UNION CLUB AND LIBRARY, RANCHI, JHARKHAND, INDIA.
Handcrafted with care out of some robust stock of ancient Mahogany that once grew sturdy and strong in the dense forests of India in the early years of the eighteenth century, a Victorian era billiard table takes center stage in the sports room of the Union Club in Ranchi, Jharkhand, India – itself a sprawling vestige of old architecture with origins that date back to the year 1864 when it was founded by a fledgling Bengali community taking up residence in this once lesser known province of British India, favoured for its cool climate and looked upon as a preferred hill station to escape the humidity of an Indian summer.
Produced by C. Lazarus and Sons, a renowned furniture company that flourished almost till the mid of the nineteenth century after its establishment in the city of Calcutta in 1820 by the English merchant B.W Lazarus – a time frame that gradually witnessed the rise of British power in the sub continent and marked the official end of four centuries of Mughal rule with the great Indian mutiny of 1857. The masterful woodwork is one among a few surviving artifacts of a bygone era now mostly found with rare antique dealers and much sought after for their eloquent craftsmanship as well as for their nostalgic connection to British India’s colonial history.
Like the majestic yesteryear table, the club continues to hold on to much of its old world charm with many of its delegate offices handed down from one generation to the other in what was become almost a tradition.
Remembers Mukherjee, who had first walked in as a young boy with his father, and now is a second generation member associated with the institution that celebrated its 152nd birthday in 2016 (in the photo on the left), the establishment had initially begun as a library then developed into a club for the Bengali residents in Ranchi to gather for the cultural ‘Adda’ – a very Bengali cultural time pass session for intellectual discourses. Later, its members had got together to organize the first Bengali festival of Durga Puja, found a Durga temple and a Bengali medium school, almost 150 years ago.
The current building, built in 1939, on land purchased by Mukherjee’s father, the headmaster of the Bengali medium school and a two times National award recipient, presently organizes cultural functions, provides ground for sports training and is an evening get together haunt for anyone inclined towards the Bengali culture, and a bit of Billiard on a historic table.