Located on the Gopinath Bordoloi Road, the India Club is a well-known establishment in Guwahati. Although it is said to be established in the year 1933, some senior members reveal that the Club came into existence years before 1933, however, it cannot be confirmed due to missing records. One thing that can be confirmed is that the Club has survived through many iconic moments in history including World War II, China’s invasion, and the 1971 Bangladesh War. D N Bezbaruah, ex- secretary of the Club, states that the Club symbolized a protest against discrimination by the rulers, and the mistreatment meted out by the whites towards the brown skinned residents of the city.
A Stand against the then Rulers
The idea of the Club was born out of rage against the principles of the colonial regime. The then rulers of India had built the European Club on a plot where the Guwahati High Court stands today. As the name suggests, the club was open only to those with ‘Western blood’. Any individual of Indian or even Asian origin was not allowed to enter. The members were mainly British government officials, officers of the Joint Steamer Company, members of the Imperial Tobacco Company, Steel brothers and so on. Infuriated by this humiliation, Guwahatians felt the need to build a club of their own.
It started as Indian Club on a lease for a period of ten years at a nominal rent of Rs four per annum. The name changed to India Club within the first five years of its inception. It initially started as a tennis club with two courts and a clubhouse with two rooms. Some of the pioneers involved in the establishment of the Club were retired civil servants, lawyers, Cotton College affiliates, doctors and businessmen. Amongst them were Rai Bahadur Kanak Lal Baruah, Dr Harekrishna Das, Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bordoloi, Professor P C Roy, 5th President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Dharanidhar Choudhuri and more.
During the initial stages, there was a time when the Club was running with only one room because the other rooms had to be put out on rent. Although those were dark days, the strong will of the members helped it grow over the years. Even now, the all India Club members are energetic and age is merely a number for them. On any given day, you will find both the young and the old sweating it out on the tennis court.
The New Look
The current building of the Club bears little resemblance to the one of yesteryears. Now, the Club has three clay courts, a swimming pool and a four storey building complete with 10 furnished guest rooms, a restaurant, bar and a lounge with an open bar, a conference hall, party hall and many added features like a snooker table for members.
All of these changes took place after the advent of the 21st century. What started primarily as a tennis club has evolved into a family club which hosts attractive events such as musical evenings, Bihu celebrations, Diwali celebrations and a not-to-be-missed New Year’s party. Without a doubt, the tennis tournaments remain the most popular and well-loved among all other events. Each year, the club plays host to at least two major tournaments. The Club also regularly organizes health-related camps and flood relief campaigns.
The Growth of the Club
Over the years, the Club has become a nurturing ground for talented tennis players from across the State. In order to carry forward its legacy, India Club started the Pulin Das India Club Tennis Academy in 2002 which focuses on creating home-grown tennis legends and has added to the field of sports in the region. Every day, young players come after school for some much-needed practice. The Club has appointed a staff comprising three members for the maintenance of the court.
At present, the club has more than 400 members and a Ladies Wing which was formed in September 2000. It conducts interesting and useful sessions on healthcare, flower arrangements, cooking, cushion making and more.
The Club’s present vice president, Bijan Kumar Choudhuri has been associated with the club since 1975 and cites, ‘What started as a small club catering to tennis players has transcended itself into an institution that clubbers all around the city covet.’
By Mrinal Paul
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast October 2017 issue