June 5: A 149-year-old concrete piece of tea history and professional polo’s first home will be dismantled in a few months from now to make way for a snazzy club for the proletariat of the 21st century.
Cachar Club, the watering hole of white tea planters, district administrators and army officials in the 19th century, will soon be a mass of iron and brick, from which will emerge a metropolitan-style pleasure hub.
There is nothing elitist now about the peeling blue walls or the rusting thatched roof of the decaying Cachar Club that last hosted its patrons some 30 years ago.
Nothing to remind of the smoky Wednesday gatherings of the gora sahibs, the fun tournaments at the badminton and tennis courts, the overnight stays at the club rooms after a drinking excess or Gregory Peck’s smile on the in-house theatre screen.
Of the lovely stock of Polson butter from England and bread and cakes from Firpos and Spencers in Calcutta at the club store.
And of course, the earthy polo tournaments.
The club, it is said, was home to the world’s first polo team that sprang to life in the middle of the 19th century under an energetic deputy commissioner Capt Robert Stewart.
Capt Stewart copied a version of the game played from neighbouring Manipur and floated the world’s first polo club at Cachar.
Sweaty horses slugged it out at the vast field near the club, which was known for years as Horse Race Ground.
The club had its last hurrah in the mid-seventies when the British planters left Cachar one after the other following a change in ownership of plantations.
Satindra Mohan Dev, the former Assam minister, took over the club from the Britishers.
His eldest son, Sontosh Mohan Dev, frequented the club in the seventies, long before he joined politics.
“This club is now under the supervision of my daughter, Tapati Ahuja, and I hope she will be able to upgrade it as the best of such recreation centres in the Northeast,” said Sontosh Mohan.
The new one will be equipped with an inn, a restaurant, parking space, a well-stocked bar and a multi-storey shopping mall.
Most important, it will be open to the proletariat — his pocket his only eligibility.