Notes on Ooty Club

Nature did not fascinate Macaulay as much as the dry bones of history did
Last Updated 14 January 2022, 21:00 IST

One day, as the shades of night began to fall, I received a phone call. The gentleman at the other end was a recent Facebook acquaintance who happened to have a stint in the Nilgiris during our time there. Every sentence punctuated by sporadic guffaws, he recalled the UPASI events, evocative of nostalgia to us, but to him, more laughs!

Every memory he yanked, be it a fun episode or austere, followed by with thumping laughter, accompanied by an “I have actually not had my sun-downer yet!” His edifying posts on Facebook, nature-oriented or activistic in nature on current issues, left me stupefied as to whether this truly was the man!

As he remembered Baacha, the bar-tender at the Ooty Club, or rather Khiccha as my spouse called him, the lines mercifully blanked out to monsoon squall and bluster, leaving the gentleman to his sundowners and me to my reveries of the place.

Ootacamund Club has the archives filled with black and white photographs stamping the patent of immortality on the lives and loves during British Raj, the passion for sport et al in its stark reality. On the walls, musty relics of Ooty’s sport-loving past blazoned on mounted trophies; archival snippets of hunts mentioning “Noisy” who consumed almost half a bottle of beer and could not be roused for the evening feed, Major Bob Jago’s “mighty bellow” which sent every Sambar and pig scuttling out of the coverts; hounds with names like Speedy, Pardon, Stormy, Pilgrim and Daffodil; the sad end of Guardian which vanished over a waterfall and Bonny, the able hound ending up chewed by a panther!

There is also a mention of Captain Ricardo of the 14th Hussars who arrived for his honeymoon in 1879, his luggage of things for himself and his bride consisting of 18 pairs of riding boots. This historic club which exudes an air of exclusiveness and resuscitates a bygone era served as an eclectic hotel before becoming the residence of Sir William Bentinck. Macaulay stayed here, between June and September when the monsoon got on his nerves, and he missed the intellectual palaver of his friends back home.

Nature did not fascinate Macaulay as much as the dry bones of history did. However, he made local tradition proud by drafting from here, the notes of what eventually shaped into the Indian Penal Code. Sir Richard Burton, the writer who recorded his globe-trotting experiences admirably, summed it up this way! “The gay and gallant bachelors of Ootacamund entertained all the beauty and fashion of the station in the magnificent ballroom of the Club. The scene was a perfect galaxy of light and loveliness.”

(Published 14 January 2022, 17:28 IST)

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