By Aditi Khanna :
THE INDIA Club in London, with its early roots in the Indian Independence movement as a hub for nationalists and a home away from home for Indians in the country over the years, will close permanently on Sunday.
With its walls adorned with photographs of prominent Indians such as former Prime Ministers, the Club’s founding member was Krishna Menon – who went on to become the first High Commissioner of independent India to the UK.
As well as housing one of the UK’s early Indian restaurants, India Club quickly transformed into a hub for a rapidly growing British South Asian community in the aftermath of Indian Independence.
“We have been completely rushed off our feet since the public found out we were closing on September 17,” said Phiroza Marker, the manager of the Club.
“We are closing but looking for new premises in the vicinity to relocate to,” she said.
Parsi-origin Yadgar Marker has been running the establishment with his wife Freny and daughter Phiroza since they rescued it from ruin in 1997 as the director of Goldsand Hotels Limited.
The family had launched a “Save India Club” appeal and won an initial battle to prevent the building from partial demolition a few years ago when they were served a notice by the landlords to make way for a more modernised hotel. However, with the rents being hiked exponentially amid a cost-of-living crisis, it has spelt the end of the road for the venue.
Nostalgic visitors who have been frequenting this little slice of India in central London offering hot dosas and pakoras within a dwelling steeped in history feel bereft at the loss.
“It’s simply heart-breaking. A slice of Indian history on the Strand will be lost forever,” said British Indian historian and journalist Shrabani Basu. “As an Indian journalist based in London, it was our watering hole. There will be no more beer and pakoras at the historic bar. We will miss it,” she said.
Smita Tharoor, the London-based daughter of one of the other founder members of India Club – journalist Chandran Tharoor, has been a regular visitor with her brother Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and other family members.