The Bengali Club in Kashmere Gate, which was so glad last month that its dilapidated premises had been renovated at last, was in for a shock later when the Supreme Court rejected its appeal that it be allowed to continue in the heritage building from which it has been functioning since 1925.
The court ruled in favour of the landlord with the observation that though the building is a heritage one the club is not. The club members say though it has been asked to quit, a guest house functioning in the top portion has not been disturbed.
This is a big blow to the grand old club, which is thinking of filing a review petition in the matter.The court decision has come as a big disappointment to hundreds of Bengalis not only in the Capital but also outside it. If the review petition is not accepted then the club will have to move out after the grace period of a year. It’s worth noting that the club was associated with the initial Durga Pujas, which were actually held in Ballimaran and Fatehpuri because of lack of space in it.
When Rabindranath Tagore visited Delhi in the first decades of the 19th century, his play Balmiki Pratibha was staged by the club in nearby Qudsia Garden.The poet was greatly impressed by the performance.Subhash Chandra Bose came to the club in 1935 during Durga Puja. Other VIPs included Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shambu Mitra,Tarashankar Bandopadhya, Kundan Lal Saigal, Salil Chaudhuri and Hemant Kumar. One remembers that Nirad C Chaudhuri, who lived in Mori Gate, not far from the club, usually walked to it after spending part of the evening at Maidens Hotel.
During one of the plays organised by the club, the amused wife of the British Chief Commissioner of Delhi asked Chaudhuri why the young actors were draped in bedsheets. This amused the great writer too.He told the lady that the actors were actually clad in dhotis and kurtas, which was the usual dress of Bengalis and that they had not just walked in half-asleep from their bedrooms after covering themselves up with bedsheets in haste.
That was the time when Babli Mitra Saref, who later became principal of Indraprastha College for Women, also used to stay in Mori Gate and frequently visited the club with her father Dr Mitra, who was a member. The lady still retains nostalgic memories of those days when there was no threat to the Bengali Club and Hemant Kumar’s intoxicating voice filled its rooms.