July 28, 2006

Collarless at the club

So, you insist on wearing a collarless shirt, said my friend Mani who came to pick me up for an evening out during my recent Chennai visit. That was his way of telling me I sabotaged his plans for drinks & dinner at the Madras Gymkhana. The club insists on members and guests wearing shirt with a proper collar. And I had given it up years back, in favour of half-sleeved ‘kurtha’ that is a cross between ‘safari’ and T-shirt. My ‘khadi’ signature dress is exclusive; it is available only at Chennai’s Rayapetta branch of the Khadi Gram Udhyog Bhavan. The club and I appeared mutually exclusive when it came to the dress code.

I have been to Gymkhana a few times in the line of duty as a wining/dining media person. This was before I switched to ‘khadi’. And once, after. But then I had to borrow one of Mani’s shirts for the evening. This time I wasn’t in a shirt-borrowing mood. We ended up at GRT Grand.

A decade back, during my stint as Chennai correspondent of The Times of India, a PR-friend invited a few us to lunch at Madras Cricket Club, with a visiting executive of a multinational, an American. There were a dozen of us, and we all drove to the club together and filed into the bar that overlooks the Chepauk grounds. Moments after we settled at the bar, a club official walked up to our table and whispered something to the PR-man.

Clearly embarrassed, our PR friend let it be known that we were not welcome at the club bar, as one of us was wearing something without a collar. The club secretary, however, condescended to set up a table for us at the pavilion, adjacent to the club bar. Our American guest took it sportingly. My efforts to make some excuse for leaving the club, so that others could lunch in air-conditioned comfort, didn’t work.

As a gesture of solidarity the mighty media in Madras was prepared to have its chilled beer and chicken biriyani at Chepauk grounds pavilion on a sultry mid-summer afternoon. Speaking of the power of the media, here was a group, representing the media corps of Chennai, that got pushed around, because the club management insisted on upholding an archaic club code. We, the media, accepted it without as much as a murmur. I don’t suppose any of us wrote about it either.


Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

There are many clubs with such restrictions as you know, in India and a few elsewhere. They are so stuck up in the past and so much resistant to change. Luckily the big clubs in Mysore whenever there is a party, gives it memebers and guests an option between a "lounge suit" and "National Dress'. The latter is loosely interpreted.

I don't know whether a National dress is mentioned in any rule book but it is interpreted by a few members as anything that looks like a dhoti and jubba top. Me, I used to wear a suit before but never liked wearing one and once I outgrew the suit, I switched to a kurta pyjama ensamble and luckily I have one and the same one gets worn everytime I go to a party, which by the way is rare sinc I don't get to be in Mysore often.

Vijendra Rao said...

During my days in Bombay as a journalist in 1985, I used to visit my brother, then posted at Deolali, near Nashik. The first time I visited, he ordered me in typical big-brotherly fashion not to present myself in my jouranlist attire. He then gave me some formal wear, borrowed from his friend. When I entered the mess, it could not be without scarf - a contraption which attracted me so much that I got to have a collection of them and wore it to office in Bangalore, though it was rather too formal for a newspaper office.
The first time I walked in to the officers' mess, I drew lot of quizzical looks. In the armed forces, hierarchy is maintained so rigidly that those present there were aghast to find a young officer (that they obviously mistook me to be) walking abreast his senior (my brother). My brother was to tell me later that he even overheard somebody expressing his disapproval of the violation. What must have shocked them even more is my beard. If I was a Sikh, where was my putka? If I was not Sikh, how come the beard? These doubts must have bothered them.
Deolali is a beautiful place. It was here that the Bofors gun was tested long before the scandal over its purchase blew in the face of the Congress. Knowing my cricket craze, my brother was quick to organise a match. Captain Khatoch, having the same build as mine, obliged me with the cricket gear. Only, I had to make do with a pair of canvas shoes, instead of spikes. I promptly got to use the new ball. Out to impress the spectators, which had a fair share of good looking girls, I tried to gain an extra yard or two. But the gripless soul of the shoes did me in. Just at the delivery stride, I slipped and fell. I promptly cut down my pace and bowled with a shortened runup. It's another matter that my brother and I had a useful partnership.