Lunch at the Breach Candy Club

by Sharell शारेल on April 15, 2009

in Daily Life in India, Eating & Drinking

Pool view. PhilipJBigg@BiggWorldPhotography.com

Pool view. PhilipJBigg@BiggWorldPhotography.com

Today I had lunch with my foreigner friends, who also have Indian husbands, at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Club. I’d been to a couple of clubs in Kolkata — the Saturday Club and the Tollygunge Club — so had some idea of what to expect.

However, the Breach Candy Club is an absolute haven. What really makes the club special is its setting, right on the seafront. I began wishing that I lived in south Mumbai, so I could go there often.

It’s not an easy club to get into though. Guests have to be signed in by a member, and then pay a 300 rupee entrance fee. The club’s membership is limited mostly to expats with foreign passports, and is by invitation only.

As a result, the environment is a comfortable one. There’s no need to worry about offending Indian sensibilities. Wearing a revealing bikini is totally acceptable there. No one even looks twice.

While we dined, the salty ocean air whipped our faces and tangled our hair. It was such a refreshing escape from the summer heat. Lunch was very reasonably priced too. The popular choice amongst us was fish and chips, for under 170 rupees a serve.

During the course of conversation, I discovered that one of the women attending the lunch has been living in Mumbai for 38 years. Amazing. To think of all the changes she must’ve seen.

All too quickly (after four hours) it was time to leave. I was dropped back to Mahalaxmi station, back to reality, ready to board a crowded train home to the suburbs.

What a contrast that was!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

anand lakshminarsu February 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Why was the author not dropped home in a swank foreign make car that these Breach Candy Club members normally possess?So sad and depressing no to go back in a desi sub-urban train?

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Sharell February 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Unfortunately, the author lived way too far out in the suburbs for that! ;-) She was dropped to the train station in such a vehicle though.

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harsh May 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

this club sucks BIG TIME…..probably wld be the worst of all clubs in south mumbai ….considering we have CCI, bombay gym, wellington & MCA

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jayshah December 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

hi,….
there should be fun in life for time being

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Nands March 2, 2011 at 5:23 am

Well…bhabi ur guy is quite lucky in getting u..hehh..believe me we indians always wants some1 understanding..Today 1st time i read ur blog for 3hrs. yes non-stop & thinking to go forward with ur updates. Its really nice to know urs experience with our culture. U give a quite mgs to every1..bt i wnt to know how u 1st met ur husband..?4 wht purpose u was in india 4 lng time..?..interested to know all that hope u’ll rply…FROM> Ek anjan debar..bye have a gr8 time..

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Sharell March 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

Hi Nands thanks for commenting. I was in India to do some community work (volunteer work) at a women’s centre in Kolkata. I met him in the bar of the luxury hotel where he worked as a DJ. Not very romantic, I know. ;-) I had no interest in pursuing a relationship with him (or any guy at the time), but sometimes life has other plans for us….

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Shrikant June 30, 2011 at 11:40 am

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Baasna November 24, 2011 at 7:53 am

Dear Sharell,

I am an Indian from Calcutta, India.

I have studied in the US and have been living here for some years now. I plan to return to Calcutta permanently next year.

I have read pretty much every single entry in your blog and I would like to say something.

When I came here to study, I was the only Indian in my entire department. With the exception of one chap from Iran, everyone else was American. I was surprised to see what they thought of “Desis”, that infuriating term which people from the West use to describe anyone with brown skin. They seemed to think that all of them smelled of curry, had poor personal hygiene and spoke with a funny accent. But they agreed that I did not seem to fit their image of a stereotypical Desi. The reason for this is probably that I chose to find out and learn about what people here might find offensive and did my best to make sure that I did none of those things(except perhaps my accent, which was not very Indian anyway but certainly does not have an American drawl now). This is something I accept as the least one must do when attempting to live in another country, where there is a huge difference in culture and social norms from what I was used to. I do not grudge people here the right to expect that if people want to live here, they must play by their rules.

In the post where you described how irritating it was for you to have that Malayali guy in your apartment for a few days in Melbourne, I noticed that you seemed to be a little irritated with how he did not seem to understand that there were some things you just could not do in the West. I completely agree with you on that. As the old adage goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

By the same token, don’t you think you should accept that there are some things you just cannot do in India, without seeking out ways to break unwritten social taboos? I cannot help but think that you seem a little miffed by the fact that you cannot do things in India which you normally might have done in Australia.

Sentences like “The club’s membership is limited mostly to expats with foreign passports, and is by invitation only.

As a result, the environment is a comfortable one.” smacks of a kind of elitism, which reminds me not a little of how private, members-only clubs were run in Calcutta, when the British ruled over us. A “no-native” policy was strictly enforced, and even now I believe some of them do not let women become full members.

I think it is a very small step from excluding Indian citizens from an club in India for whatever reason, to excluding people based on religion, colour, community, caste and so on. Mind you, I am not saying that Indians are not guilty of doing this to their own. God knows, I have seen and experienced this many times, in deeply personal ways. You have described in ample measure how your relationship with your husband has been put through the mill by other Indians, just because he is Indian and you are not. You should be no stranger to this phenomenon, and yet you seem to like the fact that Indians(I assume the club is owned or operated and staffed by Indians) are complicit in a form of apartheid or social exclusion, just so that you can wear a bikini and not be stared at. I understand and appreciate why you(and other expats like you) yearn to do the things here, which you could take for granted back home, but I do not think you want to admit, even to yourself, that it is a little hypocritical for you to think that that Malayali chap should have changed his habits(which I should say was incredibly rude and insensitive of him not to have done voluntarily, immediately on arrival) to accommodate his new surroundings while you seem delighted that you have the opportunity to do what you are used to doing in another culture, knowing that it offends Indian sensibilities, with the help of Indians.

I would like to end this by saying that I honestly do not wish to offend you, I am not trying to stir up trouble for the sake of it and nor do I think that you are unconsciously racist in any way – just that this particular post (and one or two others) struck an odd chord in the general(wonderful?) narrative of your life in India, because they seem to strike at the heart of your egalitarian views(from what I could understand by reading your other posts). These are just my observations, and doubtless you will disagree with me. You will probably not even read this comment as it is on a blog post 2 years old, but I hope that if you do, you reflect upon it and do not disagree with me on principle.

I would like to end by saying that I think it is wonderful that you choose to stay and fight in India, rather than run, like many others(including many Indians) have done. I wish there were more people like you…..

Good-bye and God bless!

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Sharell November 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

Hi Baasna, of course, I have read your comment. I particularly like comments such as yours that present different points of view. :-)

Of course, you’re right, the Breach Candy Club is very elitist. Not only that, I probably couldn’t even afford the membership fee and I definitely can’t afford to live in the area where it’s located (so, despite being of the right origin, I’m left out as well!). I’ve also been two to two elitist clubs in Kolkata — Tollygunge, and I stayed in the Saturday Club for a month (courtesy of having a well connected friend). I’ve been to the Bandra gym in Mumbai as well, where membership is restricted to Catholic Indians from the area. They all include/exclude based on set criteria.

I cannot help but think that you seem a little miffed by the fact that you cannot do things in India which you normally might have done in Australia.

I wouldn’t say miffed is the right word about it, because I’ve accepted India’s cultural ways from the start and am well used to them, and generally make sure that I follow them. However, one of my main ways of relaxing back home was to go to the beach and just lay down and chill, or just even lay down and chill in a public garden. I may or may not have removed some clothes and sunbaked. This something that’s mostly not possible to do here (even laying down in a public garden results in being reprimanded by a security guard for being too “provocative”), and I accept that. Yet, my main source of relaxing is gone. So to walk into a club where people are lounging pool side, free from taboo or unwanted attention as if it’s a completely normal thing to do, is like heaven to me.

I do not think you want to admit, even to yourself, that it is a little hypocritical for you to think that that Malayali chap should have changed his habits…

There is a huge difference here because his habits are not appropriate for a western home — however he could go to a club comprised of other Malayalees and behave that way there. Indians have their clubs overseas where they congregate to do their cultural things, and there are plenty of them in Melbourne for the Kerala guy. Likewise, the Breach Candy club lets people from overseas congregate and do their cultural things which the majority of Indians find offensive.

Interesting situation is that as a foreigner and non-Hindu, I’m not allowed in many Hindu temples in India. Why is that? Because I may pollute the environment? I may not behave or dress appropriately?

I think the bottom line is that people form clubs because they want to be around like-minded people, and that makes them feel comfortable. Unfortunately, with India being the extreme country that it is, with acceptable behaviour differing so much between classes and religions, there are clubs that only welcome rich folk, or Catholics, or foreigners etc. It’s definitely not something that I feel comfortable about, as it’s not something I’m used to back home, but if it gives people a place where they can go to be themselves, then that’s the way it has to be.

Anyway, I’d be happy to have more discussion about this if you wish.

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Marcin September 18, 2013 at 3:33 am

Hi, it is some time as you post this info obout your lunch with a friend at The Breach Candy Club – this is the place which was my asilum for over five years I have spend in Bombay (1981-1986) I just love this place. It was where I spend my free time, met friends and dateded ;)
Memories are just wonderful. I would love to have a fish & chips at the bar :) By the way – best chips east of British Channel :)
regards from Poland
Marcin

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