| Appu at the bar with the wall decorations behind him. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, March 20: Appu, the bartender, reminisced on the days when he was known as Ahoto Sema, as he watched the wall of the bar behind him at Gymkhana Club fill up once again with decorative pieces that were taken off about 15 years ago.
Ahoto was there at the Gymkhana in 1962, when the British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways) carted in the wall mountings, depicting monuments like the Taj Mahal, Tower of London and aeroplanes.
All these went missing when the club was renovated about 15 years ago, only to be restored in the past few days.
“These decorations at the bar were installed by the BOAC to advertise its products to lure British planters in those days. Since we are trying to maintain the heritage status of the Gymkhana by restoring all items that belonged to that era, these are very precious,” Hardeep Singh Matharu, a member of the club, said.
Nobody cared about restoring these unique metal pieces. But, the efforts of a few members and Appu ensured that these items were recovered from a club godown and restored to their rightful place.
Appu, who joined the club as the bartender in 1962, said the bar wall was decorated by the BOAC a few months after he joined.
“I still remember when a BOAC representative, Banerjee sir, came from Calcutta and took the initiative to install these pieces — aeroplanes and models depicting famous monuments like the Taj Mahal,” Appu said.
Going down memory lane, Appu said apart from the BOAC, representatives of Lufthansa, Air France and a few other airlines, who used to visit Jorhat Gymkhana Club frequently, would throw parties to woo expatriates to fly their airlines.
“Parties by these airlines were frequent and there were more before Christmas. BOAC used to contribute Rs 5,000 every year for the maintenance of the bar,” he said.
Ahoto, who over the years came to be called Appu, said the BOAC flew in the decorative pieces all the way from England and craftsmen from Calcutta had come over to install them on the wall.
Some of the pieces were damaged but they have been repaired and restored before being put up on the wall, Hardeep said. “What has been a part of the club’s heritage has been restored, we are happy.”
Constructed in 1876, Jorhat Gymkhana Club is replete with history and is a living testimony to the lavish lifestyle of tea planters during the British era.
A two-storied building, which is part of the club, was built 10 years later and it was the first double-storied building in undivided Sivasagar district.
The club hosts the annual horse races, which have been dubbed as the oldest sporting event in the region.
The Gymkhana golf course is the world’s third oldest after St Andrews in Scotland and the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
The first aeroplane ever to land in the Northeast did so at the Gymkhana grounds in 1928, when Bernard Leete, the owner-pilot of the plane, came to Jorhat at the request of A.C. Tunstel, then director of the Tocklai experimental station.
It was also at the club grounds that the first jeep was displayed after being brought to Assam in 1945.