BANGALORE: A historical landmark in the city of Bangalore, Bowring Institute has seen it all. From a meeting ground for academics and thinkers during the colonial era to a relaxed space for cultural and sports activities now, the club located on St Marks Road is buzzing with activity. The club does not host its activities with fervent chutpaz one associates with new comers, but with the elegance that one expects from 150-year-old history.
To begin with, it is located in a heritage building, enviably located in the centre of the City. In 1860, the building hosted the Literary and Scientific Institute founded by the then Director of Public Instruction, Mysore, Lewis Rice along with his philanthropic friends. The club’s history however begins when the then chief commissioner of Mysore and Coorg L B Bowing became the first president of the club. Those familiar with Bangalore’s history will know that Rice was well-known for his thirst for knowledge and love for intellectual debate. As one walks through the halls in the building, one can imagine the discussions and debates that evolved in the rooms eventually impacting the development of Bangalore. All this, over drinks, food and a few waltzes.
The antiquity and historical background of the club dates back to the time of Lady Prendergast, who laid the foundation stones for the development of the new building in 1888. An old-fashioned post box constructed in the same period is still in use. However, the club underwent rapid development by constructing restaurants, bars, health club and world class sports facilities. The club currently promotes a family ambience by hosting cultural and sporting activities. “These events bring together people from different communities and backgrounds and we become part of a one big “family”,” says secretary and committee member of the club, Srikanth H S, who takes great pride in the cultural diversity of the club members. From Anglo Indians and Goans to Mangaloreans and Keralites, they are all part of a family. “Secularism is in its most vibrant form here”, he adds. The family now boasts of over 4,300 members.
* Indoor badminton court
* Swimming pool of Olympic standards
* Lawn Tennis court
* Exclusive cards room
* Billiards room
* Reading room
* Basketball court
* Squash court
* Health Club with gym facilities and spa
* Yin and Yang multi cuisine restaurant (air conditioned) with an outside seating area
* A coffee shop
* Prendergast Bar
* The Black Dog Lounge
* Members’ and Youngsters’ Bar
* Conference room
* /Convention Hall
* Guest Quarters - 60+ rooms, cottages and air conditioned suites
There is a detailed classification of membership such as honorary life, permanent, dependant permanent, associate, corporate, absentee and non-resident membership. Any person above the age of 25 is eligible to apply for a permanent membership by paying a fee of `10 lakh and 10 per cent service tax. However, the decision to grant the membership is at the discretion of the managing committee and is given only after an interview.
Bowring Institute has affiliations with clubs worldwide. From lesser known clubs in Shimoga, Nagpur and Orissa to popular night life joints such as The Cosmopolitan, Chennai and National Sports Club of India, Delhi have tie ups with Bowring, allowing members to avail world class facilities everywhere. The Radio Club, Mumbai and Nizam Club, Hyderabad are worth a special mention, for their long standing alliance.
In addition to the newly inaugurated Members’ Bar and Youngsters’ Bar that cater to specific age groups, the committee is also planning to start a multi-cuisine restaurant. This idea will take shape in the next few months and is much awaited for, since food festivals are an integral part of the club. The rusty basketball court too will be renovated soon.
Indian festivals like Ugadi, Baisakhi, Onam and Diwali are celebrated with ‘Bumper Housie’ for parents, children and youngsters.
Food festivals specific to the seasonal theme allow the members to taste a variety of dishes. Events such as rain dances, Halloween nights in October, Breakfast clubs are conducted with colourful themes like Hawaiian, Christmas, Goan etc. Roop Gokhlaney, who is the club’s vice president, says, “To honour the members of the club, a ‘Members’ Day’ is celebrated on January 26 with a number of games and events at the Institute.”
Playing card games is a tradition. Games such as Brag and Baccarat has given way to Piquet. The Institute is widely known for its card tournaments. National and International Bridge tournaments are regularly conducted here. These events attract hundreds of participants from all over the country.
The lawn side ‘Prendergast’ bar, named after Lady Prendergast offers some great cocktails.
A lavishly furnished Black Dog Lounge caters to the sophisticated tastes of the ‘rich and the fancy’, while The Yin and Yang restaurant is known for the Chinese delicacies it serves.
However, it is the club’s chicken biryani that is the perennial favourite among members and their guests.
Next fortnight: ECA