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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Curtain comes down on India Club at 143-145 Strand in London

It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the closure of the India Club, with our last day open to the public on September 17, says Yadgar Marker

Amit Roy London Published 20.08.23, 10:15 AM
The canteen at the India Club in London.

The canteen at the India Club in London. The Telegraph

The India Club, a London landmark with links to Krishna Menon, the India League and the fight for Indian Independence in the UK, is to close permanently.

Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza, who have held the lease on the premises at 143-145 The Strand, announced its demise as almost a death in the family: “It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the closure of the India Club, with our last day open to the public on September 17.”

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Phiroza said: “We have run the place for 26 years. I have been helping here since the age of 10. This is heartbreaking.”

Marston Properties, the freeholders who have waged a long and vengeful campaign to evict the India Club from the premises despite its historical, cultural and emotional attachment to Indians, have revealed in court documents that they intend to gut the place and put up a luxury hotel.

Author and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has been among those — Indian and English — who have supported Yadgar’s fight stretching over a decade to keep the India Club open.

Tharoor has spoken of his late father, Chandran Tharoor, whose photographs donated by his son, hang in the first-floor lobby of the India Club (the much patronised restaurant is on the second floor): “Dad came here as a student in 1928. Krishna Menon, who was the founder and head of the India League, was here at that time and then became India’s high commissioner after Independence.

“And so he took this young Malayali student under his wing. And my dad helped him: he (Krishna Menon) was really the moving spirit in creating a club where Indians would get together.”

Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza in front of a portrait of Krishna Menon at the India Club.

Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza in front of a portrait of Krishna Menon at the India Club. The Telegraph

He added: “I am sorry to hear that the India Club is to close permanently in September. As the son of one of its founders, I lament the passing of an institution that served so many Indians (and not only Indians) for three-quarters of a century. For many students, journalists and travellers, it was a home away from home, offering simple and good quality food at affordable prices as well as a convivial atmosphere to meet and maintain friendships. The loss of a beloved institution is always regrettable. I was there this summer with my sister and am sad to realise that that was my last visit.”

The historian Kusoom Vadgama, who frequented the India Club on first arriving in London from Kenya in 1953, said: “I went there in the search for Indian faces. Its passing is like a death sentence for the Indian community. It’s like a murder.”

The India Club, with old-style furniture, recalled a bygone world. Its canteen, with an affordable menu that includes masala dosa, bhuna lamb, chilli paneer and yellow dal, had a devoted following from the Indian High Commission, students from the London School of Economics and King’s College London, and the high court in The Strand.

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