Inferno wipes out iconic Secunderabad Club
Hyderabad: The 144-year-old iconic heritage structure, the Secunderabad Club, was reduced to ashes in a major fire mishap during the early hours of Sunday. The landmark building, which is now beyond recognition, was once a hangout for the Twin Cities’ who’s who.
It would be a futile exercise to assess the damage to the heritage property because each of the facilities and objects on the premises, which are destroyed, are priceless. The Club, with its main reception, portico, bar, restaurant, staircase, and furniture extensively used vintage wood. This was the major reason for it getting reduced to ashes within a short time. What is left is the granite stone structure, which is difficult to restore to its old glory. The roof of the club, supported by huge wooden beams and covered with Mangalorean tiles, presented an elegant look to the club amidst greenery. It is one of the five oldest clubs in India, the oldest being the Bengal Club of Calcutta.
Fortunately, there was no loss of life in the mishap. According to the fire services department, the fire in the ground plus two-storey building broke out around 3 am. Seven fire tenders rushed from various parts of the Twin Cities fought the fire for three hours to extinguish it and prevent it from spreading to other buildings on the premises. The Club has a membership of over 5,000, spanning members from all walks of life, including military officers, bureaucrats, diplomats, police officials, erstwhile-royalty, professionals, scientists, and businessmen.
The Club was established on April 26, 1878 and was originally known as the Secunderabad Public Rooms. It was renamed the Secunderabad Garrison Club, the Secunderabad Gymkhana Club, and the United Services Club. As time went by, the officers later changed the name to Secunderabad Club, since it was situated in Secunderabad. These name changes coincided with the presentation of the hunting lodge by Salar Jung I, who was the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State, to the Resident at that point of time. The club came to the current location in March 1903. On the condition of anonymity, a senior officer of the club said that the club was situated in a small run-down building. When the Resident desired to come to the Club, Salar Jung got word of it and offered his hunting lodge as a fitting building to house the Club where the Resident could spend his evenings. As per records, the rules of the Secunderabad Club mention that the Salar Jung lineal descendants will be made members of the Secunderabad Club without a ballot or admission fee, which is followed to this day.
The Club is situated in the Tokatta village, which was once Salar Jung’s Jagir. Until 1947, there were only British Presidents of the Club and a few high-ranking nobilities were offered membership. After that, when the Indian Armed Forces took over Hyderabad in September 1948, General Choudary, commander of the Indian Armed Forces, became the President for a few months. Immediately thereafter, the Club went into Indian hands and Mirza Najaf Alikhan, an ICS Officer, was elected as the President of the Club in 1948.
Until 1947, only British citizens could be President, and only a few members of the Hyderabad nobility were invited to join the Secunderabad Club.
A senior officer of the Club said the Club had some of the finest facilities, including the colonnade bar, which was the first bar in the city of that era, and food courts. The Club used to have Bolarum Golf Course and a Sailing Club as Annexes to the main building, which was nearly 22 acres in area. The Golf Club was eventually taken over by the army in 1983 after the expiry of the lease period. It also has a swimming pool and a well-maintained cricket ground. A library with a wide range of books attracts bookworms.
The main library consists of nearly 45,000 books, and the children’s library has over 11,634 books. “It is like a second home to me. I used to visit the club very frequently. The news of the fire shocked me, and also, I was told the blaze had destroyed the library, which had a huge collection of books. It is a tragic loss for all of us,” said T Chandrasekhar Shravan, a frequent visitor to the Club.