Posts Tagged ‘Taj Mahal Hotel’

Was President Barack Obama’s speechwriter an Indian MP? His speech in Parliament was liked by the politicians and one can well understand why. It had references to Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, UN Security Council seat for India, 26/11 attacks, terrorism, Pakistan and even the Panchatantra! I am surprised he didn’t quote from the Vedas, Ramayan and Mahabharat! Or did he?

So just like the finance minister’s usual ‘please-all’ budget speech every year in Parliament, Obama too seemed intent on pleasing everyone. When the MPs who usually show their displeasure by either walking out or ‘rearranging’ the furniture in the House, were all praise for the speech, it could only mean one thing – that it was a truly political speech. And except for the Leftists, who anyway seem nowadays to subsist in a cocoon, everyone loved it. Were they expecting Obama to praise the Chinese?

Obama also made all the right noises. He rapped Pakistan and demanded they bring to book the culprits of 26/11. But please note, he did not tell the Pakistanis to hand over the perpetrators. He also praised the Indian Constitution which of course, made the parliamentarians very happy. Never mind, if they usually tear it to bits on most days during the proceedings and don’t care a hoot about Dr Ambedkar, except during election time.

Even the BJP, after the initial idiocy by Rajiv Pratap Rudy, fell in line. I, for one, couldn’t understand Mr. Rudy’s displeasure at Obama’s speech at a purely unofficial event at the Taj Mahal Hotel. I think Obama spoke well and recognised the bravery of those who were involved in the rescue attempts in Mumbai. Why should he politicise the event by dragging in Pakistan? And, anyway, why are we so hung up on forcing world leaders to spell out P-A-K-I-S-T-A=N every time one of them comes here. What purpose does it serve?

Every time a big-ticket leader from the West comes to India and utters the P word, the media and political class here get a virtual ‘high’. It’s almost as if Pakistan has been nuked! Then some idiotic copy editor writes the headline “US names Pakistan”. It makes one wonder whether they’re being blamed or knighted! So let’s stop behaving like five-year-olds who go crying to papa because someone ate their lollipop. And Papa admonishes the culprit gently, because after all, he is dealing with five-year-olds. Then he goes back to reading his newspaper! Let’s grow up.

Does Pakistan care? Heck does even the US care? They’re sending our neighbours billions of dollars in cash and weapons, most of which is used against us. Look how the President fumbled when a kid at Xavier’s asked him about why US was hesitant to call Pakistan a terrorist state. What a way he hummed and hawed, before giving an answer that would have made any civil servant proud. Wake up and smell the coffee. Pakistan is important in their scheme of things. By their virtual presence in the sub-continent the US is keeping China’s territorial ambitions in check. Russia is no more the power it was, and never will be. China is the only country that can challenge the US, both economically and militarily.

The other thing we keep reading about is India in the UN Security Council. The media ask very pointed questions on India’s hope for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and then ‘interpret’ the answer. Take a look this: “In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member” followed by “The Obama administration wants to ‘send as clear a statement as possible’ that the United States sees India as a ‘rising player’ on the international stage” followed by “the US is ‘not getting into’ details about the time frame” followed by “the administration will let the key details be ‘hashed out’ by the United Nations itself.

Do any of the remarks make “as clear a statement as possible” that the US has or will support India’s bid? The Americans have very cleverly worded each statement leaving it open to conjecture and interpretation. Basically India could keep reaching for the sky, but all it will get is a fistful of cloud – and little or no help from the Americans. And that it could happen anytime between day after tomorrow and the next century – if it happens! But the Indian media has already decided that US “has backed India.” Let’s not forget that before that happens we have to cross the biggest hurdle – China. And knowing China’s love for political chicanery, our chances look pretty bleak. But that’s another story.


Ok, here’s a quick quiz? And don’t surf the Internet for answers, be honest with yourself.

• What was the exact date of the bomb blasts in Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi?
• When were the bomb blasts in Greater Kailash Market and Karol Bagh in New Delhi?

How many of you guessed correctly? Let me be honest, even I didn’t know the precise answers to these questions. So why can’t we recollect the dates of the blasts in Delhi? Is it because those who got killed were people just like you and me (I mean the middle class) who were out there shopping, looking for a bargain in the middle class markets of Delhi when they were blown to smithereens? So what am I getting at?

I’ve been reading with interest Salman Khan’s comments on the terror attacks in Mumbai on 26/11 and the reactions to it by politicians. According to the websites, this is one half of his comment: “It was the elite that were targeted this time. Five star hotels and all. So they panicked. Then they got up and spoke about it. My question is why not before. Attacks have happened in trains and small towns too, but no one talked about it so much.”

I can’t seem to find the other half of his comment on Pakistan’s involvement (or the lack of it) anywhere. But if he has said that Pakistan is not involved then he should be condemned, because by now the world knows that Pakistan was in it neck deep.

But coming to the first half of Salman’s comment, what has he said that is so wrong? Moreover, why has it angered the political class, most of who were anyway missing when people were getting slaughtered and when policemen and hotel staff died in the line of duty on 26/11 in Mumbai? Like always, they know they can get their two minutes of fame if they drag the name of a film star into a needless controversy. So why not do it? So let’s not get swayed by all the nonsense and breast-beating indulged in by the politicians at Salman’s comment.

People have died in blasts set off in Mumbai’s local trains and in buses, or in Delhi’s GK Market, Paharganj, Akshardham, but no one remembers and no one cares, because it was the little guy who died. No one lit a candle for them and no one ever held placards that said “Enough is enough!”

The unpleasant truth is that one of the main reasons why 26/11 remains etched in public memory, is because the Taj Mahal Hotel & Oberoi Trident is frequented by the rich and famous, many of whom were in there, when the terrorists stormed the two places. I remember the comments by the Shobha Des and the Suhel Seths of the world who were outraged by what happened at the two hotels. I also remember the reactions of the man on the street and it was precisely what Salman said – that the only reason why everyone was making so much noise is because this time it’s the RICH THAT GOT HIT. Earlier, when the poor man on the street got blown up everyone forgot about it in a few weeks time.

Incidentally, more people died at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (58), Cama Hospital (8) and Leopold Cafe (10), Chabad House in two hours of mayhem than either at the Taj Mahal Hotel (32) or the Oberoi Trident (36) in over three days. And let’s not forget the NSG commando and the brave cops who were killed in action. I am also not implying that I don’t sympathise with the people who lost members of their family in either of these hotels or the bravery of the hotel staff that placed itself in the line of fire to protect the guests. But the truth is we still remember 26/11 more for the mayhem that unfolded at the two hotels and not so much for what happened at CST or elsewhere in the city. So if Salman Khan said what he said, what was wrong?

A job is a job is a job

Posted: March 31, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Just something else I remembered about my time in the hotel industry… It taught me a few things that I have never forgotten. The first was that it costs us very little to be polite to a fellow being, and the second was that no job was below one’s dignity.
Sitting in a restaurant or staying in a hotel, most of us love to order the staff around. After all, it’s their job to run around and be at our beck and call, isn’t it? I hope, after what happened at the Taj and Oberoi-Trident recently, we will look at hotel staff differently.As a trainee I remember being asked to report to a hotel in Worli for my summer training. Once there I was sent to housekeeping, where I was handed an apron and sent to a room just vacated by a guest. For a guy so used to having the maid clean his room, nothing quite prepared me for the shock. I was asked to clean the bathroom! So, there I was, down on my knees, scrubbing the commode clean of someone else’s excreta. Once I crossed that hurdle, I realized that no job, however insignificant it may be, was difficult or demeaning!