| The Calcutta Racket Club. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh and Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
The Calcutta Racket Club, off Birla Planetarium, was established in 1793, and is perhaps 'one of the oldest squash clubs' in the world. It boasts seven squash courts of which two are glass-backed international standard tournament courts with a large spectator gallery that has come up recently.
The other five courts came up over a period of time after the establishment of the club and are located in the main building.
The 95 JL Nehru Road address also has a fully equipped air-conditioned gymnasium for the fitness-conscious members of the club.
If you think the name of the club suggests a pun on the word racquet, you're far from the truth. 'The club is named after racket, the bird,' explains vice-president Alok Maheshwari.
'It is a small and cosy place to unwind after a hard day's work. We have a very unique member profile. The membership strength is around 550 out of which more than 150 members are active squash players. Each one on the court knows the other and they are quite regular at the club' We do not have many female members but we are definitely open to the idea of taking in more,' adds Maheshwari.
The Calcutta Racket Club is the administrative headquarters of The West Bengal Squash Racquet Association that is affiliated to the Squash Racket Federation of India.
The club plays host to all major squash activities and training in eastern India. It was also the first club to host the International Squash Championship in 1990.
Last September, The Calcutta Racket Club hosted the US$ 20,000 Professional Squash Association championship that drew players from 10 countries.
The club is also a cradle for future squash stars as the eastern region centre for the National Junior Development Programme.
'More than 40 children are trained at the club under our professional trainers. We are perhaps the only club that gives memberships to children only and in their names. The only condition is that they have to be interested in squash. This is with an eye to the future. The idea is to groom the next generation of squash enthusiasts,' says Maheshwari.
Besides squash, the one other thing The Calcutta Racket Club is famous for is its fresh lime soda.
'We have a full-fledged bar. After a game of squash there is a big queue in front of the bar, not for any alcoholic beverage but a glass of fresh lime soda,' smiles the club vice-president.