Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grand old lady shivers but survives

No, I am not referring to me, but to the Taj Hotel .For nearly a decade, Taj was my second home!  We lived in Dhanraj Mahal which is a stone’s throw away from the hotel.  I was fascinated by the grand monument and would walk through its long corridor, peeping into the fabulous wares displayed in the shop windows.  The glittering chandeliers in the lobby and the twinkling mirrors in the ceiling, seemed to be winking their welcome to all those who walked through the glass doors, greeted by smartly dressed and polite doormen.  Svelte and efficient looking women with name tags on their neatly pinned pallu, moved around gracefully greeting guests and showing them to their well appointed rooms.

I was thrilled to be part of all this glitz and glamour, when I became the PRO for Vaitalik, a cultural organization that had special performances of classical dance in the Tanjore room for foreign guests.  I remember Juhi Chawla stopping by to chat with me as she waited for her mother Mona Chawla who was a senior executive in the Taj.  As a journalist, had the opportunity of listening to Mr JRD Tata, addressing the Rotary club of Bombay in the Ball room, on changing value systems.  Will never forget the brief ‘mulakat with Madam Teji Bachan and Jaya Bachan at the coffee shop.  Just the day before, I had interviewed Jayaji on AIR Bombay and she was graceful enough to remember me and introduce me to her Mother in law, so elegant with her short grey hair.  That is when I decided to keep my hair short and grey when I become sixty!

The best was yet to come when Camelia Punjabi, then Vice President of Taj, offered me a part time assignment as writer.  This meant going through a three week induction programme in the hotel, spending time in every department to understand the ‘product’.  It was an awesome experience because I saw what lies behind the glamorous exterior.  The hard work and attention to details that goes into the finished product.  That is when I understood why a cup of coffee costs so much!  We pay for the ambience, the back end mehanat of so many people including the waste paper buyer who makes his living out of the trash bins emptied from rooms!

Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite variety was said about Cleopatra but it holds good for the grand old lady beside the gateway of India.  The bullet marks, broken furniture or shattered glass panes will not mar the grandeur of this beautiful monument.  As she stands majestically beside the waterfront, she bears testimony to the fact that time will heal and she can wait.