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Farewell to History: The Closure of The India Club in London – A Heartfelt Goodbye to a Cultural Icon

In a poignant turn of events, The India Club in London, an emblem of India’s struggle for independence and a cherished haven for generations, is set to close its doors next month. This historic establishment, rooted in the Indian independence movement and cherished as a meeting ground for nationalists, has lost its prolonged battle against closure. The news, unveiled on Monday, sent waves of nostalgia and regret across London’s cultural landscape.

This venerable venue, known not only for its rich history but also for its sumptuous offerings, managed to thwart a demolition threat a few years ago, a testament to its deep-seated significance. However, its fortunes have taken a somber twist as it has been served a notice by landlords, compelling it to make way for a more contemporary hotel.

The custodians of The India Club, Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza, rallied to keep its legacy alive with a fervent “Save India Club” campaign. Yet, their spirited efforts have conceded to the inevitable, leading them to announce the impending closure with a heavy heart. “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,” they lamented.

The roots of The India Club trace back to the India League, a stalwart advocate for Indian independence in Britain, counting among its founding members Krishna Menon, who would later rise to become the inaugural Indian High Commissioner to the UK. Beyond its political origins, The India Club swiftly morphed into a nucleus for the burgeoning British South Asian community in the wake of Indian independence and Partition.

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For over seven decades, The India Club has stood as a haven for the first-generation immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, providing solace and camaraderie. Phiroza, who has stood by her father’s side at the Club since her childhood, fondly recalls its role in nurturing connections and fostering dialogues. It was envisioned by Menon as a place where modestly-budgeted young Indian professionals could share meals, debate politics, and chart their destinies.

The significance of The India Club extends far beyond its culinary offerings. Parvathi Raman, Founding Chair of the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), emphasizes its stature as a cultural cornerstone in her work on the exhibition ‘A Home Away from Away: The India Club’ in 2019. This showcase, curated by the UK’s esteemed conservation charity National Trust, underscored the club’s role in nurturing connections.

Nestled on the first floor of the Strand Continental Hotel, The India Club has been a culinary and cultural landmark since 1946, overlooking the Indian High Commission. Its existence was once threatened by a “partial demolition” proposal in pursuit of a new hotel. However, the Westminster City Council unanimously rejected this bid in August 2018, acknowledging the establishment’s unparalleled cultural value.

The announcement of The India Club’s closure has resonated deeply, echoing through the corridors of memory. Senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, whose journalist father Chandran Tharoor was instrumental in its foundation, took to social media to express his lament. His sentiments were echoed by countless individuals who shared stories of its impact on their lives – a sanctuary, a convivial space, and a slice of cherished British Indian history.

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