Patrons of city’s elite Royal Bombay Yacht Club (RBYC) at Gateway of India are fuming about the club’s recent decision to install a plaque, displaying excerpt of a July 1, 1876, letter proclaiming that Queen Victoria allowed the club to use the title ‘Royal’.
According to sources at the RBYC, several patrons were displeased that such a plaque was installed. “Since independence, Indians like us have been contributing to the club. But installing a plaque after all these years, makes no sense,” said a patron of the club on the condition of anonymity. The club was founded in 1846 and its current members, including several retired senior Navy officers, and influential businessmen are unhappy at being reminded of the British legacy 64 years after independence.
The plaque was put up about three months ago at the entrance of the club. It has been installed above an inscription, which states the club’s history and some basic details. “If I were the president, I wouldn’t put up such an inscription. There is no need for it now,” said Graham Tullet, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the British Navy and former president of the club.
Patrons said that the club’s yachting activities increased after retired officers from the Indian Navy joined. In the 60s, the Club was selected to host the sixth National Regatta for the Yachting Association of India.
“One of the proudest moments was in 1984 when a member of the Club, Philip Bragg, built Suhaili, the first yacht to sail solo non-stop around the world. Current President Gulshan Rai became the first Indian to solo circumnavigate the globe, in a 32-ft yacht. All this was possible only due to several Indian Naval officers, who initiated a spirit of competition as part of the club’s legacy,” said a patron.
“I don’t see why our colonial legacy deserves such recognition. It feels as though current members who have been patrons for generations had no contribution to the Club,” said another patron.
Several patrons said that if the plaque had been part of the structure, it would not have been objectionable. “There is no context for why it has been installed decades after independence. The club is no longer run by the Royal family in any capacity,” a patron said while requesting that his identity be protected.
When the Hindustan Times contacted club President Gulshan Rai, he said: “I have received no complaints from any of the patrons with regard to the installation. We decided to install the plaque as it is a part of the club’s heritage.”