British and Pakistani Periods - by Mahbub A. Anwar
The History of the Chittagong Club Ltd. may be traced from the year 1875 when Mr. W. A. Campbell a well-known Tea Planter of that period started a club in that year. It was placed at the disposal of only the Tea Planters of the District but they had to make their own arrangement both for servant and food during their stay.
During 1870s the Tea Industries stated to grow at a rapid pace, the Chittagong Hill Tracts were opened, the Steamer Services were improved, large four-masted sailing Vessels began to call at Chittagong Port and more officials were posted in the District.
As a result Campbell’s provisional club became too small to provide facilities for a large influx of officials. Discussion began to start a club having adequate accommodation and facilities for increased number of European residents and on 23rd August 1878 Campbell’s Provisional Club was taken over by the Chittagong Club which opened its doors to all European residents of the District in the building situated on the Hill near the Telegraph Office, known as Forest Bungalow.
To improve the services and accommodation new residential quarters were provided, a Badminton Court was built, a Billiard table (Englishman’s favourite pastime) was procured and everything was done to bring the club up-to-date as far as its limited resources allowed. The first Hony Secretary was R. D. Murray. But the club really attained some importance when D. R. Lyall CSI the Commissioner of Chittagong became the Chairman of the Committee. He called the first meeting of the volunteers in the Club premises on 3rd March 1885 to discuss ways and means of starting a Race meet and the first Meet was held I April of that year at the Chittagong Stadium.
In the early 1890s work began on the Railway with the result that there was a large influx of Europeans; houses sprang up on all hilltops and general tempo of life at Chittagong increased. The Club became too small for its large number of members and their guests.
In order to overcome this difficulty a new Club house was erected at the present site which was known as Pioneer Hill and was originally the site of a Tea Garden planted in 1840. The land belonged to a big landlord of the time Rai Nityananda Rai Bahadur who very kindly gave the land to the club at a nominal rental.
The club at this premises was opened on the 27th March 1901 and in 1908 it was registered as a company and as per Article 1 the membership was restricted to only 100 members but the Committee was authorized to alter this number as and when required. There was no Ballotting Committee and proposal for permanent Membership was decided at an extraordinary general meeting where every member could vote for or against a candidate and any two members of the club could Black Ball.
After the registration of the club under the companies Act the administration was put on proper footing, membership increased, new rooms were added to the original halls, a Billiard room was built, books were collected for a library and the club continued to provide facilities and amenities to its members and visitors to Chittagong.
An exciting event, which failed to materialize, was the decision of the Armoury Raid group to blow up the club in 1930. According to a member of the group, fuses and detonators were placed quietly all over the hill and a time was fixed to ignite them so that this symbol of British Raj could be brought down with its foreign inhabitants. However it was Easter time and the members had gone to Calcutta or Cox’s Bazar for vacation. The revolutionaries gave up the idea and spared the place when they found that the only inhabitants at the time were a few sleepy abdars and mosallchis. During the Second World War the club acted as host to many an officer of the Armed Forces passing through Chittagong before or after the Burmah Campaigns and several stories of club hospitality and friendly atmosphere are on record.
Partition in 1947:
The partition and subsequent independence of this sub-continent in the year 1947 brought fresh opportunities as well as challenges to the club. The club authorities during these periods made good use of the former and adequately met the latter.
The Committee of the club at the time of partition consisted entirely of expatriates. The first non-expatriate who is known to have joined it was renowned for his jokes. Even long after his departure from Chittagong his jokes and repartees are fondly remembered by those members who had the privilege of hearing it from him.
There is a nice story about A.B.Z. Hasan. It appears that in one of the A.G.M. when the club accounts were being discussed he also drew the attention of the chair that he would like to speak about some points in the accounts. On being permitted he rose and started cutting some jokes. In his 30 minutes speech the entire house burst into a roar of laughter hearing his jokes and repartees. Ultimately he sat down without raising any points about the accounts. The first Pakistani to be elected as Chairman of the club committee was Mr. N.M. Khan, the then Commissioner of Chittagong Division. During his regime many Articles of the club and bye-laws were amended in keeping with the spirit of the time. An elected Ballotting Committee came into existence so that new members could be admitted by the chosen representatives.
When considering the services rendered by some well-known past Chairman, mention must be made about the remarkable and outstanding services rendered by Mr. M. Shabbir Ahmed who was Chairman of the Club committee for 15 terms from 1953-54 to 1954-55, 1956-57, to 1958-59, and from 1961-62, to 1970-71. During his long association with the club first as Joint Honorary Secretary with C.W. Tassie and then as Chairman of the Committee many of the new constructions and renovation of the club including the construction of Swimming Pool were completed. His great services to the club will always be remembered with gratitude by the members who have seen the development of the Club.
The Hony., Secretaries of the early years who have left permanent mark on the state of the club were Ted Boase, Bill Cookes (both of Lloyds Bank) and Colin Tassie continued to look after the interest of the club for a long time. During this period the club building was rehabilitated and signs of neglect of years immediately preceding independence of the sub-continent were removed. Cottages for living accommodation were built with the financial assistance of various companies, cubicles to accommodate members and their guests who were flocking to this boom town were constructed in the area which now comprises Card Room and Cinema Hall. Three new Tennis courts were laid at the present site and a plan for remodeling the club building and constructing a Swimming Pool were made and put up before the members but these plans were not put into effect as there was a dispute regarding the ownership of the land on which the club is situated.
The controversy regarding the ownership of land of club as well as other adjacent area cropped up soon after partition both the Provincial Govt. and the Military claiming the ownership of the entire area from Almas Cinema to Christ Church. Ultimately Military got the ownership of the entire area and by Martial Law order No.41 dated 2nd January 1959 resumed the control of the entire area measuring about 280.484 acres. The club authorities were than asked to apply for lease from the Military estate Officer but the premium demanded was Rs. 5.68 lacs which the club with its limited resources could hardly afford to pay. However through the persistent effort of Tassie and Shabbir Ahmed and the reasonable attitude taken by the Military Authorities, the premium was reduced to a nominal amount of Rs. 100/- which was promptly paid. A lease for 99 years was executed by a registered deed on 26th July 1961.
As soon as the proper title was established proposals for renovation of the club building and construction of Swimming Pool was revived. A comprehensive scheme was put up before an extra-ordinary general meeting of the Members held on 23rd October 1962 and approved amongst enthusiasm and pleasant anticipation.
Now the club can boast of an Olympic sized Swimming Pool situated in a picturesque surroundings with a filtration plant running 24 hours, a bar and other conveniences. The Cinema Auditorium of the club which can seat 300 persons is the best hall in the town. The new dining room, the renovated Billiard Room and the new lounge have greatly improved the look and added to the joys of visiting the club. These additions and improvements together with other facilities available such as Tennis, Squash, Library, Cinema, Housie, Card-room, Cricket Section provide larger number of amenities for the members than any other club does in the country.
With the growth of membership, the renovations and improvements in the building and the additional facilities made available, the real character of the club has not been allowed to change. The club life and its atmosphere have continued to be friendly, cordial and relaxed. The membership which is truly cosmopolitan mixes well and without any stress. The club has retained its reputation as the foremost institution of its kind in the country. It has become a family club where not only the members but their families also could enjoy its amenities. The present Management has conceived a plan for the construction of a Residential Hostel for members and their guest since the available accommodations has become inadequate due to increase in the number of members. It is intended to call an extra-ordinary general meeting of the members very soon where the plan and estimate would be put up for approval and hope that the foundation of the accommodation would be laid during the centenary celebrations of the club.
The club has also been lucky in having devoted and faithful members of the staff. There are several cases like that of Nasir Bearer who was employed at the age of 16 and retired at the age of 68. Our previous cashier Babu Durga Prasanna Chakraborty joined the club in 1929 and retired in 1975.
History of Chittagong Club (Part-2)
Bangladesh – December 1971 and after by Murad Ali Kader (Robert)
The club has suffered heavily during the war for the realization of Bangladesh. At the end of March 1971 when the Pakistani armed Forces re-captured Chittagong town, the club attracted the attention of the Pakistani soldiers and looters. Cottage No. 1 was badly damaged by shell and rifle shots still scar the beautiful glass on the front verandah. Property, stock and cash were looted and according to an official estimate the club suffered a loss of Tk. 1,38,000/- . Even some of the staffs were not spared from the wrath of Pakistani Soldiers like the case of Sq. Ldr. (Retd.) Afazur Rahman then Secretary of the club who was compelled to leave the bar and in fact chased away from the bar at the bayonet point by a Pakistani Major. Most of the members before liberation were Pakistani and had left our country leaving an outstanding amount of over 1 Lac taka. The damage to property has been restored as far as possible within the very limited means of the club but the financial loss suffered due to looting and outstanding bills will remain a problem for the Management of the club.
The late Mr. O. R. Nizam who died in May 1970 was the first Bangladeshi to be elected as the Chairman of the club in 1960-61. in 1970-71 it was observed that it terms of membership in the club 80% were West Pakistanis and expatriates and 20% Bangalees, whereas in the governing body five were West Pakistanis and Europeans and four belonged to the then eastern wing.
Shabbir Ahmed, a long-standing President of the club saw the signs on the wall and he felt that the Bengali triumvirate consisting of Feroze Kabeer – Mahbub A. Anwar- A. O. R. Ahmed – all senior and experienced members will have to take over the management of one of the sub-continent’s oldest and reputed club.
1971 saw the club in a complete disarray. The club was almost leaderless after the March crackdown. Stores, provisions, cash and other items were looted, membership drastically reduced as most Pakistanis departed while leaving their area unpaid. A west Pakistani who was Manager of Coca Cola in Chittagong took over as Hon. Secretary and started to attend to the day to day affairs of the club. In April 1971 one of the Committee Members, G.A Kazi who was Deputy Conservator of the Chittagong Port Trust was liquidated by the occupation army. Kazi was an out-spoken person and while in the committee a number of times, he proved to be a thorn in the flesh of certain quarters both within and outside the club. The attendance in the club between March and Dec. ’71 was thin. Besides the Bar, two other sections namely Housie and Cinema were functioning on quite a regular basis. The latter was showing old Urdu and English and occasionally Bengali movies.
Came 16th of Dec. ’71 and we thus entered into a new era. Despite limited financial and material resources, the Club Authority under the Acting Chairmanship of Feroze Kabeer hosted a grand reception for the Joint-Allied Command forces on the 18 Dec. ’71. it had a festive air with club Members, Army Officers, local politicians and other invited guests joining the ceremony and welcoming the realization of a new nation. Despite odds and handicaps facing the club, the AGM of 1971-72 was held in the third week of Dec. ’71. Ten candidates contested for eight committee seats. Those were years when the Chairman post normally use to go uncontested as it was considered that the Number One in the Club should be of unanimous choice and devoid of partisan considerations. That the Chairman should also enjoy a two-year tenure so that he can do justice to his responsibilities. Besides, a Chairman and eight committee members there was also a provision to co-opt two prominent members in the committee but only for balloting purpose. Years late this provision was deleted form the constitution.
Be that as it may, Feroze Kabeer became the first Chairman of the club in independent Bangladesh and Mahbub A. Anwar was chosen as the Vice-Chairman. Due to paucity of funds and prohibition being introduced (it was later lifted by the govt. and a special quota was granted to some leading hotels and clubs in the country), the club cluld not generate enough monetary resources to attend to repair works as well as to provide sufficient amenities to its members. For decades the BAR use to be the mainstay of income and it also use to subsidize a few other sections of the Club.
Thus in 1973, joined A Chowdhury alongwith other signatories made a petition pinpointing the Management’s shortcomings and drawbacks and demanding overall improvement in the running of the Club. Feroze Kabeer considered the petition as a sort of a no-confidence motion but the members on the whole gave their support to his continuing leadership and appreciated the difficulties confronting the club. In our financial distress, companies like James finlay, National Tea brokers and Elite Paints use to grant us temporary loans to overcome our difficulties. But it must be said that in those days the committees use to maintain the financial resources judiciously. The club at an extra-ordinary general meeting sought financial assistance from members by issuing debenture certificates to the tune of Tk. 1000/- only per member and it was approved without hesitation by the general members. Thus we were able to pay off pre-independence debts to Shaw Wallace and Phipsons who used to supply us with hard liquor in Pakistan days also enabled us to improve club facilities.
The early years of independence also witnessed frequent cases of hijacking and other anti-social activities which discouraged the ladies to come to the club, particularly in the evenings. On a number of occasions, unruly elements tried to enter the club mainly through the Swimming Pool but it goes to the credit of our members and staff that they resisted them and did not call for police help. To attract their attendance, Niranja Dey Betty and others were prevailed upon to revive Club’s Housie coffer it sought private donations. With a meager sum of Tk. 1000/- everybody’s surprise, the response from the members, to say the least was very positive. The ladies came first in small numbers and later it increased and within two years of its revival, housie was offering a few major prizes-one a return ticket to Bangkok, which Soon a fashion show followed and the participation was beyond everybody’s expectations. Then Sunday mornings had movies being exhibited on a regular basis and this attracted children also to come to the club along with their parents. Such attendance lead to holding film festivals mainly Indian, Soviet and Bulgarian – the latter having produced some brilliant movies for children.
Meanwhile, Bengali executives stranded in Pakistan stared returning home and they naturally revived their membership of the Club. The club became the hub of many social activities like private parties, regular weekly Rotary Meetings and luncheons and dinners hosted by members for visiting foreign businessmen and delegations like OISCA etc. After Feroze Kabeer’s tenure, came Mahbub A. Anwar, then A.O.R. Ahmed and for the committeeship, a good number of talented and qualified members offered themselves as candidates. The club began to settle down by overcoming many storms and challenge and by 1974-75, the state of affairs had vastly improved. A full-fledged Secretary was appointed whereas after liberation, a staff member had to be promoted as Asstt. Secretary to handle the office work.
The club could take pride in having restored the ambience of a family club and traditions and conventions were being discussed and debated over. A first break with convention came when Juned A. Chowdhury, doubtlessly a man of tremendous talent and ability, prepared a resolution alongwith many other members demanding that results of election to the post of Chairman and Committee be announced according to the exact number of votes obtained by each candidate. Prior to that the election enumerators and conducting officials only use to announce the names of successful candidates but did not disclose the number of votes received. This was being done to maintain good teamwork and team spirit and to discourage contestants from canvassing and campaigning. Juned however won the day as the majority of the members attending the 1975-76 AGM supported his proposal and we saw a disappointed and angry Johnny Radford of Finlay’s who was to conduct the election walk away in protest. As luck would have it, Juned also emerged as the highest vote-getter with 124, followed by Bill Sutherland, Barrister Ali Akbar Chowdhury, M.G. Pir, Serajuddin Ahmed, Murad Ali Kader (Robert), Mahbub A. Anwar and Rasul Nizam in order.
Mentionable, in those days the choice of a Vice-Chairman was invariably based on seniority, experience and foresightedness. Acceptance invariably was by unanimity and hardly by a majority vote. When personal tussles and ego hassles started brewing up among members over the Vice-Chairman post, it was found that on 6 to 7 occasions since independence, the post of the V-C has remained vacant. At one time it was decided that the candidate who secures the highest number of votes should serve as the V-C. Later this criterion was also not followed. Whatever the merit of a candidate, the post of a V-C should not be left unfulfilled. It is the general interest of the club that a Chairman should have a deputy who will discharged the administrative and management affairs of the Club in his absence and no sort of vacuum should exist which will effect the smooth functioning of the institution.
In those days it was also an accepted principle that those who aspire to steer the ship of the club as skipper should graduate form the committee i. e. by first becoming a general committee member provides him with good and sufficient training and experience for the apex post in the club.
However, in 1978-79, Dr. A. Y. M. Yusuf an eminent physician decided to contest against the establishment’s candidate, S.M.A. Taher, The latter served in the committee a number of times since Pakistan days and also rendered his services as Hony. Secretary after liberation. Through the staunch backing of the traditionalists and conventionalists, Mr. Taher emerged victorious through nobody had any reservations about the professional qualifications and ability of the doctor. The year 1979 also serves as a landmark in the Club’s history. Form whatever clue we could gather form tour records and archives, it was decided that Chittagong Club Limited has completed 100 years of its existence and hence it be declared as a centenary year.
The eighties saw the emergence of Ataur Rahman Khan (Kaiser), A.A. Raziul Karim Chowdhury (Bachu), Abdur Rahim Chowdhury (Jahangir) and Sekander Hossain Meah, with the exception of her of the latter, becoming Chairman without having a stint in the general committee. Whereas Kaiser was unopposed, the others mentioned had to contest with rivals having considerable strength and support. In spite of it, the newcomers won thus proving their organizational skill and popular support. Thus a precedent was set and a new dimension given to those who wish to become Chairman at the very first go and without going through the school of committeeship.
However, it goes to the credit of A. A. Raziul Karim Chowdhury (Bachu) for having introduced an Election Committee to conduct orderly elections in the Club. Juned A. Chowdhury on request, became the first Election Convenor and he framed the rules and procedure which we are following today. Paradoxically, the Electional Committee till today has no statutory status in the club’s functions and powers are incorporated in the Articles of Association.
Abdur Rahim Chowdhury can be described as a forward-looking Chairman. He did a lot to modernize the club. The eighties, however, saw a big influx of new comers and the wane and wax of the old-timers was becoming evident. The end of the Nineties saw the same and now the club members number about 1300. Abdur Rahim Chowdhury was succeeded by the Chairman like Abul Ahsan
Khan, Badrur Rahim Chowdhury, M. A. Matin Meah, A.Q.I. Chowdhury, Abdul Malek, Mirza Mohammad Babar, Tariqul Islam Khan, Dr. Moinul Islam Mahmud and now Engr. Ali Ahmed.
All of them tried to do their bit for the club but Mr. Malek did a good job by renovating and extending the auditorium which can accommodate a large number of people.
Under the Chairmanship of Mr. Tariqul Islam Khan an important amendment was made in the Articles of Association which paved the way for a permanent member with 25 years tenureship (or more) to transfer/ surrender his Membership to a new applicant subject to the approval of the General Committee. This measure has benefitted quite a number of senior members.
The most welcome development is the removal of misgiving centering around the Lease Agreement signed in 1961 between the Club and Military Estate Office. This has opened the floodgates to renovate, improvise and modernize the club building as well as its ancillary units.
Since the year 2000 A. D. under the Chairmanship of Dr. Moinul Islam Mahmud the club has achieved good progress and advancement in the field of development. The long- felt need for a modern Guest House Complex has been fulfilled. The Late Chairman Mr. S.M.A. Taher and his Colleagues in the Committee initiated the idea in the centenary year 1978-1979.
Other additions are a Bakery- cum- Confectionery section catering to the needs of the club members. The new look given to the Swimming Pool by installing a medico heating system has made the section usable all through the year. The Ladies & Gents Health Clubs have been upgraded and have three saunas. The Squash Court has been fully air conditioned. A Ladies Beauty Parlour, a Laundry and a Gents Hairdressing Salon is in service to serve the members of the clubs and their families, and a new facelift has been given to the club entrance point. A Badminton Court was built within the Tennis Complex and an Annual Friendship Tournament between the Club feature fostering goodwill and friendship through sporting events.
A master plan has been drawn up which will revolutionize the entire outlook of the club, simultaneously keeping in mind the concept of combing legacy and tradition with modernity. A model of the plan has been placed in the glasscase for members observation at the TV Lounge.
After a four year tenure Dr. Moinul Islam Mahmud was replaced by Engr. Ali Ahmed as the Chairman of the Club.
Engr. Ali Ahmed was elected Chairman for two successive years. During his tenure, he and his colleagues attempted at consistently sustaining the reforms and development of the Club, particularly the Cold Storage, extended Car Park, Walk –ways, massive Kitchen modernization, Reverse Osmosis Pure Drinking Water Plant, Laundry, Gents Salon, massive Landscaping and beautification. In addition, he also co-sponsored the installation of the Satellite Tower Clock. The most outstanding achievement however, is the IT Reforms in the club an initiative that launched on-line billing of consumptions, IT based Accounts, Guest House reservation, HR management etc. High- Tech was employed at the swimming pool access by finger print. Employee attendance too, went high-tech with finger print replacing the traditional punch card. He also initiated some administrative measures, which proved helpful in the performance of sectional activities. The main highlight during his tenure was the laying down of the foundation stone and the construction of the much-desired Club’s Administrative Office Building and Ebadat Khana. Clubs Articles were amended at an Extra- Ordinary General Meeting on the 17th August and also at a Requisitioned EGM held on the 11 November 2006, where several important amendments were adopted. The year 2006 also witnessed the retirement of the longest serving staff member- Mr. Ashutosh Chakraborty (popularly known as Sadan Babu) who chipped in 49 years of valuable service in different capacities.
Following a two year active tenure of Engr. Ali Ahmed, Mr. Quasem Chowdhury was elected as new Chairman of the Club for the period 2006-2007 and once again in 2007-2008.
During his tenure, Mr. Quasem Chowdhury, completed the 4 storied New Office Block which was started by his predecessor. The building houses the Club secretariat, Library, Tennis and Ebadat Khana and there also remain a provision of about 2500 sq. ft. for a Departmental Store, in future.
‘Operation Turn Around’ was launched by Mr. Chowdhury with the objective of reducing deficit financially, improving productivity reducing revenue expenditure, stoppage of wasteful expenses and all non-revenue earning capital expenditure. This action was indeed very successful and the Club’s financial position “ got back on the saddle”. With this healthy situation, the following facilities were added for the members:
A Family Dining Hall
A Table Tennis Section
A Steam Bath, a Kids Corner in the Library
A Nursery section
Regeneration of the 50 year Swimming Pool Filtration Plant
Renovation of the Billiards, Snooker & Pool Room
Through the gestures of friendship and goodwill with the Armed Services, the Master Plan submitted about 5 years ago was approved by the Chittagong Cantonment Board.
Lastly, Mr. Chowdhury and his Committee resolved to constitute a Bye-Law to allow members daughter to become members in accordance to provisions of Article 1 of Articles of Association of the Club.
After a two year tenure Mr. Quasem Chowdhury was replaced by Prof. (Dr.) Saifuddin Mohammed Tariq as the Chairman of the Club for the period 2008-2009, 2009-2010.
After Mr. Quasem Chowdhury’s tenure. Prof. (Dr) Saifuddin Mohammed Tariq was elected as the Chairman of the Club for the period 2008-2009 and once again in 2009-2010.
During his tenure, two cozy Prayer Rooms were constructed one at the Gent’s Health Club and another at the Ladies Health Club. Sweet factory was totally redesigned and constructed keeping the priority of food hygiene. Very traditional Senior’s corner was redesigned and renovated to create a comfortable atmosphere and made it a ‘Non-Smoking Zone’. Unfinished work of the Administrative building was completed. For uninterrupted, smooth and sufficient power supply to the club a new 550KVA Generator was procured and installed. A 12 seater microbus was introduced in the line of increasing better facilities the members and their guests of guest house. To extend the facilities of Bakery section and to offer more opportunity of choice and pleasure regarding delicacies for members and their families Lawn Café was introduced. For members to dine with their kids during club hour in the evening comfortably without violating club rules the Family Dining Hall was totally renovated with installation of new air condition system. Health is Wealth, keeping this in mind a walkway was constructed around the Tennis Complex for members & their spouse so, that the can walk comfortably in a relax mood. Long demand of the Badminton players to play Badminton round the year, we are full feel by constructing a Covered nice looking Modern Badminton Court. Another long demand of Tennis Player a nice, neat & modern changing room Complex with others facilities was totally redesigned & renovated completely to create a comfortable ambience. Keeping in mind the desire of the Members for varieties of delicious a Sky Restaurant “ Jue de paume” a sea food restaurant was a built at the Tennis Complex. Final Settlement with the authority concerned was done to written the present location of the beautiful Tennis Complex at this present location. To increase the existing facilities in a more nice way, the construction processes of Multi Purpose Building ‘ Baishakhi’ was initiated to accommodate a modern neat and nice looking Bakery Show Room, more cozy and gorgeous Gents Salon, Ladies Beauty Parlour, Departmental Store, Laundry outlet, Lawn Café etc.
As Chittagong Club is a family Club, keeping in mind to maintain the traditional culture of our society, during his tenure he started to send meals to the members of the bereaved families on purely compassionate rounds, from the Club Catering Section, to discourage and prevent unauthorized persons entry into the club new technological Identity Card (Proximity Card) with Bar Code for members, their spouse and Children were introduced.
A new Bakery oven was constructed and the Bakery was extended to meet the ever increasing demands of the members.
Another Room was constructed and added to the existing Card Rooms.