Uttar Pradesh BJP leader Vineet Agarwal Sharda has said Lord Hanuman belonged to the Vaishya community, weeks after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath termed the Hindu deity a Dalit.Mr. Sharda claimed on Thursday that the Vaishya community and Lord Ram come from the same lineage and Lord Hanuman is the adopted son of Lord Ram. Mr. Sharda, however, evaded reply to a question on Adityanath’s remarks. Addressing rallies before the recent Assembly election in Rajasthan, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had said Lord Hanuman belonged to Dalit and tribal communities. “Hanuman was a tribal, a forest-dweller and was deprived. Bajrang Bali worked to connect all Indian communities together, from north to south and east to west. This was his resolve as it was Lord Ram’s wish. Just like him, we should also not rest till we fulfil that wish,” Mr. Adityanath had said. ‘Temple construction ’ On the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, Mr. Sharda said the work was on and would be completed soon.
If you thought that Kolkata was only about heritage with a dash of a colonial hangover, think again. Kolkatans may still like to indulge in one of the most British cultures of the city, but come a new era, the face of club culture is fast changing. A residual feature of colonial British culture that still remains embedded in the very DNA of the city is that of the club culture. These clubs originally began as places of British refuge and entertainment for the officials who visited the city. Today, they stand as testimonies of the cultural past of the city. However, they are not just merely residues of the past. Most of these elite clubs are highly functional and as elite even today. This makes them interesting spaces where the past meets the present. According to fashion designer Agnimitra Paul, a frequent face at the city clubs, the club culture of Kolkata is a unique feature of the city’s culture. “The people of no other city are as involved in the culture of the clubs as they are here in Kolkata,” said she.Clubs like the Tollygunge Club, the Bengal Club, the Calcutta Club, Dalhousie Institute are some such elite clubs that were set up in the British era. Even today, they remain as elite in terms of membership, with waiting lists that seem to stretch on forever. Although their events remain largely traditional and annual such as their famous Christmas lunches and so on, these clubs have adapted themselves to suit the changing times. While these events still remain annual and quite traditional, the ways in which they are celebrated now differ greatly from their colonial counterpart. With the use of DJs and events like fashion shows, annual club events have moved forward in sync with the changing times.advertisementArun Mukherji, president of the Tollygunj Club, affectionately called the “Tolly” Club, firmly believes that change is the key to the success of a club. “Tolly is a sports-centric club therefore modernisation of the sports facilities is an important factor to us. We must change with the times. In the 60s, there were dances that used to be organised here. Today, we have similar events, but they have been modernised,” said he.If a club is an area for interaction between people, it is imperative to study the changing demographics in order to understand the changing face of these clubs. These heritage clubs have been part of the city for years, thus membership has often run as a heirloom through elite Kolkata families. However, this is changing today. The members of yesteryears were what Mukherji calls “manor-born”. It is not entirely so today. Today, self-made individuals who may not come from traditionally affluent families are seeking membership at these clubs, thus diversifying the population.While these clubs themselves have been changing to keep up with the times, the city has also seen the rise of new-age commercial clubs. If the traditionally Brit clubs still have never ending waiting lists for memberships, these new clubs have happily opened their doors to the 21st century metropolitan citizen seeking the luxuries of a club life.Although these new age clubs promise to bring the luxury of the club life, they are markedly different from the traditional clubs. Spring Club, located on E.M. Bypass is one such haunt.However, Sanjeev Ghosh, General Manager at the Spring Club said, “These new clubs have come up due to the change in lifestyles of the people of this city. The old clubs are more traditional in their approach whereas new ones such as ours are free spaces for people to relax. Our events are very different from that of those clubs. They have annual, restricted events where you can bring up to three guests at a time. Over here, we have weekly parties, where you can entertain whoever you like.”This unique culture of Kolkata has its own set of takers of course. Sanjay Budhia, Managing Director of Patton Group, Eastern Region, is one such patron. “The traditional clubs like the Tolly Club and the Bengal Club are clubs which are very old and complete in their facilities. However, as they are traditional places, they are restricted to their particular zones in the city. I feel that the club culture is a rather relaxing culture that everyone should indulge in. It rejuvenates you and allows you to work better after. It is a place where I can blend work and leisure. I like to relax here with my family on weekends. But I also like to bring my international clients here to give them a taste of our unique club culture. They are never disappointed,” said he.advertisementWhile new clubs are springing up all over the city, patrons seem divided in their opinions about the two different lifestyles. There still exists a group of loyalists who still swear by their traditional clubs. However, some seem to be more open to the idea of having new clubs in town. Budhia seems to be one who is open to these new clubs. On this front he says, “The old clubs are quite excellent, but the problem with them is that they are constricted to certain parts of the city. I like the fact that there are new clubs in town. Now everyone can enjoy the club facilities throughout the city.”These new clubs are a step away from the traditional British culture of the traditional ones. While clubs like Tolly and CC&FC revel in Western festivities like Christmas and New Years’ Eve, the new clubs like Stadel and Spring Club are turning to Indian festivals. If Indian festivals are about the community coming together, and clubs are spaces of social communion, what better place to celebrate grand Indian festivals?”The Spring Club is a place with a family environment. There are family oriented events based on Indian festivals now like Bhai Dooj, Diwali, Baisakhi and so on, which is conductive for conserving our rich Indian heritage,” says industrialist Kamal Gandhi.Agnimitra Paul feels that the traditional clubs have their own place. Talking about the place of new clubs in the city, she said, “There clubs may not be as reputed or have the heritage of the older ones, but they do have top class facilities. Getting membership here is much easier and they also have events more frequently. If they keep up the quality, soon they will be at par with the old clubs.”With a blend of the old and a dash of new, the club culture in Kolkata is growing to become a rather interesting affair indeed.