The Bandra Gymkhana crossed a significant milestone in the annals of its history as it completed 75 years on the 4th of May 2010. The metamorphosis of the Bandra Gymkhana since 1935 is the result of decades of grit, determination, dedication and the selflessness of its founding fathers and successive committees.
The Gymkhana owes its very existence to the benevolence of the later Dr. D.A.D’Monte, a visionary and philanthropist par excellence. As far back as in 1922, Dr. D’Monte had conveyed about 7592 square yards of land to the society to be used for a garden and a hall. Five years later, the Salsette Society earmarked about 2600 square yards of land for recreational tennis courts. In 1927, the Society started an informal club known as the Bandra Club on these tennis courts. However, the General Body of the Society in its meeting in 1930 declined to formalise the lease of these courts to the Bandra Club.
At this stage D.J. Ferreira, a prominent solicitor and Chairman of the Society sought the intercession of Dr. D’Monte and his wife, Dr. Cecilia D’Monte, in playing a dominant role in the setting up of a “good Catholic Club which would promote the cause of sports, competitions, tournaments and provide social recreation”
Tenacious negotiations took place thereafter; and the outcome blended the philanthropic wishes of Dr. D’Monte with the objectives of the Salsette CHS and the requirements of the Registrar of Co-opearyive societies. In the process, Advocate J.R.Athaide, then leader of the Bombay Suburban district Bar was persuaded to surrender his adjoining plot to the Society while Dr. D’Monte granted an additional plot of his own for the combined project. These lands together with the Society’s tennis courts and the 6000 square yards originally given in 1922 were combined to make up one large plot of 10,998 square yards to be known as Dr. D’Monte’s Park.
Upon Dr. D’Monote’s request , the Society leased 5819 sq. yards of the land (upon which the present tennis courts and building now exist ) to the original trustees of the Bandra Gymkhana for the purpose and objectives of building the Bandra Gymkhana.
The first trustees of the Bandra Gymkhana were Dr. D’Monte, Leo Rodrigues, the erstwhile Administrator General of Bombay and J.S Pereira.
On 22nd April, 1934 the foundation stone of the Pavilion was laid by Mrs. Bell the unavoidable absence of the Hon’ble Mr. R.D Bell, Home Member, Government of Bombay Presidency and a former Collector Bombay Suburban District. His Grace, Dr. Joachim R. Lima, SJ, Archbishop of Bombay, blessed it.
An eminent architect, Elias Cosmas Henriques, then Consulting Architect to the Government of Bombay, designed the Pavilion which had the three-fold advantage of being used for social, cultural and physical activities. It was the first Pavilion in Bombay to have an indoor Badminton court. The family of Joseph Ignatius Fonseca of Mahim contributed Rs. 5000 towards the cost to commemorate his memory.
The Pavilion was named after Dr. D’Monte in recognition of his gift of land as well as a contribution of Rs. 5,000 and a loan of Rs. 15,000. He also gave in memory of his deceased brother Monsignor D’Monte a sum of Rs.8,000 as a gift, the interest on which was to be utilized towards the upkeep of the Reading Room. The cost of construction of the Bandra Gymkhana’s building including the Pavilion, furniture, crockery, cutlery and linen for 500 members amounted to Rs. 70,000 a princely sum in those far-off days and a good yardstick of present day inflation.
On the 4th May, 1935 His Excellency Lord Brabourne, Governor of Bombay inaugurated the pavilion. His presence bore eloquent testimony to the importance of Bandra in politico-administrative sense, thus drawing
Unprecedented press coverage. There was thus much jubilation in the township of Bandra.
The governor, in his speech, commended the generosity of Dr. D’Monte and lauded the “long-sighted policy” of the Salsette Catholic Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. An excerpt from his speech is worth reproduction.
On the 75th anniversary of that day, we now eulogize Dr. D’Monte for his generosity. We also remember with gratitude the Bandra Gymkhana’s Founders, Patrons, Benefactors, Donors, Life Members, Associates and all members, past and present who have contributed to give the Bandra Gymkhana its present iconic status.
– Ajit Rodrigues ( source: the Bandra Gymkhana Platinum Jubilee Book )
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCE, LORD BRABOURNE, GOVERNOR OF BOMBAY
Having secured its lands and streets, and made possible the building of houses, including a school, the Society decided to keep open a sufficient area for a park and to provide means of recreation. I cannot pass by this stage of the Society’s development without mention of the liberal gift of land and money made by Dr. D’Monte, the President of the Gymkhana, and it is in no small measure due to his generosity that the founding of the Gymkhana has become possible. The inauguration of a scheme like this, the negotiation for arranging finance and for executing the plan, and the hundred and one difficulties that arise, are only known to those who have a deal with them. I understand that a great part in bringing all these to a successful conclusion has been played by the Chairman of the Society, Mr. D.J. Ferreira, who has ungrudgingly given his services and his legal experience for the benef it of both the Society and the Gymkhana. To him and all the other benefactors who have contributed to the successful founding of the Gymkhana and the construction of the Pavilion, I offer my hearty congratulations. In conclusion, I wish all prosperity to the Salsette Catholic Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. And to the Bandra Gymkhana, and I hope that this Pavilion which I am now about to open will long contribute to the enjoyment of the members.”