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Madras Gymkhana club

Madras Gymkhana club

Full Description

If you were to look up the word “Gymkhana”, in the Oxford Dictionary, the meaning you would elucidate is “A location which tests the skills of its competitors”. It is exactly, with this in mind that the British came up with the idea of this association, a small British colony where they could socialize and play sport, an association which would hence forever be referred to around India as the “Gymkhana”.

It was in 1884, in a warm summer afternoon in April that a select gathering of distinguished colonial gentleman founded the “Gymkhana Club” on the Island grounds. It was then that Brig. Gen. Johnson formulated the objectives and rules of the club and christened it the “Gymkhana”.

Early membership of the club, was reserved for the Garrison members, British executives and some of the blue blooded members of the Indian gentry. Sports and Games all started, when a tent was put up in the open grounds, where polo and pig sticking was played. The sea change in the club however came about, when the Raja of Venkatagiri donated a Grand stand.

Now from Polo and pig sticking, the club moved on. Cards, Polo, Rugby, Tennis, Golf, Trap Shooting were played by the members with gusto. Further, the South Indian Rajahs nurtured the club with generous donations for buildings, billiards tables and polo ponies.

The history of the club is for the most part, intertwined with the history of India. With the onset of the First World War, calling for an ordinance to expel all the German members of the club, only for the club to later find out that most of its German settlers had erstwhile fled away. With the Indian woman gaining more and more prominence, the club now passed an ordinance to allow Independent women to become members of the club.

A bowling green came up, along with a ball room in the paddock. Dance nights concluded with grand suppers, where starlit pictures of couples dancing in the moonlight were taken by the photographers The Club was alive and radiant, and in due course was facilitated with its swimming pool. It was in this same pool, a few years hence that a special event Major Sammy Lee, Olympic Diving Champion, performed at the Gymkhana treating over 500 members to an unforgettable diving exhibition, It was around this time that the club kitchen was upgraded with an Ice making plant, Ice – cream machine and a deep freeze cabinet. No longer, would the members have to suffer in the warm sweaty afternoons.

A few years hence, amidst much fanfare the Tom Thumb golf area was set up. The Men’s bar, gave way to the new look Mixed Bar, and one would often see a member heading out here after his stint at the Tom Thumb.

For some it is the culture and social recognition of the Gymkhana, for others it is the various games and sporting activities, while still others cherish the festive Diwali and Christmas nights. Whichever is the facet attracting the member, the Gymkhana would forever hold some timeless memories in all their hearts.




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