Kamis, 18 Februari 2010

Sixty-two years after the end of the British Raj in India, when the Indian National Anthem was God save the King, it's still possible to get a flavour of the time. At the old Hill Station of Munnar high in the Western Ghats in Kerala, the High Range Club was established in 1901 by planters.
It was the first planter's club to be electrified and was one of the few clubs built as a residential club. Telephones and a library were installed in 1916.

The First Class compartment of the Kundaly Valley Light Railway, which was considered too heavy for the use for which it was built, was used as a Bar on the Gymkhana ground after the Railway became defunct in 1932. The last Coolie Gymkhana was held in 1940 and was attended by the Maharajah of Travancore. My photo of the road sign pointing to the club one way and a tea factory the other:

The club is still going and very little has changed apart from the membership now being open to the local population. The building and interiors look untouched - the library, billiards room and dining room sit like Miss Haversham's parlour, frozen in time. The bar is something to behold, and here is where you step right back into the Raj. The walls above the massive and splendid bar are covered in Solar Topees, left behind by planters as mementoes as they came and went, their plantation numbers painted on the brim. All around the room animal trophies look glumly down on you, tigers, ibex, and the biggest buffalo heads imaginable gather dust. I sincerely don't believe such big buffalo exist any more - easily two metres from horn tip to horn tip - probably all shot and hanging in the club.

We were shown round by a steward who had worked at the club for thirty-five years, and his father had worked there before him. He showed us the silver trophies being polished for an up-coming annual golf tournament to be held on the immaculate nine-hole golf course that lay in front of the club, rolling down to a river (three rivers meet in Munnar). One wonders if the legacy of the Raj will ever entirely disappear. I think it would be a shame if the the High Range Club went, it serves as a reminder of the past and functions to the benefit of Munnar today. The steward in front of the club:

A landscape with a self-explanatory title 'Jacaranda nr Munnar':

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