Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bombay Gymkhana and its `servants'.

I am a member of the hallowed Bombay Gymkhana Limited. The website grandly states, and, I happily quote that the Bombay Gymkhana is “Located on a prime site on Azad Maidan in South Mumbai and offering the finest sporting facilities to its members, the Bombay Gymkhana has had as fascinating a history as that of the city of its birth.

When the Bombay Gymkhana was established membership was open to only Europeans. And there was good reason for this. As the website explains “Until the restructuring of the Fort area in the 1860s after the demolition of the ramparts, the foreshore beaches and maidans of the city, such as the Bombay Green and the Esplanade formed the core of Bombay's social and sporting life. The maidans were popular venues for a variety of sports and especially cricket. The British had their Hunt and gymkhanas, swimming, yachting and racing clubs but had no formal club-houses.” It was obviously felt that in addition the Europeans needed club houses. Aaah what a life!

Times have changed after that. Today Indians are allowed membership at the Bombay Gymkhana. Not only that, today, many Indians are European citizens, we call them NRI’s.

Actually it is quite a nice place and is quite a nice Club. I often swim there and on occasion have one or two, too many beers. Like all good Clubs, the Bombay Gymkhana is full of intrigue, nepotism, allegations of corruption, ulterior motives, political machinations et al, that keep many people busy, occupied, and, at times, give them a lot to talk about when at the bar, especially 2 pegs down.

A few days ago, after a swim, I looked at the Notice Board by the pool and this caught my eye. I did not have my camera, anyway cameras are banned in the Club premises, so I whipped out my mobile phone which has a camera and took this photo. I apologise for its quality. I hope you have realised, once again, how we in India are basically power-mad nut cases. Cameras are banned but phones with cameras are all right.

“No member or guest shall give to any servant of the Gymkhana any sum of money or gratuity on any pretext whatever, and any servant found to have received such money or gratuity shall forthwith be discharged.”

In today’s context, how utterly impolite and politically incorrect. `Servant’!!! My gosh!

What is fascinating is how really anachronistic, unreal, incorrect and legally unenforceable this direction/Diktat  is. The `servants’ referred to are actually employees of the Gymkhana. I can only hope the Managing Committee does not regard contractual employees who work at the Gymkhana as their `servants'. To clarify, external security staff, contracted catering staff and so on. The `servants’ are waiters, accountants, clerks, cooks and another delightful term `Hamals’ which means a porter or a dogsbody. All these `servants’ are members of a Trade Union and are obviously not only regulated by the myriad employee protection laws but the `servants’ are most aware of their rights.

So, if you are in the bar, as is my wont, and you get some attention from the bartender, sorry, `servant’, and you give them a tip for their efforts, they get the sack. If your wife is at the Gymkhana enjoying a Meetha Bhel with her girlfriends while she waits for your son to finish his game of squash and she tips the waiter, well, tough shit, waiter is sacked. How utterly delightful. How wonderfully unfair. You give a tip and he gets sacked.

Folks, this state of affairs as I have explained, is not a laughing matter or something that is being written by me because I feel there is great injustice towards the `servants’. Frankly, this state of affairs simply shows how many people live in `La La’ land blissfully unaware of any reality. To explain the position with a small bit of legalese, the Bombay Gymkhana is constituted as a not for profit private limited company. Therefore it has what are known as Articles of Association which are basically a set of rules and these form a contract between the Gymkhana an the members. The `servants’ are not regulated by the Articles. The `servants’ have their own service contracts. So, if `servants’ are not bound by the Articles of Association, how in God’s name will the Managing Committee discharge a `servant’ if he accepts gratuity is something I do not know. I would like to see how the Managing Committee get the Courts to uphold this.

But such legal niceties are not something the Gymkhana would like to look at. Besides that, is it a crime to tip someone? I certainly do not think it is. Obviously the Managing Committee thinks it is far better to live in La La land, invoke unenforceable rules and simply invite trouble on themselves if they do try and dismiss a `servant’. Mind you, there is a large part of the Gymkhana's staff that are not the Gymkhana's `servants'. They are employed by external contractors. Sacking them should be as simple as A B C for the Managing Committee I presume. 

See what I mean by nut cases? 


  1. Tipping is very much on. To the extent that the waiters get a little put off or rude if your tip is not up to the mark...! the language used here is crazy but the club should consider adding a standard charge on their bills rather than have the members judged by the staff on their generosity (or the lack of it).

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