United Services Club building , Shimla - a heritage colonial structure where the club served only the British elite

United Services Club - Jakkio Hill Simla - 1867 .flickr.com

United Services Club - Jakkio Hill Simla - 1867 .flickr.com

The United Services Club, Jakko Hill, Shimla, a recreational joint of Shimla  was founded in 1844 during the colonial rule under the  East India company and the purpose was to  socialize and have fun on the week ends after days of hard work  during weekdays in a tropical land.  

The summer resort of Shimla was  discovered by the British and having found the climate quite suitable, they started  a sanatorium here for the sick British army men who felt comfortable to convalesce on the cool hill far away from the husty hot plains.

The  United Services Club, restricted its membership to "Commissioned military officers, army or navy chaplains, members of the Indian Civil Service and judges." Neither nor women  were allowed to join the club that was meant for English men holding exalted position in the English company.  What is surprising is  the Services Club had its door tightly shut and the membership  was denied even to to the British mercantile classes irrespective of their size of wealth.  The club was openly practising class discriminations between the nobility and ordinary people. 

Bernard Shaw on a trip to Bombay, India in 1933. saw a Club exclusively reserved for the whites and  remarked  angrily, "It   was   nothing  short  of  snobbery  to  have  a  club  exclusively  reserved   for  the  use  of  the  white  people  in  a  land  of  colored  people". . 

From the Viceroy down to the lowest private in a county regiment, British India being a society run on a strict social hierarchy and class distinction. Viceroy and higher ups like  ICS qualified Civil servants never freely mixed with  others. The lowest private in a county regiment won't be treated on par with officers holding power.So the military men kept their own company and traders were kept at a safe distance by all.

The British officers linked to  British nobility  ran the club in tune with  British snobbery and class distinctions  as the British society was and is stratified.  Still there is a big lacuna between the labor classes and the so called  aristocrats or nobility which is made of the peerage and the (landed) gentry.  The successful common  British  were regarded in derogatory Anglo-Indian parlance as 'box-wallahs' or mere tradesmen or shopkeepers, irrespective of their personal wealth.

Irish satirist bernard Shaw remarked, "Oh, a  club  is  nothing. The  best  club  in  England  is  the  one  every sensible  man  keeps  away  from.'

With the development of  Shimla   the USC quickly became a hub for the officers holding key posts  to interact among  their own kind. 

When India was about to get freedom toward the end of 1946  the British population had begun to shrunk on the hill; so was the cream of the society - the British military and ICS staff leaving  Shimla and by December 1946  the USC's membership numbers fell and it faced total closure in 1947.   

The building is now owned by the Himachal Pradesh state government and  offices for the PWD of Himachal Pradesh are functioning there.  The old club was reopened in 2011 as the Shimla Heritage Museum in order to showcase the evolution of Shimla since 1800s and its British legacy. The city houses many colonial structures and many of them are declared as the heritage sites and the museum carries the photos of them and presents  how Shimla was developed by  colonial rulers from the EIC to the British Raj. Shimla was the summer capital of the Raj.