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History of Mahomed Bagh Club is closely interlinked with that of Lucknow, and therefore it would not be out of context to peep into various stages of the city’s past to arrive at a point when Mahomed Bagh Club Ltd. took shape.

"Lucknow Fida Hum Par Aur Ham Fidaye Lucknow, Kya Hasiyat Aasman Ki Jo Chhuraye Lucknow” [I am all for Lucknow and Lucknow is all for Me. The Heavens have no authority to deprive me of Lucknow] is how the generations have related to the City.

“Tehzeeb” i.e. the culture of the city is unique & synonymous with “Nazaqat & Nafasat”. 17th century British writers have called it one of the most beautiful & picturesque cities of the world.

The splendid monuments and the typical Avadh Cuisine with its “Kebabs” culture [The Galauti, the Kakori & the Tunde’s delicacies], the ‘Dum’ style delicacies, produce from neighboring mango belt of Malihabad complete the picture. The “Chikankari” and “Zardozi” apparel are some of the other hi-lights that attract a visitor like a magnet.

Avadhi cuisine has been lapped up by the hospitality industry in a big way. ITC’s Welcome Group spotted a humble cook Imtiaz from Lucknow, afforded him the opportunity to hone his skills to produce the five star stuff, style & presentation, and groomed him to become one of the highest paid specialist chefs in the industry.
 
Lucknow developed as the center of art, culture, attire & etiquette and was called “Paris of the east”. In fact the ancient bridge over river Gomati near the famous monument “Bara Imambara” built by Nawab Asaf Uddaula in late 16th century is a replica of a bridge over river Seine in Paris [one noticed the striking resemblance during Paris visit in 1997 – except that the bridge here has terracotta finish]. This was around the time when European Architecture entered India, and the Nawabs of Avadh afforded the due share.

Avadh Province was ruled by the “Shaikhzadas”, till Sept 1722, when Saadat Ali Khan was appointed its Governor. He introduced the “Two fish” symbol as the official logo that continues till date as the official logo of UP Govt.

 

M B Club logo incorporated the fish around ‘MBC’ in early 80’s to compliment its heritage.

 
The Nawabi rule lasted till 1856. British India Company entered Avadh in 1764, with the defeat of Shujat Uddaula. His son Asaf Uddaula permanently shifted the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow. He is credited with Lucknow’s development as the city of palaces and gardens.

 

The “Bara Imambara” or “Bhool Bhulaiyan” was built by him during a famine, and the day’s constructions were demolished during the night to stretch employment for the needy and the guides at this monument do mention it even today.

Literally meaning – Asaf Uddaula gives those whom the Gods don’t]. The building boasts of largest hall [on the ground floor in the world & is 162 feet long, 53 feet wide. The roof is 50 feet high unsupported by pillars or beams – with 16 feet hollow walls!

The Nawabs viewed with the likes of Moghuls, the Nizams of Hyderabad and the Tippu Sultan of Mysore in wealth and splendor. But their decadence had begun and some parts of Avadh had already acceeded to the British India Company. The last of the dynasty was Nawab Wajid Ali shah, a connoisseur of fine arts, performing arts, poetry and the attendant vices. He built the “Kaiser Bagh” palace complex at Qaisar Bagh, to accommodate his numerous concubines. Entire complex was painted with “Kesari” color to complement the name.
 
The mutiny or the first war for independence that sparked off from Jhansi, witnessed the siege of the British & Europeans for 87 days, wherein they retreated into the Lucknow Residency for safety. The canon ball holes in the ruins of the Residency are reminders of the action – and of sacrifices made by people from all walks of life.
 
Among the eminent monuments are Bara Imambara, Chhota Imambara, Pictures gallery, Shahnajaf Imambara, The Residency, King George Medical University, La Martiniere boys and girl’s colleges [Run by a trust founded by the French General Martin and his lady wife], the imposing Council House & the Charbagh Railway Station with their grandiose matchless architecture, the Kaiser Bagh palace complex, Chhatar Manzil [palace with a gold plated “Chhatri” atop its dome – converted into civil services officers’ club by the British [now it houses Central Drug Research Institute] and Dilkusha.
 
Good old Hazrat Ganj – the elite shopping mall in the central business district retains its charm – though “Ganjing” i.e. a leisurely stroll through Hazratganj is not the same – what with the burgeoning traffic & parking blues. [Hazratganj developed to cater to the shopping and entertainment needs of the British Troops

Nawab Shaadat Ali Khan built a string of gardens and orchards right from the old city to the outskirts. He built Dilkusha palace/garden on Sultanpur road as a picnic/recreation resort for Nawabs & their guests.

Dilkusha pocket of Lucknow had an orchard named Mahomed Bagh. The British Govt after taking over the reigns from East India Company in 1856 established the Lucknow Cantonment – post mutiny, in these surroundings.
 
Originally the membership at Mahomed Bagh Club Ltd. It was open only to Defence Services Officers. In 1947 the club started accepting Civil services officers, Taluqdars, the Feudal class and other prominent citizen as members. The ICS & IPS cadre was granted only temporary membership. Gradually more civilian members were inducted.

A Memorandum & Articles of Association and the Bye Laws evolved as the base for the club’s functioning.

Around 1947, three Indian Army officers were inducted into the management committee - namely Lt Col Tara Singh, Lt Col Harkirat Singh and Capt PJS Bal. The first civilian members on the committee were Mr S N Datt and Mr A N Jha in Sep'47. Post independence - Lt Col G R Oberoi was the first Indian member to head the committee and chaired the meeting on 28th Nov 1947. Maj Gen Misri Chand was the first GOC to become the chairman on 20 Jan 1951. Mr A N Jha was the first civilian member to become the Chairman on 20 Sep 1951.

Till 1971, a serving army officer looked after the club as its honorary secretary. The club – since opted for a fulltime paid secretary, and a retired Lt Col is usually appointed.
At present Col. Jyotirmoy Ghosal [Retd] is the CEO & secretary of the club.

Membership of the club was frozen for about a decade and restarted in end-2000, with upgraded & systematic registration & membership process, with due permission of the company Law Board to increase the upper limit to 2000 members.

The Club being a Defence laud, the GOC-IN-C, Central Command, Lucknow is the Patron. Chairmanship of the club rotates between the Chief of Staff, Central Command and the Chief Secretary U.P. Govt on yearly basis, as per the provisions of club rules.

The club had a typical “Brit” culture till the early years after the independence, duly inherited from the people who brought the concept of clubs in the country. The Burma Teak floored ballroom with live band on the stage used to be inviting enough to go to the floor & Waltz. The stage was extensively used for amateur plays at one time. Ballroom was the venue for Dance Eves, with sitting arrangements in the adjoining Bar and other compartments.

A time came – in early 70’s – when such functions had to move out of doors to accommodate the participants. The cemented Badminton Court on the side lawns served the purpose of dance floor – liberally sprinkled with French chalk. The floor has gradually been expanded to contain those who wish to shake a leg. The French chalk is passé now, because ‘gliding’ on the floor has been replaced by gymnastics @ 120 beats per minute rhythm!

The dress code imbibed from those years continues. Kurtas, Jeans, collarless T-shirts are not permitted [the tops must be tucked in]. Formal functions like the dance eves strictly prescribe the Lounge suit / Combinations. After independence the Official Indian equivalents of the DJ i.e. the Nehru Jacket and Sherwani with trouser were accepted.

The good old swimming pool lies empty now. The Army continued using the open air swimming pool exclusively, till the central command built an Olympic size pool across the road, and the club got the redundant open air pool, renovated and upgraded it with modern filtration plant & machinery, for the benefit of the members & their families. The poolside lawn is popular venue for parties also, during the off-swimming season. A health club has been developed on top of the pool building.

The club has an impressive list of 64 affiliations allover the country – mostly with the traditional ‘A’ grade residential clubs.

Short term upgrades have been carried out in last two years adding to the ambience and comfort; the club has now undertaken the long term ones that are in progress [all these as per the master plan approved by the committee]. Upgrades involve a bit of restoration work too – in a sense that wherever possible, the Burma teak element is being restored instead of replacements. The Bars, party rooms, dining/lounge areas, card rooms have been totally refurbished.

Facilities include Seven bungalows, Five transit cottages, library, air-conditioned bars, family lounge with TV, party rooms, dining hall, billiards, card rooms, the ballroom, semicircular front lawn, side lawn with Pucca bar and outdoor kitchen at its two ends, tennis courts, a huge marriage lawn cum playing field, swimming pool, squash courts, walkers’ track, children’s play park, staff quarters, florist shop, etc. Sunday Tambola is held in the air-cooled ballroom and is moved out to the front lawn during winters.

The club has been a venue for quality entertainment in the last over a decade. Fashion shows, Ghazal evenings, musical evenings [concerts by artistes like Shreya Ghoshal, Asha Bhosle, Jagjit Singh, Diler Menhdi, Sonu Nigam, Brian, Dr. Palash, etc, to name a few do’s].
 
Located in the greenest belt of the city, with abundance of natural beauty & wide open areas, the club has maintained its old world dignified charm, while adopting modern facilities over the years, and is one of the best known ‘A’ grade residential clubs, among the traditional clubs that were established by the British who brought the club culture into the country.

Researched and written by Lt Commander G Masand [Retd] Founder Honorary Editor Club News.