An Era of Outdoor Recreation

Saumitra Shanker

Crossing Parivartan Chowk and moving towards Kaiserbagh, right opposite to Bhartkhande University is a centre of sports, recreation and leisure of elite class of Lucknow ñ our very own Oudh Gymkhana Club. For 8 decades this club has seen pre independence and post independence conglomeration of the who’s who of Lucknow. Membership in this club means a class, a niche, a success is synonymous to your name.

Speaking to Mr C.P. Kakkar, now Secretary for over 3 decades and a fine gentleman who has been a part of this club since 1965, we went down the memory lane when this club came into being in 1933. Mr. Monroe, DM and Chairman of Lucknow Improvement Trust, provided these JOPLING LAWNS for Tennis aficionados. Mr G.H. Thomas, Bar At Law and later a High Court Judge handled it first and then Mr. T.N. Srivastava took over. Actually an incident where Mr. Srivastava, member of “Rafai-e-Aam” and tennis fanatic, was once so infuriated by marker who refused to carry out his orders, that he formed a club of his own with six other members of his legal fraternity. In year 1934-35 , 96 out of 110 members were from legal fraternity only.

Gymkhana is actually a mere derivation of “Ghendkhana” where damsels used to play ball games with marigold (ghenda) flowers. The club was basically meant to promote tennis players and initially only tennis players were given membership. The club boasts of hosting lots of tennis matches, both national and international. The famous Davis Cup was a regular tournament till the year 2000, India vs. New Zealand was the last Davis Cup tie played here.

Renowned tennis players like Flee Bob, Tilden, D.N.Kapoor, Ghaus Mohammad, Ramanathan Krishnan, Amritraj Brothers and Leander Paes have sweated it out on the courts of this club.

As Mr. Kackar reveals, the lowest point ever in the club’s history was the period of 1947-48. The zamindari abolition brought the attendance to the minimum as it was a transformation time for the city and the country. Over the decades the club introduced table tennis and billiards. The club was run strictly according to rules and regulations. Though the members were sportsmen, the club started hosting social activities like ball dances etc. The club still runs in association with 200 other such clubs across the country.

With changing social, cultural and political scenarios, club renovated its sheen, colour, look and activity to serve Lucknowites with premium class services . Its activities are now so planned as to provide entertainment along with sports facility like Tennis, Billiards,Table Tennis and Cards.

The club, adding to its old building a new residential block, a block specially for conference and parties, a dedicated hall for Billiards and snooker has been at its peak from year 2002 onwards. Interestingly, before the residential block was built, the guest and players were given accommodation in Carlton Hotel, where at that time price of food and lodging was Rs 5 per day as Mr. Kackar fondly remembers.

For providing wholesome sports and leisure Oudh Gymkhana Club has been frequented by families and individuals alike and has gained a new respectability. The membership includes top business men, sports men, bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, doctors and students too.

Since 1933, ROBOR UNITAS ñ The club’s logo-has been a part of Lucknow sporting fraternity and specially Tennis players and will be for coming generations too. The club reminds not only of the yesteryears grandeur and legacy of Lucknow but also a heritage walking hand in hand with present and all geared up for the future.

Writer is a marketing professional

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 15, Dated 05 June 2015)

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