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A hundred years ago, on January 9, 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India after approximately two decades of living and working in South Africa. In 2003, the Government of India designated the day of Gandhi's return as official Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Overseas Indian Day. The centenary of Gandhi's return was marked at this year's thirteenth annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas with appropriate official fanfare. The occasion was also observed in a wide variety of public celebrations, including a full-scale reenactment of the disembarkation from on board the S. S. Arabia of Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, at Apollo Bunder in the Bombay Harbor; and with rallies and functions held all across India (see NDTV 2015; Outlook 2015; see also Roy 2015). These centenary celebrations follow upon more than a decade-long shift in official Indian policy towards overseas Indians, or, in official parlance, Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin (see Amrute 2010; Hercog and Siegel 2013; Upadhya 2013; Varadarajan 2014). The policy, at first, was directed mainly towards attracting the wealthy in such places as the United States and the United Kingdom. Even though it now extends to the much larger labor diaspora, both old and new, settled throughout the regions of the world, the focus remains on the rich, whose investments in India are greatly coveted. The embrace of a diasporic and deterritorialized Indian imaginary—anchored, ironically, in the commemorations of Gandhi as the poster boy for the global peripatetic Indian—is a symptom of the changes in the nation-state's relationship to global capitalism in these times of accelerated globalization.
The ubiquity of the European social club in the European empires in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been widely recognized in both popular and academic writings on European, and particularly British, imperialism. The “European” ascription of imperial social clubs derived from their predominantly whites-only membership policy in which all elite Europeans, whatever their nationalities, were potentially included. Although each individual club often catered to a very different and distinctive clientele among elite Europeans in the empire, the “clubland” as a whole served as a common ground where elite Europeans could meet as members, or as guests of members, of individual clubs. These clubs, it has been argued, represented an oasis of European culture in the colonies, functioning to reproduce the comfort and familiarity of “home” for Europeans living in an alien land. The popular narrative of the club, as is evident from the account by the official historian of the Bengal Club, one of the oldest social clubs in India, easily oscillated between an understanding of the club as a broadly European cultural institution and as a specifically British one. Either way, the cultural values that it represented were understood as transplanted to the colonies: “It is the practice of European peoples to reproduce as far as possible in their settlements and colonies in other continents the characteristic social features of their natural lives …. For more than a century no institution has been more peculiarly British than the social club.”