Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Someone Like Me for a Member

Lounge at the Bangalore Club
When I was interviewing for this job, one of the managers from the UK casually asked me if I was interested in "club life." "If you are, we can fix you up at the Bangalore Club," he mentioned. "Winston Churchill was a member."
That bit about Winston Churchill is what everybody tells you about the Bangalore Club. He didn't ever settle his drink tab and it is now displayed in the bar for anybody to see. Well, not anybody. It's a club, you see, so you have to be a member, or a guest of a member, to go inside. I didn't really have any experience with this sort of place, although I knew there were clubs along those lines for rich old guys in New York, institutions like the Harmonie Club and the University Club. I'd even read a funny article in the Times about how naked swimming (men only) was the custom at some of them, and so my idea of "club life" mainly involved a mental image of fat moguls dangling and dripping after their morning dip. That, and a healthy suspicion of the whole phenomenon, nurtured by a lifetime of watching movies and reading novels where the country-club set was an easy stand-in for the forces of small-minded status consciousness.

Nonetheless, the Bangalore Club has a couple of things that are hard to come by in India. One is a swimming pool. Fancy hotels have pools, but most won't let outsiders use them, not even for a fee. The other is a fitness center, which I was very keen to have access to. It's hard to get exercise in Bangalore -- it's not a walking city, as the sidewalks are appallingly poor and the traffic makes crossing the street a genuine challenge. And a part of me was curious to see what it would be like to walk into the swankiest club in town. It's not like New York's Union League Club has been knocking on my door with an invitation, or is ever likely to.

So after a very torturous process that took many weeks, involved several passport-size photographs, and required perfect strangers to sign a form attesting that they had known me for six months (thank you, Dr. P. Rao, whoever you are), finally, finally, my very limited temporary membership card was issued and stamped by the secretary of the club. The major drawback, not revealed until I had already jumped through this multitude of hoops, was that I was not permitted to bring guests. That sucked: who wants to sit in an overstuffed leather chair and drink brandy all alone? But, however tenuously and provisionally, I was in.

So, what's "club life" really like, you ask? So far all I've taken advantage of are the gym and the pool. So it's not too different from my usual workout place, the YMHA on 14th St, which also has a gym and a pool. (Well, ok, that's disingenous. It's a lot nicer than the Y: the grounds are beautiful and there's a battery of attendants to hand you towels.) It's busy after work, like any gym, and there are limits on how long you can use the treadmill, like any gym, and there are often too many kids in the pool, like any pool. You'd notice a few differences, too: for example, the stuffed leopard in the club house. I haven't ventured into the bar yet to see that tab of Churchill's, but I'll get around to it sooner or later. Before my membership is up, anyway.

Photo from Bangalore Club's web site


mrs. A said...

I've actually been to Bangalore Club, and as a member you should go to the social events they have... That way you'll be able to meet young people and maybe find a workout (or drinking) buddy.
Hope you're still enjoying the perks of membership.

kase said...

i've only been once as someone's guest and i really enjoyed it. i'm only here for teh summer so it might not be worth trying to get a temporary membership...

Anonymous said...

No interview no application still you can use. All you need is you need to be charming girl who can lay yourself with guy. But you should know who is the guy who has access to play around with memberships with out anyones knowledge