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Minister Madan Mitra turned up in his usual kurta-pyjama-sneakers ensemble at the Calcutta Swimming Club on Friday afternoon and apologised for not following the dress code of the institution that had once turned away musician Ananda Shankar for the same offence.
The sports minister, at the club to inaugurate an inter-school swimming competition, hurried to the dais, offered an apology during a brief speech and left within “five minutes”.
“I told the club that I was sorry if I had crossed the limit or ignored the code of the club. If I was not dressed according to the rules of the club, it was unintentional,” Mitra told Metro on Friday night.
“I was wearing what I usually wear… kurta-pyjama and Nike shoes. (But) I know the custom, so I left. I had not seen the invitation card, which mentioned the national dress, before reaching the club. When I saw the invite, I thought it would not be proper to remain in the club in what I was wearing,” added Mitra.
The authorities of the Strand Road club, set up in the late 19th century, denied comment on the incident.
The general information page on the club’s website spells out the dress code: “Kurta with Pyjama or Trousers of any kind, Shirts with Dhoti are not permitted in the Club Premises. Except on Sunday/Holiday mornings shorts will not be allowed in the Bar No. 1. Shorts will not be allowed in the Bars or Lounge during Evening Hours. Strap sandals/Shoes are compulsory in the Bars for gentlemen.”
The rules and regulations page on the website further states that “members and guests” will be allowed inside if they are in “shirts which are properly buttoned”.
The treatment meted out to Madras High Court judge T. Hari Paranthaman at the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Club might have weighed on Mitra’s mind on Friday evening. The judge was the chief guest at an event in the Chennai club on July 11 but was not let in because he was in a dhoti.
On October 10, 1987, the Calcutta Swimming Club had denied entry to Ananda Shankar because he was wearing churidar-kurta.
A group of people had forced their way into the club two days after Shankar’s expulsion and jumped into the swimming pool to protest the incident.
M.F. Husain, Viv Richards, Rituparno Ghosh and Shuvaprasanna were among others barred entry into social clubs in Calcutta because of the way they were dressed.