As you walk along the corridor of the outer circle of Connaught Place’s K-block, a signboard above the stairs reads: “The Gidney Club: The All-India Anglo Indian Association (Delhi Branch)”.
Upstairs, there’s a huge hall whose walls boast of photographs and paintings of prominent Anglo-Indians from across the country. This is Gidney Club.
This not-so-famous club was once a place for “socio-emotional bonding for the city’s Anglo-Indians”.
Established in the 1930s as Anglo-Indian Club, it was renamed the Gidney Club and was the hub of socio-cultural events such as receptions, birthday parties, anniversaries, weekends gatherings, Christmas and New Year celebrations. “It was the community’s second home, the cultural magnet that cemented our singular ethos, and helped our roots flourish. Be it Santa Claus giving the kids their toys, teenagers transiting from Sinatra to Presley, the jive and the jitterbug making way for rock’n’roll, twist and the cha-cha, it was here that we grew,” says Keith Flory, a former member of the governing body of the All-India Anglo-Indian Association and a member of the Gidney Club.
The city’s Anglo-Indian community met at the Gidney Club for Christmas dances, the New Year’s Ball and the May Queen Ball. “At the May Queen Ball. The event was a forerunner to today’s beauty contests. The judges looked at the dance, the dress and how the girl carried it,” says Prof Rebeiro.
The Club also had a resident band, headed by Eugene Byrne, an Ango-Indian who was also the head of All-India Radio Delhi’s western music section. Besides, the bands of top restaurants of Connaught Place such as Gaylord, Volga, Palace Heights, York etc performed here in the evenings.
Gidney Club was also the venue for the annual general meetings of the All-India Anglo-Indian Association. The community also honored its IAF heroes here in 1965.
“During an anti-English agitation in the late 1960s some Hindi chauvinists demanded the English signboard be replaced by one in Hindi. Mrs Anthony who was around, agreed to the demand. Then in typically Auntie Olive fashion she grabbed one guy by the hand and told him to take off his wrist-watch, smash it underfoot, because its name was inscribed in English,” says Flory.