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Getting membership into this 118-year-old club - once the estate of the deposed Tipu Sultan exiled to Calcutta - is no easy task.
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Movers and shakers Inc
'The Prime Minister is a member, as are Arun Jaitley, LK Advani, Sheila Dikshit, and Hamid Ansari. " The names drop off club secretary Col OP Malhotra's tongue with ease. This, after all, is a club where Gandhi and Lord Irwin met, leading to the signing of the the pact and the cessation of the first Civil Disobedience movement. Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala signed the instrument of accession with Sardar Patel here, becoming the first princely state to join the union of India. And Field Marshall (brigadier then) KM Cariappa held a farewell for army officers who'd opted to serve in Pakistan.
Since the club has been around for so long, and because it was always meant to be a meeting ground for the city's movers and shakers, it has also witnessed more than its fair share of history.
The club of course is still "the" place to meet in the capital. And memberships are much coveted, and very strictly controlled. About 5, 000 applicants are currently waiting for membership. Considering it is so hard to get in, the joke is that the easiest way to become a member is to marry one.
Insiders say the Gymkhana is a way of life - quite literally. Some members have been known to spend entire days at the club. Tennis and breakfast at the club is followed by cards, drinks and lunch. After that is siesta time, followed by a swim and an evening round of drinks.
Members' behaviour however is expected to be, well, pucca pucca. On Malhotra's desk lies an entire file full of members' alleged misdemeanours - improper dress, a guest who overstepped limits, wrongdoing of any kind. Suspensions of memberships fly thick and fast.
Air Marshall (retd) PS Ahluwalia, a former president of the club, says these old and generally forgotten norms of decency are very much a part of the club. "When a lady walks in, you'll notice that the first thing club members do is wish her. "
A slight fall in standards however seems to be allowed on Thursday nights, when dependents, and members' children, are allowed to invite their guests to the club. And when a little more jostling can be observed at the bar.
ENTRY FEE |
Rs 50, 000 for government servants, Rs 1 lakh for civilians
20 years (government servants), 35 years (others)
FAMOUS MEMBERS |
Manmohan Singh, Arun Jaitely, LK Advani, Sheila Diskhit, Hamid Ansari.
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