About Lotus Club

History is a long, emotional and personal journey to some.  But to many, it is only a statistics of dates and battles.  Accepting history is a vital point of being human, a type of elfin treasure that loses its value the moment it is brought out into the limelight.  Be that as it may, recorded history is a treasure house of information stored for posterity.  The history of our club is no different.

Most of us know that the club was founded on 15th of July, 1931.  In the words of Mrs. Gertrude Bristow, the founder president “it was to be a meeting place of persons of all ages, castes and creeds and of both sexes who confess that they find pleasure in each others company”.  We began with a membership of about a dozen persons, but this soon rose to forty one.  The main activities of the club were tennis, badminton and bridge.  Talks on various subjects were also periodically arranged.  The first club day was held on 9th of September 1932, in the presence of H.M. Maharaja of Cochin.  The first biennial report says “The club holds its origin to the Parvathi Saroj Samithi a social service league formed in the town sometime ago for doing humanitarian work.  It was at one of its meetings the suggestion was put forth by few and accepted by all present there, of starting a club where men, women and children alike of all communities would have the opportunity of meeting together and promoting good fellowship.  The development of a healthy social life and the rendering of selfless social service form two of the main objects of the club.  It’s gratifying to know that this novel experiment has, inspite of some adverse circumstances so far proved successful.

 Eventhough the above thought was simmering in the minds of many, two significant events accelerated this thought into action.  Sir Robert Bristow, who was a divorcee and who had married an ex nun had problem in Cochin.  In 1923, he met Gertrude Annie Kempton, daughter of Edward Thomas Kempton, a railway clerk and after a few meetings in the Government House Madras, they got married in 1925.  Mrs. Bristow was not exactly welcome in the British Cochin Society, the epicenter of which was the Cochin Club.
 
Between 1928 and 1930 a few educated and enlightened families of Cochin used to get together and have monthly tea parties in each other’s houses.  They were Mrs. and Mr. T.K. Krishna Menon, Mrs. and Mr. P. Padmanabha  Menon, Mrs. and Mr. P. Sankaran Nambiar, Mrs. and Mr. E.V. Mathew, Mrs. and Mr. C.J. Mathew, Mrs. and Mr. P.I. Korah, Mrs. and Mr. K.B Menon , Mrs. and Mr. Paulose, Mrs. and Mr. Chacko George, Mrs. and  Dr. Tharian Varghese.  The houses were becoming crowed and they met once or twice in the Women’s Association Hall which was also an industrial training school of Cochin.  These regular meetings gave a fright to Mrs. Velayudha  Menon (Ambadi Karthiyayani Amma, President, Women’s Association)Parvathi Saroj Samithi as the group was baptized were expelled from the premises.  By 1931, Mrs. Bristow took over the Presidentship of the club arrived at the name Lotus Club and thus was our club born.  Mr. P. Padmanabha Menon was the first Secretary of the Club, Mr. C.G. Herbert was the Diwan of Cochin and since the Bristows were very friendly with him, it was not difficult for the current premises to be allocated by the Cochin Government.
 
There was an old building in the compound which was uninhabitable.  Old timers say that this was once the residence of Mr. Kandar Menon, Chief Secretary to the Government.  By 1934 the members of the club felt the need for a proper building.  On 27th of December 1934, the general body resolved to raise Rs. 2000/- by issuing debentures towards the construction of a club House.  The Government of Cochin donated ninety candies of timber. The total cost of the building was Rs. 2100/-. The new club House was opened on Sunday 8th December 1935 by Sir R.K. Shanmugham Chetty, Diwan of Cochin.  Earlier a Memorandum of Association was drawn and the club was registered under the Literary, Charitable and Scientific Societies Registration Act of M.E. 1088.  The photograph of Mrs. and Mr. R.C. Bristow was unveiled by Smt. Lakshmikutty Neytharamma.  Consort of the Ilayaraja of Cochin on 1st of February, 1938.  Unfortunately, or more precisely due to lack of respect for history this photograph is missing.
 
The membership though exclusive was burgeoning and the desire for more facilities were on the increase.  An extension to the existing building was constructed in 1942 and billiards was started.  A sort of improvised bar also came into being in 1946.  Rummy became very popular and to accommodate the needs of the Rummy players, in 1970 a large hall was built to the north of the club house.
 
Around 1970, a large number of members felt the necessity to expand the club and provide adequate accommodation and facilities.  It was also felt that it was not advisable to extend the exciting facility.  It was decided to construct a new building on the extremity of the compound where the tennis court stood.  Foundation stone for the new building was laid on 13th of April 1971 and after completion of construction, the new building was inaugurated on 22nd of October 1972.  The old club house was demolished.  Shri R. Madhavan Nayar presided over the entire renovation as president during the three years.  The current building has 7000 square feet of floor space on each floor (three floors) and has adequate facilities for tennis, billiards, bridge, Rummy and shuttle.  The club also has a well stocked library.
 
Four years back a massive renovation was undertaken which was completed after a year’s work and today the club can boast of top class facilities for the members.  We celebrated the platinum jubilee in 2006 which saw the revival or tennis and billiards as important games for the members.  One more billiards table was added and annual tournaments in tennis, bridge and billiards is a regular feature over the last three years.  The tennis court was relaid with synthetic surfacing at a cost of Rs. 4,00,000/- and this year the club was able to conduct a ranking tournament which will impart national status to the participants.  The faded enthusiasm of yester years for tennis in the club which hosted exhibition matches with Wimbledon Champions, Budge Patty and Frank Sedgman has seen a revival in recent years.  May be, in the not too distant future, we will be able to witness exhibition matches with national and international players.
 
In its long journey though the corridors of the Ernakulam Society, the club also had the opportunity of receiving many important visitors.  Some of them are Sir T. Vijayaraghavacharya (1933), W. Somerset Maugham, Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India (1941), Raja of Pudukotta (1937) and The Maharaja of Mysore (1943).  The Viceroy also played tennis with some of our members.  The lady members as part of the War efforts produced many knitwear working in the club premises and donated it to the war fund.
 
All these and much more were achieved by the tireless and dedicated work of many of our members who sacrificed much to gain this.  The club today is a space which provides togetherness for its members and also the chemistry of fusion and freedom which deliver a million moments of shared happiness.
 
Source: Information gathered from conversation with Late Ex- Chief Justice M.S. Menon and Late Mrs. Anna Varghese one of the founder members.