London Diary: The amazing revival of India Club, founded by Nehru and Mountbatten

Founders of India Club included Jawaharlal Nehru and Mountbatten. It has again become a favourite haunt of young, mostly White, British professionals looking for curry and Indian beer

London Diary: The amazing revival of India Club, founded by Nehru and Mountbatten

Hasan Suroor

If you thought a crisis never did anyone any good, you probably missed the India Club story.

Last year, it was locked in a grim battle for survival against real estate sharks who wanted to pull it down to make way for luxury apartments. A year on, it is thriving; has never been in such good nick in recent years.

The media attention it received during last year’s existential crisis, when the entire British press came out to support the “Save the India Club” campaign, appears to have done wonders for its fortunes. “We have become very popular,” says the normally taciturn young barman cheerfully, struggling to cope with a full house.

A far cry from the not-too-distant a past when it was more often than not likely to be deserted. Bland food, indifferent service, dull ambience — there was little to recommend it. Those who went did so for nostalgic reasons. A visitor from India once told me, “I used to come here in the sixties. Nothing has changed.”

Others who kept it going was a small but loyal lingering base of Indophile Brits, Asian staff from the BBC World Service then located in Bush House across the road. After the BBC moved out of Bush House, there was a perceptible drop in customer numbers.

A file photo of the famous India Club in London.
A file photo of the famous India Club in London.

But all that seems to have changed in the past year. The club, whose founding members included Jawaharlal Nehru and Mountbatten, appears to have become a favourite hunting ground for the young—mostly white—professionals looking for curry and Indian beer on a lazy weekend.

On a recent visit, I noticed there was barely standing room in the bar, and if you wanted to eat you had to contend with a long waiting queue.

Who says a crisis doesn’t have a silver lining?

London Diary: The amazing revival of India Club, founded by Nehru and Mountbatten

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“No” to extramarital affairs

Yes, you read it right. Contrary to a common perception, Brits have become less —not more—tolerant of extramarital flings, the only area where British social attitudes have hardened, according to a study by King’s College London’s policy institute. Actually, there’s one more: politicians.

Researchers compared modern attitudes towards issues like drugs, abortion, gay relationships (and of course extra-marital affairs and politicians) with those 30 years ago. And they found a “dramatic” shift with people now far more socially liberal than they were in 1989.

More Brits are now accepting of gay relationships, divorce, and drug use than the previous generation. Back in, 1989, some 40 per cent of adults considered gay relationships morally wrong. Today, only 13 per cent do. As many as 82 per cent believe gay people should be treated equally.

The proportion of those who considered abortion wrong three decades ago has halved. Ditto in relation to divorce. However, extramarital affairs are now looked down upon by more people than before—55 per cent compared to 52 in the past.

Consent classes after #Metoo

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Heard of “consent classes”? They are the new big thing in British universities in the wake of #MeToo campaign and a reported increase in incidents of alleged sexual harassment of women on campuses.

The idea is to lay down ground rules for male students on how to engage with women in a civilised way. Such classes have been introduced in almost two thirds of universities amid growing pressure on them to do more to ensure safety of female students and staff. Ministers have called for a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual misconduct.

A BBC investigation found that reports of rape, sexual assault and harassment had trebled in the past three years. There have been cases of students being forced to move accommodation, or even leave a course because of fear of harassment while universities have been slow to act on complaints.

Although, some progress in addressing the issue has been reported. Universities UK (UUK), which represents vice-chancellors, said there was still “a long way to go in ending harassment and hate crime for good in higher education.”

Needless to say, women are watching

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The mythical voter.

At every British election, political parties identify a “typical” floating voter whose vote is up for grabs, and can swing their fortunes.

There was Tony Blair’s “Mondeo Man”, a centrist and aspirational middle class professional (the type likely to own a Mondeo Ford car), who used to be a Labour voter, switched to Tories, and can vote anyone this time.

Then there was the “Worcester Woman”— a working class woman in her 30s with two children who worries about quality of life issues and has little interest in politics.

Like the “Mondeo Man”, a swing voter more interested in policies than party loyalty. We also had the “Essex Man”, the “Holby City Woman”, and the “Motorway Man”—all sharing the same apolitical outlook and inclined to vote for anyone with “good” policies.

This time it is the “Workington Man”, who lives in Workington in the north-west of England; is over 45; didn't go to university; and thinks the country is going to hell. He is said to hold key to the Tories’ electoral prospects.

But will he oblige Boris Johnson?

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And, lastly, Marks & Spencer has introduced its own brand of halal meat products on popular demand.

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