With so many years having passed by, some parts of Kolkata still reflect its colonial past. Though the British Raj left India in a chaotic mess, the way it altered the then existing social and political structure cannot be overlooked. Bengal, being one of the nerve centres of this rule, had witnessed mass movements that ultimately brought the mighty colonial empire to its knees. But with the bad also comes the good. While the British ruled India, it had simultaneously set up some of the best institutions and clubs around the country. And those established in Kolkata are almost as old as the city itself.
Over the years, these premier country clubs and institutions have kept the old elite spirit alive through various tangible and intangible ways. This year, one of the oldest clubs in the world celebrates 225 years of its existence with glory and pride. Yes, we are talking about a prestigious sports club in the country, the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club. Since its inception in 1792, the club has come a long way by merging itself with several other sports clubs such as Calcutta Cricket Club, Ballygunge Cricket Club and Calcutta Football Club. Besides cricket and football, the present day CC&FC hosts rugby, hockey, tennis, swimming, table tennis, and golf among others.
Spread over 7 acres of land, the playground of the club sets it apart from other clubs in the city. “The primary reason why people join CC&FC is sports, and we are extremely proud to be a sports-oriented club,” states CC&FC President RS Puri, when asked what makes this club unique. However, with many youngsters moving out of the city, bar-nights on weekends have become quite popular among club members.
As far as membership is concerned, the club currently accommodates around 2000 members and has plans to increase the numbers only after implementing a bunch of new facilities. “Unfortunately we are on army land, and we have to get permission from the Defence head for any infrastructural change which is not easy at all,” says Puri, who is serving his second term in office. While getting membership is tough, and it already has a huge list of people seeking permanent membership, first preference is given to anyone who excels in sports. So much so that he or she can probably walk into the club, as Puri points out. But one should not be disappointed as one can also visit the club and enjoy a good game or a drink along with someone who is a member because guests of the members are welcome.
With the All India and South Asia Rugby Competition going on, the club will also host a series of events including sports and entertainment throughout the year. In an attempt to celebrate the 225th year in the most extraordinary way, it is likely to bring a few international teams to play cricket and football along with international bands for entertainment purposes. Skilled sportsmen from all over the country will be participating in the events as the club allows people from outside to represent leagues of The Cricket Association of Bengal, Bengal Hockey Association, and Indian Football Association.
Although it is primarily known for sports, the club is also the most talked about destination when it comes to parties and other social functions. The New Year’s party is a show-stealer (conducted in an extravagant manner) with guests visiting the club from all over the country.
“It’s nice to see that in the last few years, this party has shifted from being member-centric to guest-centric,” adds Puri while explaining that planning for this mega event has already begun. But given the resource constraints, the club is trying to come up with some of the best possible options. After all, be it sports or entertainment, Kolkata is always a step ahead.