Going back to the Taj
“Have you been to the Taj or Trident yet?” I asked my companions at a dinner party at the weekend.
“No,” Monisha said ashen-faced. “I just don’t feel comfortable going back.”
“Not yet” my Indian male lawyer friend from Breach Candy chipped in. “I will soon.”
He used to be at the Taj every second day.
As we tucked into our dinner, I counted up dozens of dinner parties I had been to since the fateful day: 26/11. Dining at home is more de rigeur than ever among the south Mumbai jet set.
“But you must go there again – to support them,” I said.
A discussion followed as to how at least 10 terrorists were still at large – a rumour widely believed in our social circles – and so as a result many present had no desire to visit these two hotels, yet.
I pointed out they were actually the safest places to be in Mumbai right now.
In fact I had spent my New Year’s Eve visiting the disaster sites
My first stop had been Leopold Café, which had that evening attracted dozens of backpackers, call centre workers, onlookers, and the media. Next was the Taj.
There, on the contrary, there were not many guests and the security staff seemed glad to see me.
Straight away, however, I had been emotionally moved.
It was my first time back since the attacks – I was touched when went to the Ladies and saw the same toilet attendant I used to see in the hotel immaculately dressed as ever in a sari, smiling, beautiful and graceful – and that unique dignified Taj service pervasive everywhere.
It saddened me to see the lobby and poolside virtually empty despite all the efforts the staff had made.
As I sipped my drink in the Starboard bar, the whole hotel seemed even more magical than usual. It was as though the terror attacks had imbued its very walls, the tower had captured the mood of the city, and being at the Taj on New Year’s Eve was the only place to be.
At Firangi Pani inside the Trident at 11pm the ambience was equally subdued but that did not stop the few guests there enjoying themselves as they tucked into a lavish buffet.
At midnight every single member of staff quietly wished us a happy new year, as their eyes shone with gratitude.
Champagne didn’t feel right – I sipped wine – as I reflected on the tragedy whilst also being awestruck at how gracefully this hotel too had got back to its feet.
It seems to me that dining at the Taj and Trident are longer ways to display class or wealth – but instead doing so displays solidarity.