Dehradun Club: An Interesting Reminder of Doon Valley’s “Good Old Days”
During the “Raj” days , the Doon valley was indeed a preferred destination of the Britishers. They were drawn by this valley and nearby hill station of Mussoorie due to the salubrious weather of these two towns. They even laid the country’s first tea gardens in this valley as the climate was suitable for growing good tea. The club culture was also brought in by them and the Dehradun Club, popularly known as Doon Club, is testimony to this.
After the British went away, the elite of the town carried on the manners and traditions set by the Doon Club. There was a time when the evenings of many well-known people of the Doon valley were spent in enjoyable activities at the Doon Club. The “Who’s Who” of Dehradun headed for this exclusive club’s beautiful environs to meet each other. The club, which is now officially 118 years old, is one of the few institutions that came up in the valley during the British times and can still be found in a good condition. It was in February 1901 that Doon Club was incorporated as the Dehra Dun Club Limited. Following this, the club purchased the land on which it now stands (then known as Rangers Court Estate) on New Survey Road for a sum of Rs 18,200.
It was known as Doon Club when it was set up first in 1878 on Rajpur Road in the campus which now houses the prestigious Saint Joseph’s Academy (it was Colonel Young’s bungalow). It stood in that campus till 1903 when it was finally shifted to its present location on New Survey Road near Parade Ground. Like the magnificent old colonial buildings of the Forest Research Institute, Indian Military Academy, the Doon School and the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), this historic club is also a wonderful reminder of Dehradun’s glorious past as a serene and picturesque town of “grey heads and green hedges”.
The main clubhouse was built in 1903-04 under the supervision of colonel RH Philimore of the Survey of India who resided in the club, writing the history of his department. During the British Raj, the Doon Club functioned as an “island” with intimate colonial relations prevailing within its walls. It was Colonel Kunwar Shamsher Bahadur Singh who, with the help of the then District Magistrate of Dehradun, BD Sanwal, filed a case against the decision of the British to close the club before leaving India in 1947. He won the case and in 1950, became the first Indian president of the club, unanimously elected.
The club is a reminder of the times when the city was a favourite of the Britishers, along with Mussoorie. The city of Dehradun is now becoming unrecognisable as many of its landmarks have vanished. But once you enter the old Dehradun Club, you can easily forget all the dramatic changes Doon has seen in the last decade or so.
The club, one of the oldest and best clubs in the country, has definitely not followed the pace of a fast changing city. Cliched though it may sound, time has actually stood still in the beautiful gardens, imposing corridors, spacious halls and rooms of the club. Mornings are only for the odd visitor wishing to enjoy the winter sun with coffee and pakodas, chatting with friends in the charming verandahs or lawns of the club. Or some keen readers who love to visit the library at this quiet hour of the day to choose more books at leisure or glance through a new journal that has arrived.
The “Reading Room” adjacent to the library is full of the old classics of English literature. Winter lunches in the front lawn are popular and the club’s well-known peanut chaat and “zeher” (a wonderful recipe of nimbu paani) are served as starters. Evening transforms the club into an exciting meeting point for groups of friends, after a tiring day at work. The evening chill of the Doon valley does not deter them from driving to their “second home”and spending joyful moments with friends and family. The dining room, the family lounge, the bridge and rummy rooms, the billiards room and the library brim with people making it an entirely different place.When the New Year´s Eve Dance is held at the club, the old wooden floor is truly tested, and each year comes through with flying colours. But then these boards were meant for dancing.
Whatever may be the changes the city or the club have undergone, it is a fact that as the evening shadows lengthen and the sun begins to retire, many members of the club, along with enthusiastic friends, still head for the familiar and comforting haven which the Dehradun Club is.
Monday, 04 February 2019 | JASKIRAN CHOPRA | Dehradun
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