced soon after the swimming pool was constructed. The Annual Swimming Gala was also initiated on April 22, 1939, giving members a special time of the year when they could wine and dine at the pool-side, along the calm and sparkling waters of the pool. The Gala soon became a family affair, with members having a whale of a time with their children and friends. The war years saw the Gala losing some of its excitement; however, the children were kept happy with the Annual Children’s Gala introduced in 1941.

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The pool got a new filtration system in 1946 and underwater lighting was installed in 1947 followed by surround lighting a year later. The lighting installations were sourced to the best electric company of those times, GE (General Electric). As the smoke of the war years lifted, in 1948, with the replacement of the old fountain near the pool with a grand cascade, the Gala made a re-entry, and Mr. Lane took charge of the event. With a beautiful fountain spewing soft jets of water and lush greenery all around, dining on the terracotta-tiled poolside was and is a Gala tradition. On a more professional note, the Club played host to British Diving Champion Betty Slade in 1949, and had paid her a royal sum of Rs. 200 for the performance. Her visit added an inspirational zing to the Club’s swimming fraternity and the very next year regular swimming classes for children began. Training in water polo too was initiated the same year. The children were more than eager to learn and till today, enthusiastic lads and lasses throng the training sessions. Olympic Diving Champion Sammy Lee too stopped by the Club in 1954. During his stay at the Club, the Major treated the Club members to impressive displays of diving techniques on many an enchanting evening. In 1959, the Club accepted the request of a member, Balraj Kapoor, to allow him to conduct the Annual Swimming Gala. Under Kapoor’s keen regulation, the Gala saw innovation and drew many more animated attendees. It was at Kapoor’s request that the rule regarding the presence of children at the swimming pool on the Gala night was relaxed as a special case. This proved to be a favourable move, as the children enthralled members with their flair for swimming.

Swimming lessons have always been popular.

Kapoor’s central contribution to the Gala, however, were the water ballet performances. He turned the young female members into graceful water sprites who swam in tandem creating striking formations of flowers and animals, and literally set the pool alight as they performed with candles. In the 1960s the water ballet team enthralled crowds in Sri Lanka and Bangkok with spectacular performances, along with performers from France, Australia and Italy. Water ballet receded in time, like a quick, sudsy wave, but swimming at the Club was only getting more popular and produced winners like Rajeev


MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

The Gymkhana, which boasts of the first ever swimming pool in Chennai, will soon have one of the best looking pools in the City.

Kapoor, who trained at the Club and went on to bag the National Junior Champion title in 1973. Since then, it has produced several State and National champions like Senthil Kumar, Nisha Millet, Shilpa Alva and Anusha Mehta. Swimming has remained popular among children and adults who eagerly sign up for coaching classes in the pool which is being refurbished.

“The water is your friend, you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.� Alexander Popov, Russian Olympic gold winning swimmer

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MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

members of the visiting West Indies and Indian Cricket team in 1958 were a few of the many who scored the privilege.

CRICKET hat started as a children’s game in a sleepy English town in south-east England in the early 16th century, was soon to become just that to a seasoned English gentleman, child’s play. Cricket travelled well to the colonised world, leaving an indelible British mark on these lands. Especially so in India, where it seems the sport has adopted the country rather than the other way round.

W

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In 1975, cricket at the Club received a fillip, thanks to Test cricketer Kripal Singh, who put together a cricket team. The Club's team had quite a humble beginning, given that they lost their first match against the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Men’s team and then the next day lost their second match against the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Women’s team! When Singh moved out of Chennai to become a member of the National Cricket Selection Board, cricket watered down at the Club.

The sport was soon reckoned worthy of its own Club and hence the Madras Cricket Club was set up in 1846 by the erstwhile Gen. Alexander Arbuthnot. The Madras Gymkhana Club preferred to leave the sport to the Madras Cricket Club to foster, but indulged in the game nevertheless.

A bunch of passionate men comprising of Capt. Seshadri, Arvind Ramarathnam, Dr. Premkumar and K Srinivasan revived the sport in 1990 after walking up to the Club’s then president Dr. Rajashekara Reddy and declaring, “We’ve some good cricket players here. We think we can have a team.” The president instantly obliged and sanctioned Rs. 35000 for the nets and kits, and soon the first pitch at the Club was laid. The first match played against a combined team of the MRF Pace Foundation and the Tamil Nadu state team was captained by K Srinath and had test players Venkatesh Prasad, Ashish Kapoor, TA Sekar and Sri Lankan pacer Ravindra Pushpakumar in the team. The sport was now reborn at the Club.

Members of the Club regularly played matches with cricket habitués from the Madras Cricket Club (MCC), who also were granted honorary memberships at the Club. In 1947, the MCC also invited members of the Madras Gymkhana who were not members of the MCC too, to take part in the Invitation Cup Tournament. The title of the tournament itself suggests the warm alliance between the two clubs. Both the clubs have had a long association, with the MCC requesting honorary memberships at the Club for many of its own guests. Members of the legendary Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the world's oldest cricket club, who visited in 1948 and

It was tournaments galore after that, with the Club playing in the Blue Star League and the Knock-Out tournaments to name a few. Though losing was not a rare instance, it has been winning the trophy for ‘Most Sporting Side’ year after year. The Singaram Trophy Tournament is a valued addition to the new cricketing spirit at the Club. In 1993, the then president TK Singaram decided to lend complete support to the growth of cricket and instituted the Tournament, even though he did not play the sport. It is now the Club’s flagship tournament and funds, in part, the overseas tournaments that the Club plays. Some of the countries that the team has travelled to,

Kripal Singh, former member, National Cricket Selection Board

“Cricket … a worship in the summer sun.” Edmund Blunden, English poet, author and critic

and still does, for tournaments are Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. In the same year, during a conversation between Ravi Shastri and a few cricket buffs at the Club, Shastri’s casual “Why don’t you guys play six a side?” comment gave rise to the Sixes Tournament; an impressive first for both the Club and the country, and well before the Hong Kong Sixes Tournament. The Sixes Tournament has since been modified to add a dash of mirth,


with rules stating that each team is to have a woman player as well as a player below 14 years of age. Played with a tennis ball, there are prizes for every participant. The tournament is an annual feature that attempts to get all the members of the Club to involve themselves in the sport. With more members taking to the sport, cricket at the Club is finally reflecting the larger national fascination with the game. Additions such as the flood-lit nets and smooth concrete pitches that were inaugurated by Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan in 2004 have only propagated the sport at the Club. Other illustrious players who have visited the nets are Ian Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Ravi Shastri, Robin Singh and L Sivaramakrishnan. The Club recently imported a bowling machine to help the batsmen practice. With innovations such as these in place, the Club is all set to enter a new dimension in cricketing.

MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

TK Singaram tosses the coin for the Singaram Trophy match.

Boys’ toy: the Club’s new bowling machine. Autographs of the visiting West Indies cricket team

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MGC - The Glory Years

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BILLIARDS ight bounces off the three well-lit emerald green tables; a steady hand and gaze are aimed at the cue ball as other players wait with bated breath, their faces hidden in shadows; the billiards room at the Madras Gymkhana is a perfect setting for an engrossing noir film. With a classic charm accentuated by the sturdy, polished billiards tables and mellow lighting in the air-conditioned room, billiards is indubitably an often indulged pastime for members at this club.

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Billiards came to India formally in 1926 with the setting up of the Billiards and Snooker Federation in India at Calcutta. During the same year, the sport made its debut at the Madras Gymkhana too. In the beginning the game had a small room with a single table, but the sport’s growing popularity demanded a larger space to accommodate more people. Hence, poised sweeps and soothing music gave way to solemn men wielding cue sticks with measured grace, when the dance room was converted to the Billiards room. The move gave the sport a fillip and before long a new billiards table joined the old one in 1928. Soon enough billiards tournaments became a regular at the Gymkhana. One of the earliest tournaments to be played was the Billiards Cup, which was coveted enough for the cup to be stolen from the Officer’s House in 1933! The sport thrived through the 1940s, when a third table and airconditioning were added. Another important tournament that was introduced in 1952 was the Merchants and Banker Snooker Tournament. In 1992, the Billiards room was shifted yet again to another spacious room close to the pool, with the previous room being converted into a family dining hall. The year 1996 was special for billiards buffs because this was when the Club's best known snooker player Siddarth Rao won the National

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Snooker Championship, defeating Sarang Shroff in the finals held at Bhubaneshwar. One look at the ornate wooden plaques in the billiards room announcing key tournament winners, and one instantly knows that the Gymkhana’s baize was where Siddarth Rao honed his craft. Both billiards and snooker are played at the Club, though snooker has always been more popular, a fitting tribute to a form of billiards that was christened ‘snooker’ in India in an officer’s mess in Jubbalpore in 1875. While novice and younger players like to try their hand at snooker, the older members prefer billiards. An ample number of snooker and billiards tournaments now keep the billiards subcommittee in constant action. The Open Snooker Tournament is chiefly for participants who are senior players and have represented the club in various inter-club tournaments. This is a tournament that is ardently contested for, with 12 to 15 openings every year. More popular however is the Handicap Snooker Tournament that is open for all players, and invites close to 60 entries each year. The Gymkhana also hosts the Open Billiards Tournament, the Handicap Billiards Tournament, and The Veteran Snooker Tournament for players above 50. A very interesting tournament that brings to fore the lighter and spirited side of the game is the Tin and Bottle Tournament. The contest gets its curious name from the fact that each participant contributes a tin or bottle as an entry fee.

The Club also hosts a very popular inter-club tournament called the Phadke Trophy, the trophy having been donated by Mr. Phadke, a senior Club member. The Madras Gymkhana, The Madras Cricket Club and The Cosmopolitan Club are regular contenders for this cup. The other inter-club trophy match that brings together the three clubs is the Spencer’s Trophy. Both the trophies were introduced in the 1970s, and are still a rage today. The latest addition to the Club’s billiards and snooker tournament cache is the Appa Rao Trophy, which is a triangular inter-club tournament. The Club was also the venue for the National Snooker Tournament in July 2009.


“A good, bright mind, coupled with athletic ability. That's the recipe for success in billiards.� Mark Wilson, American politician

MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

Billiards and snooker both have their aficianados at the Club.

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MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

BRIDGE very evening at around six, the lounge in the Madras Gymkhana begins to bustle with activity. The uniquely shaped, green-topped bridge tables are brought out and elegant women and ebullient men gather around to deal a hand. Well into nine in the night, the tables are adorned with decks of cards and members remain relaxed amidst jolly banter.

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Bridge is by far the most popular game at the Club. The Madras Gymkhana Club Bridge Calendar has as many as 70 tournament bridge days in a year. Contract Bridge which has its origins in Whist has been played in the club from the 1930s. Till the early 1960s, it remained a social game until Dr. ST Achar, the renowned pediatrician, took the initiative to convince a few players to play the game competitively. Mr. KB Chandran, Mr. SK Menon, Mr. N Ramaratnam, Mr. GS Reddy, Rajkumar of Parlakimidi, Mrs. Subhdra Krishna, Mr. MMG Apparao, and Dr. J Agarwal were the pioneers who won many an open tournament at state and national level. Mrs. Krishna represented the country at several international events. The tournaments for members were all played in rubber bridge format until the mid-70s, when the Club graduated to playing the internationally recognized format of Duplicate Bridge. While Lt. Col. Appachoo was the subsecretary for Bridge in 1976, the MGC monthly Open pairs event and the MGC annual Open tournament were introduced. These popular Open tournaments since then, have been held without a break until now. Bridge players not only from Southern India but also from other parts of the country look forward to the annual tournament. Mr. S Sundar Ram who is a third generation member of the Club, has kept up the tradition of his father Mr. SP Srinivasan and maternal

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“You play the hand you're dealt. I think the game's worthwhile.” Christopher Reeve, actor grandparents Mr. & Mrs. RA Gopalaswami. He has won the national championship and is a player of international repute. Bridge is played daily at the Club with senior players partnering the new entrants without hesitation. The last Wednesday of every month is a special time when bridge is open to all the members who wish to play. Thanks to two recent well received Bridge Classes, the Club now has 20 new players added to the Bridge fraternity. The game being fundamentally a club game there is free mix and camaraderie among the members where everyone enjoys the game and spends a relaxed evening. The Bridge Year culminates with the traditional Prize Giving and Punch party. The Club has its share of Bridge pros, who can very well be seen sharing their whetted bridge skills with other members. Shereen Ryan represented India at the International Bridge Tournament held at Beijing in 2009, while Sandeep Dang participated in the national level bridge tournament in 2008. With a large section of the members engaging in the sport with an infectious enthusiasm, a few more bridge champions in the near future is quite a possibility! The Club also has a separate room allotted for rummy, where the more spirited card game can be indulged in with all the boisterous amusement that the game deserves.

Enthusiasts throng the members’ weekly tournament on Thursdays.


GYMNASIUM he Gymkhana had a state of the art gymnasium installed in the 1990s, with high-tech equipment, in place of the rudimentary fitness centre of earlier days. All members of the Club are free to use the gym services and experienced trainers help in getting each member that perfect workout. The Gym is usually packed with fitness enthusiasts and is especially put to good use during times like the Annual Gym Olympics.

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MGC - The Glory Years

A LEGACY OF SPORT

Refurbished with state-of-the -art equipment, the Club’s gymnasium is now a fitness buff ’s delight.

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{

CHAPTER 7

Bon Vivants

}

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” James Beard, American chef and food writer


Good food and drink epitomise club life.


MGC - The Glory Years

BON VIVANTS - Food

ar from the comfort of the English hearth, as their wary tongues puzzled over the pungent Indian food, the British colonialists sought to restore the flavours of their homeland, and the mannerisms that governed their enjoyment.

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Native cooks were trained to please the English palate, bearers to lay the table with precision and the courses were served with ceremony. All that remained to remind the colonists that they were oceans apart from home was the balmy embrace of tropical weather, a sharp contrast from the nip of the English winter. Sporting fields laid and teams sorted, the English looked to the kitchens of their clubs as the bastion of all things British. So the finest ingredients were gathered, and barring the occasional ‘mulligatawny’ (a pepper broth of Anglo-Indian origin), the extensive list of dishes that crowned the tables of the Gymkhana were almost puritanical. The Club’s culinary history reveals that the earliest members were quite particular that every dish be ‘just so’. In the soup or potage aux oeufs poches, for instance, carefully poached eggs, neatly trimmed, were dipped into the soup flavoured with a hint of dried tarragon and served with Parmesan. The grills were painstakingly recreated; meat from a turkey leg or a saddle of mutton was generously rubbed with a teaspoon of Nepaul pepper and an equal proportion of black pepper and two teaspoons of salt. Mixed with mustard and a helping of Worcester sauce, it was left to sizzle on the grid. To add flavour to a ‘dry’ grill, Devil sauce, made from tamarind chutney, masala, red currant jelly and chilli vinegar, was poured over the meat. By the light of the setting sun, the members cut into the grill, speared it with their forks and relished the meat with a chilled beer or wine, while the fading light stilled the shiver of the river Cooum into a distant, unseen gush. The colonists’ love for clubs like the Gymkhana is understandable when viewed in a socio-political context. Religious beliefs manifested as dietary

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MGC - The Glory Years

Food - BON VIVANTS

restrictions across Indian societies barred the consumption of beef and pork, and often, even the use of onion and garlic. India’s strictly imposed observance of caste didn’t merely dictate what one could consume, but the company one could dine in. It was not uncommon to see the Hindu Zamindars and Rajahs politely abstaining from a meal of haggis, chicken soufflé, and baked fish, while their English guests heartily tucked into their meal. The Indian hosts usually ate before the guests arrived, to avoid succumbing to hunger at the cost of their caste. The English club therefore was more than an island where members could indulge in cuisine that rarely survived foreign scrutiny; it brought together countrymen who could exclaim at the perfection of a roast saddle of lamb and debate the merits of oxtail soup, without fearing the rise of a native eyebrow. Club members have contributed to the reputation that the Club cuisine acquired. P Vencatachellum Condiments, set up in 1860, were pioneers in the making of spices and condiments. They were involved in the export of curry powders to the British royal household. The group supplied the Club with tomato sauce, well into the 1980s. Some senior members vouch for drinking the sauce straight from the bottle. The group, run by PVS Vencatsubramaniam, MGC Honorary Secretary, continues to supply the PV cooking sauce, which could be likened to Worcester sauce. It takes a week to make one batch, and is used in the making of the popular roast chicken.

The perennial favourite - Pineapple Passion

In the early days, Indian fare rarely made it to the menu, and its foray into the Club’s kitchens is riddled with several instances of trial and error. Introduced as an experiment in October 1953, it was withdrawn for lack of support. A month later, the Club began to cater Indian food for parties, and in 1955, the catering sub committee decided to include a few items in the menu, with an asterix alongside the listing, saying that advance notice and a minimum number of people were required if the fare were to be served. Idlisambar was the first Indian dish to be introduced at the suggestion of a member, and it found a place in the Sunday breakfast menu. A rather subdued rendition of coconut rice and mutton curry were served on Wednesdays. Hyderabadi biryani made a hushed entrance in the early 1960s, and complaints about its piquancy died down as more Indian cuisines found their way to the menu.

Bhagala bhath or curd rice is a Club staple.

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MGC - The Glory Years

BON VIVANTS - Food

Today, the famously spicy rasam, kababs, egg and mutton curry, and the Tamil’s comfort food curd rice share equal space with the thinly sliced goose liver and cold cuts. Chicken kurma, mutton biryani and chicken chettinad are the Club’s can’t-go-wrong signature dishes. The colonial hangover about Indian food did not however extend to coffee. In 1959, the Committee decided to forego the Gaggia Espresso Coffee Machine; instead they invited housewives adept at brewing typical Madras filter coffee to train the kitchen staff in its preparation. The Club’s steaks are famous throughout the city, as much for their size as for their taste. Served with creamy mashed potatoes, the portions are so generous that members describe them with awe, as though they were part of the Club’s folklore. Served with Tartare sauce, the fish and chips, made from the freshest fish haggled over at Madras seaside markets and quite unlike its British counterpart in taste, gets its unique flavour by a seasoning of lime and vinegar. The delicious baked crab is credited as the origin of many a scuffle among members at buffets, but the Gymkhana’s gastronomic legend is the 'rumpkin toast’. Like most dishes with staying power, the rumpkin toast is ingeniously simple to make; corn flour and cheese are mixed with salt, placed on a square piece of bread and deep fried. At one point of time, this was the signature dish of the Club. It was ordered almost by default, especially by executives arriving from a business trip in the middle of the night, seeking a hearty meal and a good drink. These days it does not figure on the menu but is served on special request.

The carefully-detailed brand of service and layered courses earned the moniker ‘butler cuisine’. The cuisine and service added greatly to the Gymkhana's formidable reputation, and members were often entreated by guests to take them out for dinner at the Club. If the cuisine was a culmination of much thought and effort and the service elaborate, the Club also believed that the effort should be appreciated at leisure. The thought of a buffet was not entertained for decades and an a la carte menu and set meals with a soup, main course and pudding were the dining options available to members. They never had reason to complain though, for the portions were tremendous. Ice cream, made in its kitchen since 1939, was one of the chief distinctions of the Gymkhana’s cuisine. In those days, ice cream was a rare treat, and its introduction was met with cheer. Mrs. Venkatraman recalls, “You could get pineapple passion only at the Club and at Jaffer’s ice cream parlour at the Elphinstone theatre.” Chefs like Doraiswamy, Manicam and Balakrishnan have given the cuisine its valued consistency; they have been scrupulously training cooks and selecting menus that never fail to delight. RJ Bhavnagarwala and her daughter, Dr. Rashida Bhavnagarwala, testify, “We have been members since 1962. It has been a second home for the whole family. The food’s very good, clean and tasty —as good as home food. We live in Oman now, but whenever we are in Chennai, we lunch at the Gymkhana.” The Bakery deserves special mention for its warm breads and biscuits, and western desserts like the scrumptious apple crumble and sponge cake packed with dates and Making Rumpkin Toast

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walnuts whipped together by the chief confectioner. Even baked items in the menu, such as lasagna and baked crab, emerge steaming hot from the oven, with a surface coloured a rich shade of amber.

for lunches and it reverberates with the happy squeals of children during birthday parties. The Mixed Bar is popular with senior members while the Buttery draws a younger crowd.

The current location of the bakery was previously the Committee’s meeting room. The Club felt that baked items made in-house could elevate the quality of the food, and ever since the 1980s, members who turn up around 7am are treated to the tantalising aroma of croissants, bread and hot cross buns baking in the old-fashioned oven.

The Buttery is famous for its cold cut luncheons of cold salami, chicken galantine, mixed meat pie and pork pie. “We had 34 varieties of cold cuts”, remembers Chevalier Dr. Douglas Gibson. The tables groaned under the weight of platters of ham, sausages, fish andalouse or fish mayonnaise, chicken and mutton roll, chicken galantine, goose liver, oxtail and oxtongue. A typically British meal, it enjoyed varying degrees of success across decades.

The Club kitchen is held in fond regard especially by the women members, for it relieves them of a day in the kitchen. Members who have a long commute home, often place take-away orders for the wholesome fare whose goodness is comparable to home cooked food. Incidentally, this practice was frowned upon initially and those found with food parcels were hauled up before the Committee. The rule was eventually and thankfully relaxed, and it is quite common to spot members who drop by for a swim or a game of tennis but can't stay back to dine, carrying aromatic parcels. Each dining destination at the Gymkhana has its own character, lent primarily by the members who favour it. The Island Lounge is a microcosm of the Club; while industry leaders meet here for conferences, women gather

MGC - The Glory Years

Food - BON VIVANTS

The Sunday lunch buffets at the Rendezvous restaurant overlooking the swimming pool are fun-filled family affairs with an extensive choice of dishes. One can taste the history of the Gymkhana in its varied and colourful cuisine; in every sprinkling of spices lies a story, in every colonial dish that has survived the onslaught of Indian fare, a trace of nostalgia. Members recall years based on the addition of certain dishes to the menu or when others disappeared from its dog-eared pages. Old chefs and bearers mark with amusement the passage of time, reminiscing about the change in uniforms and manners; and smile, at how some things have stayed the same.

At the Club one has a choice between delicious breads and Indian rotis and naans.

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Trivia THE AAPPAKARAN CLUB The English habit of dining with forks and spoon, alien to the locals, earned it the sobriquet ‘Aappakaran’ club.


MGC - The Glory Years

BON VIVANTS - Drink

The Mixed Bar A Cherished Watering Hole BY CAPT. S SESHADRI nter the main porchway, smile your way past the reception whose occupant greets you with a cheerful ‘good evening’ or whatever good time of the day it might be, stride across the spacious sofa lounge and take a left turn and you will find yourself at the door to the Mixed

E

s was their wont in the early days, members, after tucking into a ceremoniously served dinner, would retire to the bar where the barman would serve them their regular drink, right on cue. Whisky was the prized liquor, and the Englishman’s love of beer was on frequent display in the lantern-lit watering hole.

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A new kind of beer was born to slake the seemingly unquenchable thirst of the British in hot and humid India. Beer used to be brewed in England and travelled by ship for five months. Sadly, the brew did not survive the seas well and was flat by the time ships docked at Indian ports. That was when, in the late 18th century, IPA or India Pale Ale, a strong beer with a greater proportion of hops, was invented. George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery, inventor of the IPA, caught favour immediately with members of the East India Company; the long journey only added to its flavour, and George Hodgson extended an 18-month credit period, advantageously availed by officials struggling to abate the Madras heat. Muree beer, from the first brewery in Asia (in current day Rawalpindi, Pakistan), found a place on the bar shelves, as did Holts Buff Label Whisky, Kingfisher and Golden Eagle beers.

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Bar, the sacred watering hole of the club reveller. It has history etched all over it, though the ancient has grudgingly given way to the modern, as is the case with most such things these days. It is here that members foregather of an afternoon or an evening for a snifter or two of the old reliever and to share pleasant memories and experiences. Today, it is a spit and polish, glossy, granite-tiled air conditioned area with the square shaped bar in the centre and bar chairs on three sides, with tables along the walls. A television set adorns one wall, spewing forth pictures and information in muted silence, typifying the axiom ‘better seen than heard’, while attractive framed paintings of landscapes are distributed among the rest. Corporate honchos, retired gentlemen of leisure, young entrepreneurs and families blend in perfect harmony in this refuge of the thirsty. Much has changed here since the days of yore. The old Mixed Bar was a semi circular den with the large wooden bar counter making a sweeping statement from end to end. Bar stools, that could be rotated to conveniently make conversation easy at any angle, steadily bore the frames of the regulars, unbiased and uncaring whether the users were themselves steady or not. Along the periphery were the wooden tables and cane backed wooden chairs for those not willing to risk their balance on the stools. Bison and antelope heads mounted on oval shaped wooden frames stared down sternly from the walls, as if frowning at having been ignominiously placed there. The walls themselves were separated by louvred windows overlooking the lawns. There was no air conditioning then; large and ancient ceiling fans would turn round and round, lazily circulating the warm and humid air. Scattered on the walls were indescribable and hazy paintings of landscapes with deer and other animals grazing listlessly on grassy meadows. The late VT Kumaraswamy with his acerbic wit would remark that one would have to put down enough alcohol to be fuzzy enough to decipher the images. On the rear wall were the cabinets with the bottles and glasses and mugs and goblets, scrubbed clean and sparkling.

You never needed to order either your first or your last drink if you were a regular; the barman, by memory, knew the exact constituents and the style in which to serve the first and, by instinct, when you had reached your last. A firm but polite word of caution would remind the member that his day’s dosage was done. Few demurred, though. The level in the bottle would be marked and the contents carefully stowed away till the next evening. One presumes that the ‘Mixed’ bar took origins from the fact that some of the other areas may not have been open to the genteel ladies—the billiards room is one that comes to mind. If one lets one's


memory wander a far bit, the picture of the earliest days of the Mixed Bar would probably be one of Englishmen nattily dressed in spats and delicate ladies in frills and lace, punctuated with the odd, aristocratic brown sahib in his Oxford suit, puffing at his Havana or meerschaum. Though I daresay some of those ladies could have given the menfolk a run for their drinking money when it came to holding their liquor. The strict dress code exists to the day, although probably having undergone several concessions in view of the weather, climate change et al. And, of course, the new rule prohibits smoking. The Mixed Bar, an institution within an institution, boasts of its own specialties both in the cocktail and mocktail versions. The non-drinker, on a thirsty afternoon would crave for a ‘cricket’. This drink, with the sporty tag, is a base of lemon concentrate, topped with orange squash and soda, fizzes down the throat like an express delivery from Wesley Hall and smashes into the pit of the stomach, something in the manner of the ball crashing into the

“Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don't drink too much. Then again, don't drink too little.” Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen, Canadian cross-country skier

MGC - The Glory Years

Drink - BON VIVANTS

boundary rope off a Don Bradman drive. There is also the lesser known and not so popular but nevertheless unique and thoroughly refreshing ‘hockey’. This mocktail is essentially a lemon drink, topped with lemonade to produce a tarty, tangy taste that descends down the oesophagus like the gentle dribble of Gyanchand and settles into the stomach like the ball into the far corner of the goal after a Balbir Singh penalty corner flick. While the straitlaced regulars settle down to their standard fare of ‘whisky and soda’, ‘brandy and warm water’ or ‘rum and coke’, there are the out of the ordinary visitors who order for their ‘Bloody Mary’. Agreed, this is a very well known and much drunk cocktail; yet there is a certain blend of the tomato juice, Wooster sauce and vodka unique to the Mixed Bar. Even the spread of salt on the rim is immaculate—this practiced manoeuvre has no doubt been handed down by barmen from generation to generation. Another very popular drink used to be the ‘Gimlet’ although one sees less and less of it now. Many of the senior members would probably have memories of

The Mixed Bar overlooks the verdant green of the lawn.

Rahul Shah with Capt. Seshadri, enjoying the hockey drink and the cricket drink.

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MGC - The Glory Years

BON VIVANTS - Drink

The Island Lounge ntil a few years ago, the large hall on the first floor overlooking the tennis courts to the east and the lawn to the north, housed the library. A well-ventilated and airy room, the place played host to a large number of avid readers, providing them with a huge collection of varied reading material. When the library was shifted to its present location behind the tennis courts, it was decided to reinforce the pillars and renovate the hall upstairs.

U

Suggestions flew thick and fast on its proposed usage, until a bright spark finally kindled into giving it the name the ‘Island Lounge’ and convert it into a sports lounge, where the athletically inclined and the more casually dressed could relax in air-conditioned comfort. An interior designer was immediately commissioned to carry out the work of design and resurrection, which would be a more apt term for the changes that were finally

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incorporated. Today, the Madras Gymkhana Club can boast of being the only club in the city with a true-blue contemporary lounge bar facility, fully equipped to make the young in age and spirit feel at home. The bar counter, the first pre-requisite of the clubber-pubber, welcomes you as you enter from the foyer - the old TV room which is now earmarked for the dinner spread. Apart from the inevitable bar stools, circular tables with comfortable chairs line one side of the area, while a brace of cushioned sofa sets are positioned on the opposite end to cater to those more cosily inclined. A large screen hangs lazily suspended at the far corner, with a projector and a set top box provided for the members to view their favourite sports channels. World Cup football followed shortly after the inauguration and the Island Lounge immediately became an extremely popular haunt of the young and the old alike. The Gym3S, a group of film buffs, screen movies here.

Access to the terrace overlooking the driveway and the ample space available there has proven to be a boon for catering as well, with many a night witnessing barbecues and dinners. A DJ booth with a superb OHM sound system has been installed, a welcome novelty amongst clubs in this City. A dance floor and special effects lighting add the necessary flavour for a great evening of sound and groove. Younger members bring in a DJ mixer or simply connect their laptops to the system for a readymade discotheque, complete with background effects on the screen! Older members hire a three-piece band with a crooner to glide down memory lane. The Island Lounge is now a huge draw and is put to regular used by members to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, office get-togethers and for merry-making with friends.


the way it would be mixed—a large dose of gin, a dash of sweetened lime juice and a splash of soda, garnished with a slice of lemon. A wonderful afternoon aperitif that goes down splendidly with a plate of fish and chips! Most bars have their own patented snack accompaniments and the Mixed Bar is no exception. It is here that the‘barman special’ and its subsequent variant originated. For those not in the know, this delectable dish comprises roast peanuts, onion, finely chopped green chillies, topped with crushed toasted masala papad. In its other avatar, cornflakes replace the toasted papad and a sprinkling of coriander tops the dish. For the inveterate meat eater, there is the inevitable ‘fish finger’. But here ends the similarity, for the more knowledgeable member orders ‘Daniel sauce’ as a dip. Tradition has it that a chef named Daniel, during an innovative moment, added a dash of mango pickle (aavakkaai) paste to mayonnaise. A star was born! As different and exotic in flavour and taste as the wines and liquors served at the Mixed Bar, were its regulars, delightful and variegated. The one group that immediately comes to mind is the G 7, Raghu and Kashi Gaitonde, Shahrukh Mazda, Ram Phadke, Dorai, CNT Mani and Dwarakadas. This group, on a late Saturday morning would unfailingly inhabit the long and angular corner sofa with the huge, mica topped wooden table in the centre. Wit and pungent humour would fly thick and fast, with never a dull moment for those around. I was privileged to be this group's 'cricket consultant' with my advice and expert comments on cricketing matters much sought after, even if not trustedly and faithfully applied. One could also see Harendran with his open volume, reading

MGC - The Glory Years

Drink - BON VIVANTS seriously, it would seem, while no activity escaped his eagle eye. Oh, there are so many members worthy of mention and so many stories built around them, it would take thousands of pages to chronicle them. Sadly, of the group, most have passed us by and one only sees Dorai put in an occasional appearance these days. The Mixed Bar was one of the hardy survivors during the strike of 1984-85. When the rest of the club was closed, a few of us would come in of an evening and have the bar opened. The daily dozen or so members would have their bottles placed there and some of us would volunteer to act as barmen. The drinks would be poured and distributed and at the end of the day, the names of the owners would be tagged on the bottles, to be put away till the next session. One cannot talk about any bar without paying homage to Omar Khayyam, and here is a favourite, especially dedicated to those regulars who wait eagerly at its doors: And as the cock crew those who stood before The tavern shouted open then the door You know how little while we have to stay And once departed may return no more Times will change. The current décor will one day make way for a newer look, maybe swankier, maybe old fashioned, depending on the mood and style of the architect. But the traditions never will. Till time stands still! Capt. Seshadri has been toddling around at the club since 1959 as his late father MD Srinivasan was a member then. He became a member in his own right in 1984 after he quit the Armed Forces. He has held the posts of SubSecretary at various times for Billiards, Entertainment, Cricket, Service and Gymnasium.

Women members enjoy frequenting the Mixed Bar.

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BON VIVANTS - Drink

The Prohibition Years he Prohibition years in Madras Presidency lasted well into the postIndependence era, until 1971. The Gymkhana displayed the same dogged determination that it did in handling everything else, and did not allow its spirits to be dampened.

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October 1, 1937 must have seen furrowed brows and worried voices at the Gymkhana. As Premier of Madras Presidency, C Rajagopalachari had just enforced his pet legislation—The Prohibition Act. By 1948, inspite of the Second World War and C Rajagopalachari's resignation, the entire Madras province had gone dry. A relaxed drink in the evenings was not just integral to the Club’s ethos, it was crucial to its treasury as the bar also brought in most of the profits. With the Prohibition Act in force, not a single committee meeting went by without a discussion on ‘the most important matter of beer stocks’. The Club started to prepare for the dry days. In March 1938, 500 cartons of Heineken’s Dutch Beer were reserved and in June, Murree beer was stocked. In stocking up, one could say that the Club was merely adhering to tradition. In April 1918, well before any shortage, it had resolved that ‘a stock of whisky for two years be laid down’. Bankers were touched for a loan not exceeding Rs. 25,000 to pay Messer’s McDowell & Co, Butler Palmer & Co, and Spencers & Co for 200, 100 and 50 cases of whisky each. Under Prohibition, the Club could not serve drinks unless it acquired a license, and members needed to own a permit to consume liquor. A copy of the Prohibition Act was prominently displayed at the Club from March 1949. Come May, there was yet another notice warning members that “it may be necessary to reduce ‘bottle’ sales of whisky to three bottles per registered member, from July 1, 1949”.

“Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” WC Fields, American actor during all bar hours, and all brands of whisky will be made available.” Respite for the Indian members fond of their drink came as late as 1967, when the Club was permitted to serve them liquor for a year in a portion of the lawn separated from the rest of the Club premises. Rationing was only one side of the contentious matter. The Club had to contend with announced or surprise visits by officials, and was accountable for any misbehaviour or discrepancies. It did quite well in this regard with only one stray incident when three members were hauled up for violating regulations in a surprise police check.The police did not find enough to pursue the case and it was dropped. Circumspect bar audits continued within the Club. The post of a ‘bar writer’ (auditor) was a full-fledged job and a respected designation at the club. If a shortage of liquor was found, the amount was debited from the wine butler’s account and more often than not, he was transferred as a general duty butler. Prohibition finally ended in 1971 and the Committee heaved a sigh of relief as the watering holes began living up to their name.

Members also needed individual permits to allow liquor to be served to them, and these could only be obtained on medical grounds after being declared addicts by a Government Medical Officer, who had to certify that the alcohol was necessary for their health! If a member had a permit for one variety of drink, that is, whisky, he could only order that liquor, he could not order rum or beer. Members could not order drinks for their friends or guests who did not have permits. They got around this inconvenience by the permit-holding member ordering a drink and the guest taking a swig from the same glass. A permit became a most-valued social document and loans were most often not of currency, but of these valuable tokens of the prohibition. The paucity finally ended in April 1950 and the Club made a joyous announcement, “Due to the improvement in stocks, whisky will be available Members needed a permit to order drinks during the Prohibition.

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The Beloved Buttery he Buttery Bar at the Gymkhana, inspired perhaps by its Oxford forebear, was formally opened on November 26, 1958.

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Ameneh Ispahani, who was only a little girl then, remembers the excitement of the day as her father enthusiastically took the entire family to the club. The Bar was, of course, off bounds for women and children.

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Drink - BON VIVANTS

It was a space where men came in for the signature drink of gin and tender coconut water, apart from the beer and whisky and the legendary Sunday cold cut luncheons. The late Raja DV Appa Rao Bahadur recalled that quite a few people, when in Madras, made it a point to visit the Club specifically for the legendary cold cut lunch served at the Buttery Bar. The Buttery Bar proved so popular that members showed no signs of wanting to go home until the wee hours; this certainly taxed the endurance of the staff on duty. The only way out was for the Club to levy a late fee on the die-hard revellers. The late fee of ‘Np. 75 per hour in the day and Re. 1 in the night’ used to be shared equally amongst staff on duty. So what, besides inexpensive liquor, drew members to the Buttery? Club regulars reminisce, “You never had to ask for a drink. The barman knew what you drank.” It was completely a male dominion; in 1959, MGR Stamford wrote to the Committee “drawing the attention of the committee to wives of members walking through the men’s bar”. The Buttery remained a sacrosanct place for men for more than the next 20 years. In August 1977, a proposal to permit children to have the Cold Buffet Lunch in the Buttery was not approved. In a mellow moment, however, dress regulations were revised in September that year. Bylaw 1v.2 now read that appropriate dress in the Buttery could be “open neck shirt, bush coat/shirt with slacks and shoes (whether closed or open) with or without socks”. The winds of change continued. In July 1979, it was decided that the Buttery Bar could be reserved for parties. In 1984, 26 years since it had been thrown open to members, the Buttery was renovated, but its old-world ambience and charm was retained. Today, the Buttery Bar is a happy space, with children’s birthday parties, Freemason dinners, and every Saturday, the fabled Gymkhana Buffet Lunch. The Buttery Bar retains its old world charm.

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{

CHAPTER 8

Red Letter Days

}

“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” M Scott Peck, American author


Many festivals and events are celebrated at the Gymkhana.


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RED LETTER DAYS

The imposing porch warmly beckons the clubbers to many an occasion.

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he social playing field of many Chennaiites, the Gymkhana isn’t merely visited for its sports; its annual events are social high points too, evolving with time but conducted and attended with the same fanfare. Some, like the Christmas dinner with turkey, trimmings and cake have remained constant. Others, like Derby Night, have morphed from a serious pursuit to a good-humoured affair, observed annually as an occasion to catch up with friends. The 1918 armistice used to be celebrated as Poppy Day, in honour of the red blossoms that bloomed in the French battlefields where the truce was struck. With the passage of time, it slowly disappeared from the calendar, and the ethnic festivals of Pongal and Puthaandu earned themselves a place.

T

MGC - The Glory Years

RED LETTER DAYS

The Club has been catering to diverse tastes. Records speak of the visit of three American lady artistes performing the cabaret in 1948, and flower shows held by the AgriHorticultural Society. Syd Taylor’s band was a favourite in the 1940s, and was frequently asked to stay on and play for an hour longer at the Sunday concerts. Orchestral concerts were held by the pool, and the Club even participated in the Madras Dramatic Society’s One Act Play competition, which was held at the Museum Theatre in August of 1949. To the delight of members, in 1950 the Club subscribed to the Chappell Orchestral Club, London, for a small orchestra with a piano conductor at 2 pounds annually, and engaged Miss P Samuel as the crooner. A piano was bought from RL Menzies of Jeremiah Road, and the old piano was exchanged as part payment. The Club was always open till the 1960s, and tunes like Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’ would lilt through the Lounge, its soulfulness stirring hearts to varying emotions. The Saturday and Sunday dance nights were a chance to display the latest steps in slow foxtrot, foxtrot, quick step, rumba, waltz, cha cha cha and the twist, and couples cheerfully vied for their place on the dance floor. The movie nights on the lawns have drawn many a reaction, but always register a high attendance, be it for the gritty Slumdog Millionaire or the classic Snows of Kilimanjaro. Families and friends sat huddled around tables, giggling in unison at Michael Caine’s predicament in Blame it on Rio, trying to gauge the key to the mystery in Evil Under the Sun and earnestly wishing for a fulfilled romance in Roman Holiday. The entertainment has gained tempo these days. At the Bhangara Night, dancers were flown from Delhi, and New Year parties have featured Egyptian themes and fashion shows. Jazz musician Louis Banks, percussionist Sivamani and singer Hariharan have all performed here, and Usha Uthup’s exuberant voice has reverberated through the halls and roused members to tap their feet. Some events become talking points, such as the recent ITC Night, the culmination of the month-long inter-Club sports meet in which the Gymkhana tied for first place with the Madras Cricket Club. Held at the Club lawns, the event was attended by members of the Gymkhana along with those of the MCC, Cosmopolitan Club and Presidency Club. Here’s the round-up of the annual events that every member looks forward to.

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RED LETTER DAYS

January PONGAL At the beginning of the year, clouds of the southeast monsoons retreat into the horizon, and the fields that border Chennai are heavy with harvest. As the festival of Pongal draws close, houses and hearts are readied for the worship of the Sun God. A four-day festival, Pongal is much awaited in Tamil Nadu, and celebrated in various avatars across India. Houses are decorated with garlands, women deftly draw kolam designs at the entrances of their homes and, in villages, cattle races and cock fights are awaited with anticipation. Rituals completed and guests entertained, the members of the Gymkhana gather at the Club for the annual harvest celebration. Though the festival is as old as Tamil culture itself, its observance at the Club is relatively new and symbolises the Club’s social evolution. On the festive occasion, Carnatic singers enthral members. REPUBLIC DAY Republic Day is celebrated with enthusiasm; members gather with their families for the fashion parade, where younger members proudly walk the ramp. The band plays light music that is heard above hearty laughter and conversation, and there is impromptu dancing.

The members engrossed in a musical treat.

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Nithyasree Mahadevan, Carnatic vocalist.


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RED LETTER DAYS

February VALENTINE'S DAY The Valentine’s Day celebration at the Club taps into the inherent romance of a locale seeped in history. Couples used to sway to the tunes of Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Louis Armstrong. The dancers now move to the rhythmic grooves of hip hop and R&B, while the romance of the occasion remains the same.

Cupid finds his way to the Club.

April TAMIL NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS Puthaandu, or the Tamil new year, is perhaps the most ethnic celebrations at the Club. A relatively recent addition, members are treated to a traditional drama or Therukoothhu, followed by sapaad, a ceremonial vegetarian feast served on a banana leaf; a practice started by KS Vaidyanathan, who was President between 1976 -77.

Louiz Banks performing during Tamil New Year celebrations.

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One of India’s foremost percussionists, Sivamani, performed at the Madras Gymkhana Club.


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RED LETTER DAYS

August INDEPENDENCE DAY Most members have made a ritual of dropping by the Club on Independence Day, a significant milestone for the Gymkhana. Music, dance and memories help stoke patriotic feelings.

October/November DEEPAVALI Across the three-day festivities that mark the victory of good over evil, doorways in Chennai welcome visitors with the gentle glow of lamps. At the Club, Carnatic music concerts set the tone for this quintessential Indian festival. Women turn up in new Kanjeevaram saris and children throng to see the show of fireworks which illuminate the night sky.

A ‘filly’ gets ready for the mock derby.

June DERBY NITE A long standing tradition at the Gymkhana, Derby Night draws members of all ages who have the thrill of horse racing in common. Earlier held for two races, the Gymkhana Stake and the President Tankard, of late, it is only held for the latter. Dances were held in years past, and perhaps were often as eagerly awaited as the race itself. The Gymkhana has its own interesting version of horse racing. A wide mat for a mock race is laid out, and members bid cheerily. Bids are set, dice are rolled and young girls move along the chequered mat in place of horses.

Deepavali lights up the Club’s skies.

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RED LETTER DAYS

The Club celebrating the birth of Christ.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS The Sunday after the Children’s Fancy Dress Competition, the Club resounds with a live rendition of Christmas carols. It is one of the Club’s most cherished traditions, and the close-knit nature of the membership is apparent here and is fostered by the traditional turkey dinner.

December KIDS CARNIVAL & FANCY DRESS COMPETITION Children mark the beginning of Christmas festivities with the Kids Carnival and Fancy Dress competition. It is a hallowed tradition, and one of the oldest in the Club. Veteran members recall how they used to look forward to this day when Robbie Morren dressed as Santa Claus would arrive to give them gifts, seated upon an elephant or in a boat, and on one occasion, even in a plane. Movies, games stalls and magicians entertain children in modern times, though dear old Santa’s visit is anticipated with unchanged glee.

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RED LETTER DAYS

Bringing in Cheer You would expect Santa to be a tall, fat, jolly old red faced man with a white beard. The Gymkhana’s own Santa Claus is Chevalier Dr. Douglas Gibson who has been playing the genial role for 35 years.“As Santa I’ve arrived in an open jeep, a limousine, a fish cart (a mechanised cart), a horse drawn cart, drawn by a white horse. Crackers are burst, there’s a clown that comes along with me and distributes sweets and balloons to the kids. The children! Some hold my hand, some tug at my beard and want to know if it is real. Most of them ask me ‘What's your name? Are you married? Does Mrs. Santa Claus pack the toys’? Then when I’m leaving they all feel sad and they ask me, ‘Will you come again next year’?”

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BOXING DAY DANCE The evening after Christmas, the stage is set for a formal Western dance. A table at the event is much coveted, and the tussle for seats is resolved by a lucky draw for the limited number of tables. Boxing Day has always been looked forward to by members who can shake a leg, as it is perhaps the most important dancing event of the year.


MGC - The Glory Years

RED LETTER DAYS

NEW YEAR'S EVE BALL New Year’s Eve has the Club packed to capacity and friends occupy the same tables they have for years. There are gifts for all the members and a fortunate few win more in the lucky draw. Members recall turning up in costume to themed parties, welcoming the New Year with a bang, and returning home at six in the morning, delighted at having begun the year with music and dancing.

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MGC - The Glory Years Page 112

Roll of Honour

Mr. RN Manickam, President from 1967-68

Mr. S Vishnu Mohan, President from 1972-73

Mr. PL Reddy, President from 1978-79

Mr. TK Singaram, President from 1992-94

Mr. B Surender, President from 1997-98

Mr. MV Raghunathan, President from 1998-99


MGC - The Glory Years

ROLL OF HONOUR

Mr. KJ Ramaswamy, President from 1999-2001

Mr. PB Santhanakrishnan, President from 2001-03

Mr. CS Sivanandan, President from 2003-05

Mr. VV Mohindra, President from 2005-06

Mr. DV Seetharama Rao, President from 2006-08

Mr. Arvind Ramrathnam from 2008-09

Page 113


MGC - The Glory Years

ROLL OF HONOUR

Page 114

PRESIDENTS 1884

-

Lt. General CB Johnson

1939

-

Lt. Col. CAF Hingston Keobe

1885

-

Brig. General Johnson

1941

-

Mr. KM Kelso

1886

-

Hon. JA Boyson

1943

-

Mr. KR Simpson

1887

-

Col. H Mcleod

1944

-

Mr. G Gill

1888

-

Brig. Gen. GJ Smart

1946

-

Mr. S Jackson

1890

-

Col. GMJ Moore

1948

-

Mr. RJJ Perry

1891

-

Brig. Gen. T Vanstrauveiy

1949

-

Mr. A Sinclair Rose

1893

-

Col. GMJ Moore

1950

-

Mr. R Wright

1916

-

Lt. Col. JH Symons

1953

-

Mr. KH Chambers

1921

-

Mr. LH Bewas

1954

-

Mr. R Wright

1924

-

The Hon'ble Mr. Justice CE Odgers

1955

-

Mr. RM King

1926

-

Mr. GW Chambers

1956

-

Mr. HI Cormack

1927

-

Mr. AD Charles

1957

-

Mr. KM Nanjappa

1928

-

Mr. CG Alexander

1959

-

Mr. K Ramunni Menon, I.C.S

1930

-

The Hon'ble Justice Sri. Owen Beasley

1961

-

Mr. JVS Milne

1931

-

Mr. GA Bambrioge

1962

-

Mr. K Ramunni Menon, I.C.S

1933

-

Mr. JW Wyles

1963

-

Mr. IG Mackintosh

1934

-

Mr. MA Angus

1965

-

Dr. VS Subramanian

1935

-

The Hon'ble Mr. Justice V. Mockett

1967

-

Mr. RN Manickam I.P.S

1936

-

Mr. HM Small

1968

-

Mr. GA Phadke

1937

-

Mr. KR Simpson

1970

-

Mr. N Seshachalam

1938

-

The Hon'ble Mr. Justice FW Gentle

1972

-

Mr. S Vishnumohan


HONORARY SECRETARIES

PRESIDENTS 1974

-

Mr. JM Thambuswamy

1884

-

Capt. GS Barister

1976

-

Mr. KS Vaidhyanathan

1885

-

Mr. John F Caldwell

1978

-

Mr. PL Reddy

1886

-

Major Seymour Biscoe

1980

-

Dr. CRR Pillay

1887

-

Mr. HL Ansted

1984

-

Mr. RG Phadke

1893

-

Mr. HS Fraser

1986

-

Mr. KS Vaidyanathan

1894

-

Mr. J Campbell

1988

-

Dr. RJ Rajasekhar Reddy

1897

-

Mr. N Michael

1990

-

Mr. NR Santhanam

1898

-

Mr. C Lane

1992

-

Mr. TK Singaram

1913

-

Mr. Birley

1994

-

Mr. Rabi Rajarathnam

1915

-

Mr. J Leask

1997

-

Mr. B Surender

1916

-

Mr. A McBulloch

1998

-

Mr. MV Raghunathan

1921

-

Mr. D Stewart

1999

-

Mr. KJ Ramaswamy

1922

-

Mr. AC Rowdon

2001

-

Mr. PB Santhanakrishnan

1923

-

Mr. FC Bishop

2003

-

Mr. CS Shivanandan

1924

-

Mr. JM Wilson

2005

-

Mr. VV Mahindra

1925

-

Mr. JE Cumming

2006

-

Mr. DV Seetharamarao

1926

-

Mr. AW Hutton

2008

-

Mr. Aravind Ramarathnam

1929

-

Mr. JW Wyles

1931

-

Mr. AC Mercer

1932

-

Mr. A Feebles

1934

-

Mr. A Mackenzie

1935

-

Mr. JE Inglis

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ROLL OF HONOUR

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MGC - The Glory Years

ROLL OF HONOUR

Page 116

HONORARY SECRETARIES

HONORARY SECRETARIES

1936

-

Mr. WB Horrocks

1965

-

Mr. S Vishnumohan

1939

-

Major GL Rossiter

1969

-

Mr. PL Reddy

1941

-

Mr. J Malvenam

1970

-

Mr. TC Krishna

1944

-

Major RJ Perry

1971

-

Mr. PL Reddy

1945

-

Mr. FW Johnson

1976

-

Mr. MMG Appa Rao

1947

-

Mr. WI Lavery

1980

-

Mr. TC Krishna

1947 (from October)

-

Mr. GL Rossiter

1984

-

Mr. NR Santhanam

1948 (from October)

-

Mr. HE Hele

1986 (from June)

-

Mr. KV Srinivasan

1950 (from March)

-

Mr. NS Fridinger

1986 (from August)

-

Mr. TK Singaram

1950 (from September) -

Mr. AJ Martin

1990

-

Mr. Rabi Rajarathnam

1951 (from January)

-

Mr. HH Chambers

1992

-

Mr. MV Raghunathan

1951 (from April)

-

Mr. NS Fridinger

1995

-

Mr. KP Sashidar Rao

1954

-

Mr. J Ashton

1997 (from March)

-

Mr. KJ Ramaswamy

1956

-

Mr. EFG Keyser

1999

-

Mr. PB Santhanakrishnan

1958

-

Mr. IG Macintosh

2000

-

Mr. CS Sivanandan

1958 (from March)

-

Mr. JVS Milne

2002

-

Mr. VV Mohindra

1958 (from June)

-

Mr. JE Peters

2003

-

Mr. DV Seetharama Rao

1958 (from September) -

Mr. IG Macintosh

2004

-

Mr. Arvind Ramarathnam

1959 (from March)

-

Mr. TTP Abdullah

2006

-

Mr. NA Mirza

1961

-

Mr. B Devaraj

2008

-

Mr. PVS Vencatasubramaniam

1962 (from September) -

Lt. Col. LV Hermon

1962 (from November) -

Mr. N Seshachalam


MGC - The Glory Years

ROLL OF HONOUR

ASSISTANT SECRETARY 1931 (from September) -

Capt. TR Evans

MANAGER 1950 (from December) -

Mr. E Cowmeadow Esq

ASSISTANT SECRETARY 1956 (from September) -

Lt. Col. Her Elliott Bateman

1958 (from February)

Lt. Col FS Saergill

-

1959 (from December) -

Major V Sunderesan

1961 (from April)

-

Mr. P Dhanarajulu Naidu (IPS)

1969 (from April)

-

Lt. Col. CL Suares

1972 (from August)

-

Mr. S Seshadri

1974 (from January)

-

Lt. Col. LV Hermon

1978 (from January)

-

Lt. Col. FN Rudra

1978 (from April)

-

Lt. Comdr S Selvaraj

1979 (from January)

-

Lt. Col. Williams Dias

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

1986 (from November) -

Lt. Col. Bhaktavatsalu

1983 (from March)

1988 (from July)

Mr. V Subramaniam

1998 (from November) -

Lt. Col. CJ Harendran

Mr. V Gokulam

1990 (from April)

-

Major. S Rajakrishnan

1996 (from August)

-

Capt. Balakrishnan

1997 (from July)

-

Lt. Col. R Thiruvengdam

Mr. V Gokulam

DEPUTY SECRETARY 2007 (from April)

-

1997 (from November) -

-

-

Mr. V Gokulam

Lt. Col. William Dias

Page 117


MGC - The Glory Years

AFFILIATIONS

DOMESTIC AGRA Agra Club Ltd. 191, The Mall, Agra 282 001 T: (0562)2226381; 2226579

AHMEDABAD Ellisbridge Gymkhana Netaji Marg, Ahmedabad 380 006 T: (079)26425240/42/43 F: (079)26425239 W: www.ellisbridgegymkhana.com E: info@ellisbridgegymkhana.com

Rajpath Club Ltd. Thaltej Satellite Road Ahmedabad 380059 T: (079)26861431/2/3/4/5/6/7 W: www.rajpathclub.com E: rajpathclubltd@hotmail.com.

Sports Club of Gujarat Ltd.

BHUBANESWAR Bhubaneswar Club Ltd. Rajpath, Unit VI, Bhubaneswar 751 001 P: (0674)2392211; 2391654 F: (0674)2395742 W: www.bbsrclub.com E: bbsrclub@gmail.com

CALCUTTA Ordnance Club* Hastings, Calcutta 700 022 P: (033)22230410; 0151 F: (033)22235047 E: ordnanceclub@yahoo.co.in

Calcutta Club Ltd.* 241, Acharya J.C.Bose Road, Calcutta 700 020 P: (033)22233209; 22233240 F: (033)22233258

COONOOR Coonoor Club Coonoor 643101 P: (0423)2231717; 2231714

DEHRA DUN Dehra Dun Club Ltd. 15, New Survey Road,Dehra Dun 248 001 P: (0135)2657353; 2656660

ERNAKULAM Lotus Club Warriam Road, Ernakulam 682 016 P: 22352456; 22366737 F: 22381596

INDORE Yeshwant Club Race Course Road, Indore 452 003 P: 2435691; 2430506 E: yclub@sancharnet.in

JAIPUR Jaipur Club Ltd.

Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad 300 014 P: (097)26440371; 26560597 F: (097)26440514 W: www.sportsclubgujarat.com E: mailbox@sportsclubgujarat.com

Saturday Club Ltd.* 7, Wood Street, Calcutta 700 016 P: (033)22875961/2/3 F: (033)22871318 E: satclub@cal.vsnl.net.in/satclub@cal.com

Jacob Road, (Opp.) PWD Office, Jaipur 302 006 P: (0141)5101688; 5101689 F: (0141)5101690 W: www.jaipurclub.org E: jcl@jaipurclub.com

BENGALURU Bangalore Club*

COCHIN Cochin Club

JAISALMER Jaisal Club

10, Field Marshal K.M.Cariappa Road (formerly) Residency Road, Bangalore 560 025 P: (080)22271374; 22272518 (080)40220000; 40220203 F: (080)22273605 W: www.bangaloreclub.com E: secretary@bangaloreclub.com

Bangalore Golf Club* High Ground, 2, Sankey Road, Bangalore 560 001 P: (080)22281876 F: (080)22257997 E: bgc1876@bgl.vsnl.net.in

Century Club* 1, Seshadri Road, Cubbon Park, Bangalore 560 001 P: (080)22214121; 22215122 F: (080)22278879 E: centuryclub@vsnl.net

Indira Nagar Club 9th Main, 4th Cross, HAL 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560 008 P: (080)25280323; 41153378/79 F: (080)25213452

Page 118

W: www.indiranagarclub.org E: indiranagarclub@gmail.com

7, St.Francis Church Road, Cochin 682 001 P: (0484)2215140 (Office) (0484)2216211 (Club) E: cochinclub@sify.com

Cochin Yacht Club* Kothuruthy, Thevara Kochi 82013. P: (0484)2312308; 2310293 E: cyc@sify.com

COIMBATORE Coimbatore Club East Club Road, Coimbatore 641 018 P: 5392582; 5393072 F: 5393073 W: www.india.net E: coimbatoreclub@touchtel

Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club 200, Race Course, Coimbatore 641 018 P: (0422)2213528; 2214526; 2214527 F: (0422) 2212363

Jethwai Road, Jaisalmer 345 001 P: (02992)255555; 254999 F: (0291)2435349

JAMSHEDPUR Beldih Club # Post Box No.4, Jamshedpur 831 001 P: (0657)2223439 F: (0657)2223439 W: www.beldihclub.com E: beldihresidency@hotmail.com

JODHPUR Umed Club Gaushala Sports Complext, Jodhpur 342 006 P: (0291)2511010; 2619999 F: (0291)2512024 W: www.umedclub.com E: umedclub@sify.com

KANPUR Cawnpore Club Ltd. 33, Cantonment, Kanpur 208 004 P: (0512)2382909; 2155055 F: (0512)2383178; 2157755


KODAIKANAL Kodaikanal Club Club Road, Kodaikanal 624 101. P: (04542)241341; 241342 F: (04542)245104 E: kodaiclub@sancharnet.in

Kodaikanal Golf Club Kodaikanal 624103. P: (04542)240323; 241255

LUCKNOW Mahomeed Bagh Club Ltd. 202, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Lucknow 226 002. P: (0522)2480487; 2480045 F: (0522)2480487 W: www.mbclublucknow.com E: mbclub.lucknow@rediffmail.com mbclub.lucknow@gmail.com

MADIKERI North Coorg Club P.B.No.57, Madikeri 571 201. P: (08272)223920

MANGALORE Mangalore Club Near morgan’s gate Jeppu, Mangalore 575 001. P: (0824) 2414146; 2414148 F: (0824) 2414149 W: www.mangaloreclub.com E: manager@mangaloreclub.com

MUMBAI Bombay Gymkhana Ltd.# Mahatma Gandhi Road,fort Mumbai 400 001. P: (022)22070311/12/1314; 22070706 F: (022)22070431 W: www.bombaygymkhana.com E: bombaygym@vsnl.com

Bombay Presidency Radio Club Ltd.* 157, Arthur Bunder Road Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. P: (022)22845025; 22845071; 22845121; 22845075 F: (022)22833213 E: radclub@gmail.com

Cricket Club of India Ltd.* J.N.Tata Pavilion, Brabourne Stadium, Dinshaw Vachha Road, Mumbai 400 020. P: (022)56594252 ; 22830222/26 F: (022)22813196 ; 22835465 E: dg1970@rediff.com

Otters Club

POLLIBETTA (Coorg)

Carter Road, Bandra, Mumbai 400 050. P: (022)26457182; 26423951 F: (022)26438856 E: ottersopen@hotmail.com

The Bamboo Club P.B.No.17, Pollibetta, Coorg 571 215. P: (08274)251342; 251880

Willington Sports Club

PUNE The Poona Club Ltd.*

K.Khadye Marg, Tulsiwadi, Mumbai 400 034. P: (022)24945754/57 F: (022)24925802 E: secretary@willingdonclub.com

6, Bund Garden Road, Pune 411 001. P: (020)26360083/85/86; 26362084 F: (020)26360447 E: poonaclub@vsnl.com

MUNNAR (Kerala) High Range Club*#

SECUNDERABAD The Secunderabad Club*

Munnar 685 612. P: (04865)230253/724 F: (04865)230597 E: hrcmunnar@sify.com

Picket, Secunderabad 500 026. P: (040)27804840; 27718387 F: (040)27801763 W: www.secunderabadclub.net

MYSORE Sri Kanteerava Narasimharaja Sports Club*

TRIVANDRUM Trivandrum Tennis Club*

(Mysores Sports Club) Narasimharaja Boulevard, Lalitha Mahal Road, Mysore 570 011. P: (0821)2520743; 2442520 F: (0821)2442569 E: mysoresportsclub@indiainfo.com

Kaudiar, Trivandrum 695 003. P: (0471)2722592; 2310874 F: (0471)2727475 W: www.ttc.org.in E: tennisclub@sify.com/info@ttc.org.in

NAGPUR Gondwana Club

Trivandrum Club

Seminary Hills, Nagpur 440 006. P: 2510183; 2511366/355; 2511509 F: 2510780 W: www.gondwanaclub.net E: ganeshdespande@hotmail.com

MGC - The Glory Years

AFFILIATIONS

Vazhuthacaud, Trivandrum 695 010. P: (0471)2726444; 2726413 F: (0471)2726380 W: www.trivandrumclub.net E: trivandrumclub@gmail.com

Trivandrum Golf Club NEW DELHI The Delhi Gymkhana Club Ltd.*# 2, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi 110 011 P: (011)23015531/2/3/4/5 F: (011)23010584 W: www.delhigymkhana.org.in E: delhigymkhana@hotmail.com

OORGAUM The Kolar Gold Fields Club

Kowdiar, Trivandrum 695 003. P: (0471)2435834; 2432330 F: (0471)2432325 W: trivandrumgolfclub.com E: golftrivandrum@yahoo.com

UDAIPUR Field Club

Oorgaum P.O., Kolar Gold Field 563 120. P: (08153)60365 F: (08153)60330 E: bgml@vsnl.com

Fatehpura, Udaipur 313 001. P: (0294)2560105; 2560564 F: (0294)2526317 W: www.fieldclubindia.com E: info@fieldclubindia.com

OOTACAMUND The Ootacamund Gymkhana Club

VALPARAI Anamallai Club

Finger Post, Ootacamund 643 006. P: (0423)2442254/8497 F: (0423)2445967 W: www.ootygolfclub.org E: ootygym@yahoo.in

Paralai Estate, Iyerpadi (P.O) 642 108. P: (04253)222100 E: anamallaiclub@hclinfinet.com

Page 119


MGC - The Glory Years

AFFILIATIONS

WALTAIR The Waltair Club Waltair, Visakhapatnam 3 P: 0891-2565740; 2565240 F: 0891-2567763 W: www.vizacityonline.com/waltairclub E: info@waltairclub.com

WELLINGTON The Wellington Gymkhana Club

No.9, Fitzmaurice Place, London - W1X 6JD P: 020-73186150 F: 020-73186170 W: www.lansdowneclub.com E: secretary@lansdowneclub.com

MALAYSIA Royal Sungei Ujong Club*

Wellington 643 231 P: 0423-2230756; 2230254; 2230256 F: 0423-2233800 W: www.wgc1873.org E: wgc@wgc1873.org/wgc@sify.com

2A, Jalan Dato Klana Ma’Amor Post Box No.76, 70700 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus, West Malaysia P: 066-7623058; 7630104 F: 066-7621915 W: www.suc.com.my E: clubsuc@streamyx.com.my

INTERNATIONAL COLOMBO Royal Colombo Golf Club

Kelab Ipoh Dirarja (Royal Ipoh Club)*

Post Box 309, No.223, Model Farm Road, Colombo - 8 P: 695431; 691401 F: 687592 W: www.royalcolombogolf.1k E: colombo.golf@lanka.com.1k

Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab 30700 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia P: 05-2542212; 2545646 F: 05-2558610 W: www.royalipohclub.org.my E: ipohclub@tm.net.my

EDINBURGH The Royal Overseas League*#

Royal Selangor Club#

Overseas House, 100, Princes Street, Edinburg - EH2 3AB Scotland.UK P: 0131-2251501; 44(0)131 2251501 F: 0131-2263936; 44(0)131 2263936 W: www.rosl-edinburgh.org E: reception@rosl.edinburgh.org

The Royal Scots Club * No.30, Abercromby Place Edinburgh, EH3 6QE, Scotland P: 44-131-5564270 F: 44-131-5583769 W: www.royalscotsclub.com E: info@royalscotsclub.com

LONDON City University Club 50, Cornhill, London EC3V 3PD P: 020-76268571 F: 020-76268572 W: cityuniversityclub.co.uk E: secretary@cityuniversityclub.co.uk

The Royal Overseas League*# Overseas House, Park Place, St.James Street, London- SW1A ILR P: 020-74080214 F: 020-74996738 W: www.rols.org.uk E: info@rosl.org.uk

Page 120

Lansdowne Club*#

Post Box No.10137, Kuala Lampur P: 03-26927166 F: (03)26934724 W: rscweb.org.my E: rscmail@tm.net.my

Kalab Taman Perdana# Peti Suram 10642, 50720, Kuala Lumpur P: 03-26987878 F: 03-26989889 W: www.rlc.com.my E: quest@rlc.com.my

MANILA Manila Club Inc. San Gregorio Street, South Expressway Magallanes Commercial Centre, Markati City Post Box No.590, Manila P: 632-8867562/3/4 F: 632-8867568 W: www.themanilaclub.com E: mlaclub@themanilaclub.com

MAURITIUS Mauritius Gymkhana Club Suffolk Road, Vacoas Republic of Mauritius P: 230-6961404; 6979980 F: 230-6981565 E: mgymclub@intnet.mu

NAIROBI (Kenya) Nairobi Gymkhana Post Box No.40895, 00100, Nairobi, Kenya P: 254-2-3741311; 3750182 F: 254-2-224625 E: nairobigymkhana@wamanchi.com

Nairobi Safari Club Post Box No.43564, Nairobi P: 254-2-251333 F: 254-2-224625 W: www.nairobisafariclub.com E: nsclub@africaonline.co.ke

NORTH CAROLINA North Carolina Charlotte Club North Carolina, North America P: 704-3343200

NOTTINGHAM Nottingham and Notts United Service Club Newdigate House, Castle Gate, Nottingham, NG1 6AF P: 01159126220 F: 01159126221

PORTUGAL Gremio Literario Rua Ivens, 37 1200-226 Lisboa, Portugal W: www.gremioliterario.pt E: infor@gremioliterario.pt

QATAR Doha Club Post Box No.3666, Doha, Qatar, Arbian Gulf P: 974-4418822 F: 974-327811 W: www.doha-club.com E: dohaclub@qatar.net.qa

Victoria (British Columbia) Union Club of British Columbia No.805, Gordon Street Victoria, B.C.V8W 1Z6 P: 2503841151 F: 2503840538 W: www.unionclub.com E: info@unionclub.com

* Residential accommodation available in these clubs. # Letter of introduction required for these clubs.


1: Author: Muthiah, S. The Ace of Clubs - The story of the Madras Club. Chennai: The Madras Club, 2002.

MGC - The Glory Years

BIBLIOGRAPHY

2: Author: Muthiah, S & Ramnarayan, V. All in the game - a pictorial history of The Madras Cricket Club, 1846 - 1996. Chennai: Lokavani HallMark Printers, 1998. 3: 100 years 1884 - 1983, The Madras Gymkhana Club, From Polo to Rubik’s Cube. Madras: MGC, 1983. 4: Madras Gymkhana Club, Golf Annexe, 1877 - 2002. Chennai: MGC, 2002. 5: Madras Gymkhana Club, Souvenir, Singaram Trophy. Inter-Club Cricket Tournament Chennai: MGC, 2005. 6: Rules and Bye-Laws of The Madras Gymkhana Club, Chennai, Amended upto 4th April 2008. Chennai: MGC, 2008. 7: Author: Menon, KRN A Golden Jubilee of Golf, 1949 - 1999, a short history of the Addicts Golfing Society of Southern India. Chennai: The Ind Com Press, 1999. 8: District Grand Lodge of Madras, Masonic Calendar and Directory, 2007. Chennai: District Grand Lodge of Madras, 2007. 9: Author: Pilcher, Jeffrey M Food in World History. Routledge, 2005.

Page 121


Profile for Raintree Media

Madras Gymkhana Club - The Glory Years  

‘The Glory Years’, delves into the history of the Club since its inception in 1884 and tells the story of the Club’s formation and growth fr...

Madras Gymkhana Club - The Glory Years  

‘The Glory Years’, delves into the history of the Club since its inception in 1884 and tells the story of the Club’s formation and growth fr...

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