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Even PM isn't above their dress code - The Sunday Observer

Sunil K Poolani ()
23 February 1997

Title : Even PM isn't above their dress code
Author : Sunil K Poolani
Publication : The Sunday Observer
Date : February 23, 1997

First, M F Husain was not allowed to enter the Willingdon Catholic
Gymkhana in Bombay because he was barefoot. Then West Bengal Chief
Minister Jyoti Basu was denied entry to the Calcutta Swimming Club
because he was wearing a dhoti-kurta. Celebrated choreographer
Ananda Shankar was similarly humiliated at the same club.

Subsequent to the public furore after these cases were reported,
both clubs in question changed their rules.

Well, not quite, discovered a retired IAS officer Padam Chandra
Singhi, much to his chagrin.

Singhi had flown from Bombay to Calcutta on February 4 to attend
the wedding reception of a friend's daughter. But when he, one of
just 25 select invitees, tried to enter the venue - the same
notorious Calcutta Swimming Club - he was rudely stopped by the
watchman. "You cannot enter the club," he was told gruffly. "Why?"
asked Singhi. "Because," came the reply, "you are wearing a
kurta-pyjama, that too khadi - it's against the club's dress code."

Singhi's embarrassed friends and relatives approached the club
manager who claimed he had no option but to stringently follow the
club's regulations. He showed them the pertinent clause in the
bye-laws which read: "Members are requested to abide by the
following rules and by-laws strictly. Dress: kurta with pyjama of
any kind, kurta with trouser, and shirt with dhoti are not
permitted in the premises; strap, sandals or, shoes are compulsory
for gentlemen, no chappals or shorts are allowed inside the bar, or
the lounge...."

Perforce, Singhi had to forgo the party he had flown all the way to
Calcutta for.

"Who says the British have left us? We still have the bhadralok ,
who are yet to recover from the colonial hangover; they still try
to teach Indians how to behave, look and think like the
imperialists," Singhi fumes.

There is substance in his statement. After the incidents involving
Jyoti Basu and Ananda Shankar, the club was closed for six months
due to the public outcry. And, thanks to this, it had to add one
more clause to the bye-laws: "Members wearing dhoti-kurta are also
allowed in the club." But this was obviously a concession in name,
not spirit...

If the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had ever wanted to visit
the club, he wouldn't have been allowed in as he usually wore a
kurta-pyjama. Nor will Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda qualify for
entry as he is always clad in a khadi mundu and white kurta.

Just for the record, we decided to check this out and called tip
the club in Calcutta. A Colonel Ghosh, secretary of the club, came
on the line and said, "The club stringently follows its rules and
no one has any right or authority to question us. No common man is
allowed to enter the club uninvited, and if invited, should
strictly follow the club's norms."

Fine, but aren't these rules old-fashioned? We are now completing
50 years of independence after all. We politely asked Col Ghosh
what would happen if the PM was invited to the club - would he too
be. unceremoniously licked to leave?

Interrupting the question, Col Ghosh asked: "Who is this Singhi
anyway? I'm not aware and wish not to know. As regards Gowda, we
have to abide by our bye-laws. So, sorry, the prime minister, If
dressed in mundu and kurta may not be permitted entry. Please
don't quote me, and by the way, who told you that I'm Col Ghosh?
The operator ... ?" The line went dead.

To its credit, the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Bombay has
revised its dress code to suit Indians. Says Raymond Lopes,
assistant manager of the club, "Members or guests, the only norm we
are insistent about is they shouldn't wear half-pants or sleeveless
shirts. We don't have any strict rules even for footwear."

So much for Calcutta, the city of Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas
Chandra Bose!

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