Gurgaon Club: A British-era building now only found on maps
Dilapidated and hidden from plain sight by overgrown weeds and trees in Civil Lines is a 90-year-old British era building that houses the Gurgaon Club, a recreational facility set up in the 1930s, which is currently in a state of utter neglect. With its expansive grounds turning into a makeshift garbage dump, the club — which was the pride of the city over the decades gone by — is now adorned with empty packets of chips, plastic bottles and polythene bags.
In its heyday, the club catered to Class 1 officers of the administration as well as advocates, judicial and executive officers, and engineers. However, at present, the only giveaway of the history it represents is a single line on the signboard that reads ‘Established since 1930.’ The signboard of the club, although still standing before its boundary wall, is mostly faded and difficult to comprehend.
“Similar to all clubs set up across India during the British era, the Gurgaon Club was a place where British officers, advocates and civil servants could step out of their rooms, barracks and use it for recreational purposes. Indoor sports, such as darts, billiards and cards were common, and the place also offered its visitors meals and alcohol. It was set up completely for a non-profit cause,” said Atul Dev, convener, INTACH, Gurgaon chapter.
Although marked on navigation maps, the establishment is difficult to spot, a sign of the extent to which it has been overlooked. The courtyard towards the rear end of the premises has started serving as a disposal ground for neglected items, prominent among which are a cart and a three-seater sofa, torn and worn out, which may have been used in the club.
Initially owned by the then Gurgaon District Board, the premises were transferred to the Zila Parishad in 1999-2000 after the board was dissolved.
During a visit by HT in October, the only persons on the club premises were three men from Jharsa village, who were seated inside one of three rooms, sipping liquor. The door of the room was broken, while the paint was peeling off and the building was riddled with seepage issues. The only pieces of furniture were four plastic chairs, three of which were occupied by the men and the fourth by a stray dog.
A second room, interconnected to the first, lay in complete darkness. Upon shining a light, three plastic chairs and a centre table, all stacked one on top of the other, lay in disuse. A kitchen, attached to the room, was bare, with the only sound emanating from a faulty tap that was continuously leaking water.
The last room, meanwhile, also did not have any signs of the club’s past. Instead, it seemed to serve as a makeshift housing where a man was sleeping on a charpai. A centre table and a television set, with Haryanvi music playing in the background, were the only other items present on the premises.
The only room in the entire premises which seemed to be well maintained was the washroom, which appeared to have been recently renovated and equipped with modern fittings.
The men who were present at the club during the visit claimed to be friends of the caretaker and said they had been visiting the premises since the late 2000s. “The club has been neglected for a long time now, few come to visit the place and there are no facilities for recreation anymore anyway. We come here often to play cricket,” said Honey, one of the three men.
“The club is in bad shape and has been deteriorating continuously. However, its condition has considerably worsened in the past one and a half years because of the pandemic as nobody pays attention to its upkeep,” he said.
With the MCG currently working towards creating a new public club, it seems unlikely that there are plans to renovate or re-establish the Gurgaon Club.
“We have plans to revive and renovate the club along with the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG). We will be taking up this matter with the MCG by the end of this month and further pursue the matter jointly,” said Anu Sheokand, chief executive officer (CEO), Zila Parishad.
In the MCG’s ₹36.38 crore plan for a club, a two-storey premises, with spaces reserved for two basement floors for parking, a solar roof to draw power, solar streetlights, and a swimming pool along with rooms reserved for leisure activities, has been mooted.
A senior MCG official, from its engineering wing, said that the detailed project report (DPR) has been compiled and is currently being reviewed by a consultant to assess its feasibility.
“The plan is to build the club on a 1.8 acre vacant land near DDR Chowk. The DPR is currently being reviewed. Once done, the project will be sent to the directorate of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) for perusal. Once ULB also gives its approval, the tendering process will commence,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
The official said that the club will have a membership system as a prerequisite to avail of its services.
As reflected in the name, the new club will be titled the Gurugram Club, signifying the shift towards the future. However, the 90-year-old Gurgaon Club is a reminder of the era gone by, of a past even before it came to be the Millennium City.