Delhi Gymkhana Club.
“You’ll get your dentures before your get a membership at the Delhi Gymkhana Club”, headlined a 2011 Times of India article about the Delhi Gymkhana Club. “That’s if you apply young”, the article went on, “It will be a 37-year wait if you apply now”. That’s the average number of years an applicant has to wait for membership!
Located in the very heart of New Delhi, next to the President’s House, the Delhi Gymkhana Club is the oldest sportings club in India. Created by the British as the Imperial Gymkhana Club, the ultra exclusive club of the senior political, administrative and military elite in India celebrated its centennial anniversary last year.
Occupying what may be the choiciest piece of real estate in India, the club boasts a number of sporting facilities, including 26 grass tennis courts and 7 clay courts, a library and reading room in its own separate building as well as extensive social and dining amenities for its members.
We have been invited to lunch at the Delhi Gymkhana Club on our first full day in India by longtime members of the club and personal friends, he a retired politician who served in parliament for a number of years and was formerly a senior member of the police service, she a retired senior member of the Indian administrative service.
We feel as if time has stood still as we enter the main building and are escorted to one of the bar areas for cocktails before lunch. There may have been renovations made to the club over the years, but one senses that nothing much has changed and the way of life of the first members of the club has been perpetuated to this day.
As one would undoubtedly expect in such a club, the bar area occupies the full length of the building with large windows overlooking the lawn outside, which has been transformed for today into an outside buffet lunch area. Unfortunately, yesterday’s blue sky and warm comfortable temperature have given way to a rather cool wind and cloudy skies.
Conversation was easy flowing and time went by quickly. Our hosts had met when they were both in training at what I understood to be the one and only training academy for all of India’s new recruits into the government bureaucracy, a huge facility in Northern India. At that time, they had both just successfully passed the public service commission exam; he was going to make a career in the police service, she in the administrative service (formerly called the civil service under the British rule).
But they were of a different caste, and her parents refused to agree to a marriage for that reason and refused to provide any dowry. They were unable to receive a traditional wedding, and had to settle for a civil ceremony.
The caste system is still completely ingrained into the Indian way of life, in spite of continuing efforts to eliminate it. There are hundreds if not thousands of castes in India and everyone finds out easily and quickly which caste you belong to, meaning you were born into. Apparently, one’s name is often enough to reveal one’s caste. Many types of applications and documents still ask for the caste of a person.
Engrossed in our conversation, which covered a wide range of subjects touching the Indian way of life as well as personal matters of interest to friends, we almost lost track of time but decided eventually that we should grab lunch before dinner came. The plan had been to eat inside in one of the various dining rooms with waiter service but we courageously opted to try out the lawn buffet instead.
My determination to avoid local food for the first few days of our trip melted away after I walked the length of the buffet offerings, and I eventually decided to share with the rest of our table what turned out to be delicious and fresh Indian food: Dal Yellow, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Tandoori, Aloo Matar, rice and fresh Roti bread.
For dessert, we had a taste of two sweet dishes, Gajar Hawal (carrot dessert) and Dal Hawal (lentil dessert).
Sandwiched between a number of touring stops which will give me material for numerous future postings, our luncheon at the Delhi Gymkhana Club helped make our first full day in Delhi a memorable one. Thanks to our gracious hosts, we experienced yet another fascinating facet of life in India!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!