THE COCHIN CLUB’S main, long, single-storey building is a lovely example of British colonial architecture. The club, located near the sea in a large well-maintained garden was officially recorded as having been established in 1914, but might have been in existence before that.
Originally established as “The English Club”, its members were mainly the British elite of Kochi and European tea planters. Some individuals, high level Indians, might have also been welcome. The Club’s Presidents all had British surnames until at least 1969. However, there was one exception – Honourable Justice P Govindan Nair who was President 1963-64. After 1969, the Presidents had Indian surnames.
Today, the Club is a tranquil spot. Usually, there are more crows and egrets than humans in its compound. The Club has five spacious, bedrooms, which can be hired. Their occupants are almost the only people using the Club. There are plenty of staff members, but few people for them to serve.
The Club has a splendid bar with windows overlooking the sea in one direction and the garden in the other. But it is a bar with a difference. Instead of shelves being lined with bottles of booze, they are used to display cups and other prize trophies. And this might be a clue as to why the Club is so often so empty.
The Club does not have a liquor licence. Therefore, it cannot sell alcoholic drinks. The cost of buying an annual licence is so prohibitively high in Kerala that the Club might not be able to break even. The availability of alcohol is one of the factors that brings life to the exclusive clubs of India.
On special occasions such as Diwali and Christmas and Onam, the Club buys a costly 24 hour licence. The rest of the time, the Club is ‘dry’. However, food and soft drinks are available in the bar. The South Indian filter coffee served there is the best we have found in Fort Kochi (Fort Cochin).
Largely because liquor is not available and because there are few members (about 500), this charming Club has acquired a certain unintended (undesired?) tranquillity.