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Friday, March 09, 2018

Chp 705. Aijal Club

This topic is about my brief experience at Aijal Club during my recent vacation back home.

First of all, I think it would be fair to say that Aijal Club is pretty much a "Gymkhana Club", a legacy left behind by the British Raj here in India. The word "Gymkhana" has an Anglo-Indian root, and Gymkhana Club (also known as Gentlemen's Club) once catered exclusively to British officers and their citizens residing here in India.

The first time I came across the name "Gymkhana" was back in Primary School when I was reading R.K. Narayan's "Malgudi Days". I always used to wonder what a Gymkhana was back then, since it was mentioned so many times in that collection of short stories.

And then around High School, my sister's friends took me to "Calcutta Club", one of the oldest Gymkhana Clubs here in India. Even though I was excited as hell to finally visit a Gymkhana, my first experience was a bitter one - I wasn't allowed entry into the place!!!! Reason being, I was wearing a round neck T-shirt. And so, we rushed to Park Street and my sister bought a collared shirt for me and we went back to the Club. Man, that felt so weird at that time.

But then, you get to understand why places like this have their own dress code and decorum. After all, it is an exclusive club, with a tinge of colonial hangover.

Aijal Club too is pretty much an exclusive club. There are conference halls and a restaurant that are open to the public, along with lodging and accommodation for the night. And then there is the Exclusive Club Member's area. Non-members have to be signed in as guests by the members.

The first time I went there this vacation, was on the night of "Local Beer" launch as I have mentioned in my previous post, when I went to pick up Francis and Marsh on the way. Both of them are members there so they quickly signed me in as a guest and I bought a couple of bottles for home as well, since alcohol was sold over the counter.

The second time I went there was a few days later with my sisters and bro-in-law when Marami and her husband Nick invited us as guests.

The food was good too, and more importantly, I was quite impressed at how cheap the alcohol was.

I mean, yeah, of course it is more expensive than buying it from a local Wine Shop, but for me, being from Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest tax rate on alcohol, where one small freaking 30ml Old Monk rum at a decent-enough pub or restobar costs anywhere from ₹ 250 to ₹ 500 (after taxes), yeah Aijal Club was sheer Heaven for me :)

The place was empty that night because there was a musical festival at Hmuifang, so apparently most of the club members had gone there. We had the whole place to ourselves.

This was where some of the regular guys played poker till the wee hours of the morning every night.

The pool tables were also covered up since nobody other than our group was there at the club that night.

We left the club after a couple of hours, having bought a lot of "stock" from their bar counter. We kinda looked satisfied from our time at Aijal Club that night :)

Now I have heard quite a lot of people ask why the place is not called "Aizawl Club". As we all know, Aijal was how the British wrongly used to call Aizawl back then, followed by the Indian army until it was formally corrected to Aizawl. Aijal Club was already set up in the early 1800's by the British expeditionary forces back then, and I guess the name stuck. It is the same reason why Calcutta Club has not been renamed to Kolkata Club, or Bombay Gymkhana to Mumbai Gymkhana. I guess it's a way of maintaining a legacy that once played a role in our society (do correct me if I'm wrong here).

The third time I went to Aijal Club was when my friends Joseph Mualchin and Esther Chhangte invited me and my cousin BTi for a drink. They assured me that there would be a lot more people at the club unlike the last time I was there. Esther's brother too came along as he's a good friend of my cousin.

And yes, true to their words, the club was almost packed that night. The first person I met immediately was my good friend Francis. Rumor has it that he sleeps somewhere in the hallway under the staircase because he is always present at the club every night, lolz.

I also met Cacy and her friends. Cacy is my friend Paul's little cousin. Back during those good 'ol Bangalore days, we would visit her at her NLS campus on the outskirts of the city and she would also sometimes come and stay over for the weekend at our frat house. Damn, she had grown up so much.

Frankly speaking, I wouldn't have recognized her had she not called out to me. The Cacy I remembered was this really shy and cute petite girl, who didn't speak much at all. But then I realized that was 15 years ago, and she had blossomed into this really attractive damsel, and very grown up too, as she's now in the MJS, the Mizoram Judicial Service, and will one day be a Judge at our District Courts, or even a Supreme Court Chief Justice of India! Wow!

And meeting Cacy's friends felt great as well because we clicked immediately. Hannah Khiangte, as most people know, is a renowned Fashion designer. Zodina is a Space designer. And I am a Game designer. The three of us had a lot of interesting things to talk about since we were all designers in our respective fields. Cacy wished right then that she too was actually a… Justice designer? :P

More surprises followed after that as I met the regulars of Aijal Club, who turned out to be mostly alumni from my Alma mater Montfort School, lolz! Many of my seniors, batchmates and juniors were there that night, hahaha. Small world indeed.

Some of us took photos together to celebrate our Montfortian bonding. With Piju, Sam and Marsh. Ahhh, ♫ ♬ Montfort boys shall aye be men! :)

My cousin BTi was also having a good time with Esther's brother Eoma. They do make a really cute couple by the way… But I dunno why he was always looking a bit surprised in all the photos, like as if he had just remembered he left the gas stove on at home or something :P :D :P (I said that purposely because I know BTi's gonna read my blog).

In the middle of all the fun and gaiety, I had to go downstairs to "Curry Pot" restaurant before it closed because I had to make two reservations. I had two reunion lunches to attend at Curry Pot the following day. One was my Montfort classmate reunion, and the other was our website reunion, both back-to-back! I sent a photo of the place where we were going to have our lunch the next day to my friends.

Once booked, I went back upstairs and rejoined the party. After a lot of laughter and catching up and stuff, we finally went home.

Esther took a photo of Joe and I leaving Aijal Club that night, lolz.

What to do, we are like that only :P

The next day I got ready and left for Aijal Club again. I went straight to Curry Pot restaurant on the second floor. Curry Pot is the official restaurant tied up with Aijal Club. Apparently, even when people conduct events at Aijal Club's Conference Hall or Reception Hall, they cannot bring in outside caterers and they have to use Curry Pot's service.

My Montfortian classmates were already there by the time I reached Curry Pot, Aijal Club.

It felt so good seeing all of them again. Byron, Tlawmlova, Stephen, Antony Paul, Paul and Azuala. My brothers in arms, my partners in crime. Oh the crazy shit we all used to do back in school. Kudos to Stephen for arranging this awesome reunion. And it was even more wonderful because Antony was in Mizoram to spend the vacation with his wife Becky.

We talked about so many things in that short span of time we got. Francis, our dearly departed classmate was terribly missed. Notea didn't turn up because, frankly speaking, he had been glued to his gaming system for the past decade now. Rempuia (or should I say Edward) wasn't home for the vacation. And Hminga (Mama) couldn't come either. He was definitely one not to miss out on such a reunion, but Christmas and New Year seasons were the busiest time of the year for him since he now owned a chain of restaurants in Aizawl, so that was understandable.

We took a group photo together before we parted ways.

After I bid farewell to my dear classmates, I went back to Curry Pot, as our group of friends had started arriving.

Sama and Mapuii.

Mapuii aka littlerascal had come home from Australia for the vacation and it was so nice of her to treat our reunion with such importance.

Phelly, my dear friend and super celebrity. Some call her the "snake lady" :)

Our table was finally filled up…

I went to the balcony for a quick smoke break with Mapuii and Phelly…

Phelly by the way is also a well renowned photographer in Mizoram. So I challenged her that I could take an artistic still of them which could be almost as good as the ones she takes. Well, here is what I clicked, I think it came out quite well, considering the lighting and background focus, what do you think? :)

Okay fiiiine, the pic I took above is amateurish as hell, lolz, but hey, I tried okay? :P

We went back inside and joined the others for the food - Chicken chow, spring rolls and other awesome snacks.

Good times spent indeed.

We took a couple of group photos before we dispersed.

With Sangteii, RJ at FM Zoawi.

Sangteii is truly a hilarious and fun person to talk to. She's… "funny" (see what I did there? misual.commers will get this insider joke :D )

Another group photo, this time with the femme fatales of The website may be quite dead now, but once upon a time, it was thriving and one of the most popular online communities for Mizos all across the world. Left to right we have the awesome women - Jenis, Phelly, Mapuii aka littlerascal, Teteii aka blackmagicwoman, Mapuii Ralte, Maisek and Sangteii.

On our way out from Curry Pot, Aijal Club…

Teteii aka blackmagicwoman (bmw in short) dropped me to our next destination that night. She too flew in all the way from Germany to spend the vacation at home, and it was so great catching up with her. It was also a bit funny watching her drive with her puan-bih :D

The fifth time I went to Aijal Club this vacation was right after our family picnic at DG Park, Falkland (which I'll blog about next). After we went home from our picnic, I was like kinda bored at home, and then Joe and Esther messaged me to come to Aijal Club, and so off I went, lolz.

I finally got to meet Major Sena in person too, whom Marami had talked about many times. My sisters had hung out with him a couple of times but sadly I was never at home when that happened.

That night, we had a great time watching the guys play poker. Some lost big, others lost bigly.

I asked them if I could take a photo of them playing poker for my blog post, to which most of them obliged. They quickly shifted seats so that the ones who didn't want their faces in the photo covered their heads with their hoodies and sat right below me, oh that was such a comical sight, lolz.

By the way, it was great meeting my friend John OPa, from the above pic. He too used to blog a long time back (blog nick: Tribal Superstar), but slowly gave up on it. His sister Ligia is also a dear blog-friend of mine, but unfortunately she too had stopped blogging years ago.

Currently, there are around 350 registered members at Aijal Club, plus a few more honorary members. Although it is easy to apply for membership, being accepted is the difficult part as each applicant go through a thorough background check and the executive committee then have a discussion about that person. Currently, the membership fee is ₹ 30,000 with an annual fee of ₹ 2000. Members have access to a wide range of amenities ranging from the Bar to Gym, Swimming pool, Card room, Pool room etc. The current Chief Secretary of Mizoram automatically becomes the Chairman of Aijal Club.

I would love to apply for a membership, considering the fact that I went there five times during my short vacation, lolz.

Oh scratch that. Six times, not five. The sixth time I went to Aijal Club was on the last night of my vacation. I made sure I packed my luggage since I wasn't going to be up early the next day, and then I went there with my sisters and bro-in-law. It was like a farewell party to me.

Everybody came to see me off, from Marami and her group to the usual regulars of Aijal Club. The Club receptionist even let me in without asking to be signed in since I had become such a regular there, lolz. That night was super fun.

Even when it was time for the bar to close, we moved to the card room and continued our merrymaking there. Thinking back about that night, it was a miracle I managed to get up the next day to catch my early morning flight!

Sitting in a long row at the card room. A group selfie from one end…

…to the other end.

I played pool with Nick too, kicking his ass :)

Another thing I love about the crowd at Aijal Club was that, smoking and drinking were prohibited inside the pool room, and even though there were no supervisors or management around at that time of the night, everybody followed the rule strictly.

And this was our last group pic at Aijal Club before we all headed home. So much thanx to Joe and Esther for their hospitality throughout my vacation.

A few days later after I had gone back to Pune, Esther sent me the following message:

Lolz. That kinda summed up what I did at the club. :D

But yeah, all jokes aside, club members are no longer allowed to buy alcohol bottles over the counter now. Sad… But still, it is one of the best places to hangout during the night. I'm definitely looking forward to spending some more time there on my next vacation. So until then, keep living the life, peeps. Cheers!

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