Bangalore Club, I must admit, felt rude even to me, a shameless reporter trained to gate-crash where not expected. But friends tell me I am in good company.
I’ve been questioned for my “improper” attire in fancy places a few times, but always in a sort of good-humoured way, and then allowed in. Last night at the venerable Bangalore Club was the first time I got thrown out, without even being allowed to finish the solitary drink my hosts had paid for. They preferred to leave in solidarity as well.
It was around 10 pm, when the TV on the wall showed Kings XI Punjab at about 82/4 when I walked into the bar, in a very proper and understated Fabindia kurta-pyjama, and nobody noticed. Then, I made the mistake of getting up and asking the bartender for a little more ice.
One important-looking manager type, in a uniform so seriously ill-fitting it looked like something he had bought from a kid brother in a shaadi waala band, came charging up.
“You aren’t even allowed to enter the club wearing this attire, and you are happily walking around? What’s going on?”
I pretended to look contrite, and sat down, presuming that my walking around was the problem. Why embarrass my hosts, and there was dinner to be had.
But within a minute, the drill sergeant was back.
“You must leave now,” he said, “other guests are objecting to your attire.”
It is the national dress, I argued, as I have done successfully at similar clubs in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. I told him I was staying in the same club, had had no problem checking in, and I had packed no shirts or trousers. But he wasn’t impressed. In fact, by now, his face was dripping disdain.
“You please leave,” he said, “or other staff will come and ensure you leave and you don’t want that.”
We did leave, the screen showing KXIP at 92/6 or thereabouts. But in that loaded moment, I couldn’t help but notice a splash of polyester bush shirts hanging over ample waistlines. How is that more proper than a handloom cotton kurta-pyjama, beats me.
Three other occasions I faced objections—two of them overseas—that I remember were different. The first, in 1984, on my first visit to America, was a Washington restaurant demanding a tie, of which I had none until then. But the usher was understanding enough to pull out one he had in the drawer for just this purpose.
My host then advised me to buy a tie, which I did on my way back at a little shop in the metro station. I confessed to the sales person I didn’t know how to tie one. So he helpfully gave me a folder with DIY instructions. I learnt a new skill: fixing myself the single-knot tie, though I never could get it just right.
It made me survive many foreign visits. Until Raghavendra Rathore’s two bandh-galas, one for each of my children’s weddings, liberated me from the tyranny of the tie.
The other two were less eventful. A friend dragged me along to the fancy London night club Annabel’s many years ago, and within seconds of instinctively taking off my blazer and rolling up my sleeves, somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said I should put it back on. And at Olive, the storied restaurant in Mumbai’s Bandra, I was stopped for wearing floaters, but allowed in after a friendly argument.
Bangalore Club, I must admit, felt rude even to me, a shameless, lifelong reporter trained to gate-crash where not expected. But then, friends in Bangalore tell me, don’t worry, you are in good company. The city’s own pride Girish Karnad too was turned out for wearing similar clothing.
Somebody has also sent me a draft the Siddaramaiah government was passing, only to be stalled by local lobbies. Just as well. Why change the one corner of a former colonial field Winston Churchill would still be proud of?
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