(As Late B. L. Parashar, IPS told Pankaj Swamy) Compiled by Pankaj Swamy
The Nerbudda Club of Jabalpur is one of the most ancient clubs in India. The Nerbudda club (Jabalpur) Ltd. Founded in 1889 registered as a Limited Company in 1904. Having close and intimate association with Army and Civilians, it has established high tradition and is maintaining the same with religious fervor. The ‘Crests’ of various army units posted at Jabalpur from time to time, since the time of its foundation, decorating the Main Hall of the Club, are testimony of its close association with Army. Famous Army Officers and Civilians, who have been in Jabalpur in their Official capacity to name a few- Sir Neville Chamberlain, General Cariappa, General Ayub of Pakistan, Mr. Fox Strangeways, ICS (Commissioner Of Jabalpur in 1901) and similar others have adorned the membership of the Club before 1947. During the British days, Jabalpur used to be the ‘Winter Capital’ of the province. HE the Governor, his Advisors and Secretaries were the honorable members of the Club. The Club has the privilege of being honored by visits of some distinguished Army Chiefs. In 1937, Sir Charles Chitham, then IG Police, had arranged the visit of Mr. Raghvendra Rao, first India Governor of the State to the Club.
Due to its close association with Army Officers, naturally, it has great traditions of Games and Sports. The game of ‘Snooker’ that was born in Ootacmund Club was first conceived in Jabalpur as per version of one PHILIP HOWARD in his article in the Statesman (Dated 09-04-1982) quoting from the writings of HUNTER DAVIES about the origin of the word ‘Snooker’ To quote the article in original from the Statesman, ‘Less exact scholars are content with folk etymology’ this relates that noblest of ball games was conceived in the Officer’s Mess at Jubbulpore (Jabalpur now) by a Subaltern in the Devonshire Regiment called Neville Chamberlain, who put another colored ball on the billiard table in order to provide a variation of the game then Known as ‘Black Pool.’ Sir Neville reminisces in the ‘Snooker room’-“One of our party failed to hole a colored ball close to a corner pocket, and I called out to him, “Why you’re a regular snooker. To sooth the feelings of the culprit, I added that we were all snookers at the game, so it would be very appropriate to call the game snooker. The suggestion was adopted with enthusiasm ….While it is correct to say that the game was first played at Jubbulpore in 1875, it never really made progress until played by members of the Ootacamund Club.”
As mentioned above, various Army Units posted at Jabalpur were associated with the Club. The CHESHIRES, a British Regiment won the famous Aga Khan Hockey Trophy of Bombay thrice in 1910, 11 and 12 led by famous players Price and Russel and greatly inspired the local hockey clubs. Kings Regiment won the Rovers Cup and Harwood League of Bombay in football. 1st Brahmins in 1909, while it was posted in Jabalpur, gave Olympian Rup Singh to the country then wizard Dhyanchand was a ‘tiny tot’, their father being a NCO in the Unit. The Club used to take part in various games of the town. It had its own hockey ground the best in the town, on the present site of Tennis courts. The first ever inter college hockey match of then Nagpur University was played on this ground in 1923 between Morris College of Nagpur and Robertson College of Jabalpur. Mr. A. C. Sells, IES, the Principal of Robertson College of Jabalpur, who was 6’5 tall and had a fine personality used to pride on the fact that he was the ‘Honorary Secretary’ of Nerbudda Club for a long time.
The Tennis Courts were then in the Kings Garden (Tagore Garden) adjoining the present Cricket ground. Capt. BERKLEY of the Club was the world’s Army Hard Court Champion. In one of finals of C. P. & Berar, which was regularly organized by the club, in 1922, Justice B. K. Chaudhry, then a student of Robertson College, defeated Major Lucas, the army champion in 3 sets. Some famous cricket matches were played on the adjoining cricket ground. Modi club of Kamptee (Nagpur) created history, when famous C. K. Nayudu of Modi Club, playing against the club in 1917, hit his sixes over the pavilion, across the road and all over the ground, later the club marker with awe used to point out the exact spots where such balls landed on the ground.
Mr. A. G. Scott, IP, then DIG Police, Jabalpur and a member of the club won the ‘Western India Golf Championship’, Nashik in 1936. The Golf course in those days used to be on the ‘Cobra Ground’. ‘Rugby’ was then played on open land opposite ‘Masonic Lodge’, now occupied by building. Polo was played on the right side of Ridge Road, there used to be ‘Races’ too in the vicinity. Later ‘Cycle Polo’ was played on this side. The British Tommy with his red cap and blue uniform (his winter dress) was a familiar sight; the Cantonment looked like any County town in England. There was Army Band’s display in Kings garden. Mr. Hund, an Anglo-Indian with his tweed cap and grey whiskers riding on his ‘Penny-farthing’ bi-cycle, was a funny sight hovering round the club and watching a hockey match comfortably seated on his high seat.
In forties and fifties, Mr. H. C. Staley used to be a very familiar figure residing in the club after his retirement as DPI in 1940, preferred to stay in India although his family was in England. He had worked in the Club in all capacities, and was a prominent member of the Club. As a Librarian, he could pick up any book without an Index. Some famous literature on ‘Sleeman’ of Thugy fame that was in the Library is now no more there. Mr. Staley used to hover on the play fields round about the Club, coaching army ‘Jawans’ or umpiring a match was regarded as a ‘father figure’. After his death, he was buried in Mandla Road Cemetery, it is told that there is an inscription on his grave, “Here lies the man who died for India and Sports”.
Earlier, in those days of “Tussles on Trifles”, there is one classic example of an interesting tussle in 1937 between Mr. G. C. Greenfield, ICS, and the Commissioner of Jabalpur over the spelling of Jabalpur town. On 25th January 1937, The Hindustan Times, Delhi came out with an Editorial caption being-“Civilians Agony”. Some relevant and interesting extracts are here quoted in original. The battle royal albeit the weapons used by the contestants were no more than pen and ink-that was recently staged in Jubbulpore between two members of the ICS, to wit, the Commissioner and his junior colleague, the Deputy Commissioner, is of special interest as it acquaints us with the little known, but the excruciating source of worry to the exiles from England, who have to spend their lives under conditions peculiarly trying to them. Mr. Griegson, ICS, is convinced that a vast amount of energy is wasted by people in having to write ‘Jubbulpore’ in time honored way, while it could well be spelt with two letters less as ‘Jabalpur’. Taking on average ten people who are called on to write the name every day of their lives, you will admit the saving in time and energy will be enormous… what is more, Jabalpur reads like Jubbulpore except in case of strangers, who have not heard the name pronounced by the sons of the soil. If anyone could call with rhyme with Jamalpur, the fault is his. Mr. Griggson’s heart bled for the poorly paid Indian Clerks, who were needlessly burdened with this additional burden. Mr. Griegson is perfectly human. Not so Mr. Greenfield. He does not worry over the numbers of letters in Jubbulpore. He is all for the old spelling and ‘status quo ante bellum’…..like confirmed bureaucrat, he chinks on terms of dislocation by the change; the Post Office will have to alter its date stamp-the Railway people will have to destroy all the tickets. No! He won’t be a party to such a change. The dispute appeared something difficult but trust the Britons to find a way out of the most intricate tangle. Both the Officers have agreed to a compromise. In the result, if a paper is dispatched from Deputy Commissioner’s Office, it will hear the name in terms of ‘Jubbulpore’ while bear the same name in the form of ‘Jabalpur’. So there, we are, The Empire has been saved!
In fifties and sixties, the club life used to be cordial. There used to be usual ‘Club nights’ and dances on 15th August (preceded by Fancy Dress Competition) ‘Cultural programmes’ to quote a Club Bulletin, containing information regarding various activities of the club. The bulletin used to come out periodically. The club meeting used to be lively, sometimes stormy, but never as ‘Tammany Hall’. Dr. R. P. Dube, Mr. Tara Singh, Sardar Rajendra Singh were some fore-fronters in the proceedings. My Grandfather Late B. L. Parashar, IPS won the First prize in the Fancy Dress competition in 1954, when he posed as a ‘Postman’. The appearance was so so similar that Mr. Mehra, the Sr. Suptd of Post Office almost threw Mr. Parashar out of the club for venturing to enter the Hall to deliver a telegram to Mr. Noronha. In 1960, Late B. L. Parashar assisted Mr. J. K. Verma (IAS Retd.) in revising the Constitution of the Club. Dr. R. P. Dube, probably may be one of the oldest Indian members of the club. The membership is more prestigious to get the membership which has become ‘Status symbol’.
Rana kunzer Shamsherjang Bahadur of Sagar, who used to be Late B. L. Parashar class mate in 1921 was then also a member of the Club. Being of Rana family, he enjoyed certain privileges. The Commissioner of the Divisions was then his guardian. According to him, the club life was very lively. There were facilities of Riding and Shikar to the members. Dog shows were arranged. According to him, no colour bar then existed in the club.
The Club has been through its various vicissitudes; it has its prosperous and lean days, but all the time has maintained its glorious traditions. Time is not far when this hoary Methuselah will celebrate its One hundred and fifty years in 2039.
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