Express News Service
KOCHI: An unseasonable sunshine poured through the windows of India Club on September 17, the day it called its last orders. The decades-old establishment in London, which partly draws its legacy from the sagacity of those who walked through its doors, was once again heaving.
Even long-time patrons were told that there was going to be at least an hour’s long wait, but no one budged. Since news of the closure made headlines, the heritage establishment has seen an onrush of customers, both old and new, all eager to savour the food as much as they love to relish the nostalgia that this place invokes.
Indeed, for many Indian migrants here, the Club, tucked away on the Strand, was a “home away from home,” a place where they could truly belong. For Smita Tharoor, the daughter of Chandran Tharoor, one of the Club’s founders, and who’s been at the forefront of its preservation efforts, the news of closure had come as a big blow.
“Though its current proprietors were able to stave off a redevelopment attempt in 2018, the fight seemed tough this time around.The India Club is not the entire building, and therein lies the problem. Buildings in the UK can be designated as heritage sites, which protects them from hostile development efforts. Sadly, this designation does not apply to the India Club,” Smitha added.
For years, Smita and a group of people have been hosting events at the Club to showcase its historical significance, stemming from its origins in India’s Independence struggle. This loyalty is not limited to Indians alone. Nickie Aiken MP had recently decried the closure of a place that she says “played an important role in nurturing relations between India and the UK.” According to the MP, “the Club’s closure will cause immeasurable damage to our [UK’s] reputation and destroy what is still a much-loved restaurant in the heart of London.”
Though it is learnt that the current proprietors are mulling resuming the restaurant at another location, one can only wonder if it would achieve the same exalted status as the old India Club. According to Rashmee Roshan Lall, a London-based journalist, part of what made India Club so alluring to so many people is its location. “Its close proximity to the BBC office, the India High Commission, and the London School of Economics meant that it was a hub for journalists, writers, artists, academics, and students,” said Rashmee.
Would that still be the case? Many will take comfort in the fact that the Club is still in the safe hands of its proprietors, Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza.