Chennai Journal
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The Madras Club

Back in the spring I wrote about our long journey to membership in the Madras Club, which like many things in India, takes time, patience, and connections. Since the first of July, however, we have been members and have used the club often for the pool, walking track, library, bar, poolside cafe, and events--the last of these being a jazz night featuring what passed for pretty authentic Cajun cuisine. It's less than a five minute walk from where we live, so it's very convenient to go there for lunch or dinner as well as just to hang out. This afternoon Marty was taking a nap, so I went over for lunch--yellow dal or lentil stew and Indian bread---and caught up on magazines in the library.

The club dates from 1832, the days of the British Raj , and was of course for men only. Its grandeur and open spaces, the billiards room, the special wood touches in the bar...all remind me of the bookend scenes in "Out of Africa" ----the first where Meryl Streep tries to enter the bar in search of her fiance and is escorted out, and the last where the men invite her for a drink. Several years ago, the Madras Club merged with the Adyar club, another British enclave, and found its present location on the Adyar River, next door to the American consulate compound. I suspect that the club's emphasis on protocol, not to mention the pomp and circumstance, has remained intact from its early days. Membership required several letters (no e-mails accepted) and attendance at two different cocktail receptions.

The one part of the club that we have not tried is the formal dining room, since it requires a coat and tie for men (women need only be "decorous" in attire). One night about two weeks ago Marty and I went over on a Sunday night and thought we would have a leisurely cocktail in the main bar (next to the dining room) before going to the poolside cafe. It was not to be. Marty had worn his sandals and socks and sandals are not allowed for men. So we had to "get upping" , as Leela would say, straight over to the cafe. The next time we went, Marty wore his Reeboks---far less decorous, but legal.
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