….. So the tuk tuk turned out of the nightmare traffic into an unexpectedly quiet narrow avenue, past six separate security posts, four manned by private security officers and two by the Chennai police, and into the tranquil haven that is the Madras Club of Chennai, ‘founded in 1832 and the second oldest club in India after the Bengal club of Calcutta’ as it proudly states in the booklet we were handed on our arrival. We feel like interlopers and it only by chance that we are here. The B&B that we had originally tried to book was full but the owner suggested that as a member of the club he could sign us in as his guests. At £40 a night it’s an extravagance by India standards but an opportunity to get a taste of life in the Raj was too good to be missed. It seems a long way from the cocohut on Palolem Beach.
This is a well regulated establishment and, anxious not to infringe social protocols, we have spent some time studying the arcane set of rules that constitute the dress code here. Not only do they differ in different parts of the grounds and buildings but they change at different times of the day. There is a detailed Standard Dress Code – ‘Ladies to be decorously attired at all times’ – and a table of ‘Acceptable deviations from the Standard Dress Code (applicable to specified areas)’ as well as a list of areas where ‘dependants’ – and we think this means wives – are not permitted.
But it is a beautiful place. The gardeners busy themselves quietly tending the spacious flower-filled grounds; green parakeets swoop overhead. We have had the pool – ‘the best in Chennai’ – to ourselves. Breakfast was served on the ‘East veranda’ over-looking the lawns which run down to the Adyar River where, in the evening, the rowers from the nearby Madras Boat Club skull up and down.
This morning we set out back into the traffic to visit temples, markets, basilicas and, of course, the famous Marina Beach, all fascinating, but it was a relief to return to the serenity of the Madras Club.
Minor inconvenience. Just when I was feeling smug about a kindle replacing a rucksack full of books and the opportunity to buy and download new titles on the road, the machine has given up the ghost.