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Millennium Post

Clubbing it right

The recent controversy over a Madras High Court judge being denied entry into Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) Club for wearing a dhoti is really a two-pronged debate that questions the very idea of a club. For one, clubs are a matter of nostalgia, a residual Anglophilia, a continuation of the colonial tea party culture over cricket or golf.

In other words, it’s a play on historical and cultural memory, a paean to a long gone time, as much as it is a system of elite brinkmanship, a tightly-controlled coterie that zealously guards who can and cannot call it their own. Clubs, therefore, are both pockets of an ancient regime in a new garb, sometimes not even that, as well as a regurgitation of the past in a new avatar, reconfigured and reimagined in modern currency.

Clubs can be an integral part of a cherished identity, whether high-brow or subversive and can offer a hallowed space that is really the contact zone between public and private expressions of the society and the individual. So, when clubs adhere to strict rules, such as dress codes, social stature, eligibility criteria, they are not only regulating the entry and exit points of the select space, they are also defining a certain ascendancy, which is more often than not, a class marker.

Hence, what begins as a ‘colonial hangover’, a bittersweet memory, becomes, in practice, a project of institutionalising and regimenting smaller apartheids, whether sartorial or otherwise. A strict dress code is not only drawing the lines of the essence and the limits of a club; it is also an act of elimination. There’s less weaving and more spoilage in an attitude towards creating aggregates: they are fundamentally exclusionist.

Hence, eulogies to a lost world and attempts to recreate a sacred, semi-private space are individualist to the extent of being downright discriminatory. What is lost in adherence to code is really the sense of play and relaxation that were the primary instincts upon which the idea of a club was cultured. Looks like a lot has been lost in translation.
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