I come from Punnayurkulam, a remote village in the state of Kerala. Am not sure if things have changed, but I reiterate this time and again to justify my ‘not with it’ decorum and etiquette.
To be honest, it doesn’t matter. Let’s face it, how many people can just move on with reckless abandon? Anyway, this isn’t what this tale is about.. This is about omelettes and bread-toast (sic!) and more toast. It’s about the two meetings I had to accomplish in the megapolis that is Mumbai. I knew I would sail through them but little did I realise that this trip (I have been to Mumbai over a hundred times travelling in the same trains, taxis and what have you!) would leave me with some amazing memories.
The inimitable DQ (Deccan Queen) with its amazing repertoire of breakfast snacks. The delectable cheese omelettes with toast (cut into half!) and butter to go along, the perfectly shaped cutlets, the much Indian baked beans with green chillies, onions and coriander (accompanied by the same buttered toast), the deep-fried cheese toast and orgasmic delights such.
The same waiters, the same toilets (now fitted with working soap dispensers and PVC taps), the same TTE with the tie knotted halfmast only to rest precariously on the belly. Nothing will change. Am so happy about that.
Soon it was time to exit the much populated Dadar station which by any standards is like walking out of a stampede of humanity topped with a sea of taxi drivers who are waiting for their prey. As luck would have it, we had our dear friend and partner brave the traffic to meet us right there in the midst of this chaos.
Chatting our way to the meeting we soon entered a plush hotel porch. St Regis, if I recollect. Opulence form the word go! I saw the formidable doorman and half a dozen valets soon enough. I realised it’s time i tucked in my shirt that kept popping out of my humungous frame. Women security officers with practised smiles welcomed us, while they made sure I gave them everything that remotely belonged to me.
Delightful! I walked in through these heavy doors to see another suited young woman smile and say Welcome. Poor thing. She’s probably got an eight-hour shift resplendent with over a thousand welcomes and plastic smiles. I know how it feels. It’s tough. I have worked in a huge hotel. Fortunately, they realised my smile wasn’t good enough and I was soon on my way to sell water purifiers. Amen.
Then came the magnificent coffee lounge with ceilings that neighbour the galaxy ‘Andromeda’ and a menu to match that. I braved the manicured, waxed floors to visit the men’s room.
A nightmare of sorts! You had a well-dressed member of the housekeeping staff waiting around with perfumed hand towels. There is no privacy any longer. This is the megapolis. This is Mumbai. This is how the rich and famous wash their hands here.
My thoughts raced back to Pune where I was left alone in the loo. I used the tissue without human intervention. I could zip up in peace. I could splash water around the basin if need be. No one would be staring at me. No neatly folded towels. I would much rather save all that water that the laundry must use.
I guess the lunch (soup and salad, if you please! ) at 900 bucks was a steal considering the amount of face towels they use in the loo. The poor housekeeper handling the laundry must be overworked.
I guess it’s only proper that the F&B pitches in with its two bits. After all, for a catering graduate like me a buffet meant much more than 50 dishes. It means smart menu planning, excellent Réchauffé cookery (French for re-heating/ modifying) and some smart soups and desserts.
How much soup can you drink crunching on some leaves and shreds of chicken? Well, if you are lucky, some bread rolls (provided you ask for them). No complaints considering the main buffet would cost you nothing less than 2000 bucks. Why not? Life is to celebrate so enjoy it to the hilt. Demolish the dessert like you would holding the Oscar in your hands!
To be honest, I did try to pass off as ‘one of them’ often pulling back my shoulders and strutting to the loo as thought I owned this place. Felt good since I was greeted over 63 times in the three hours I was there. Must be my watch I thought.
Great meetings, catching up with old friends, an hour with the second born in the family. Nothing else mattered so this was sure worth every penny. Incidentally, I was almost trained by now to give the manicured smile and side glance that is trademark with a lot of the customers at these hotels.
Then came the shocker. This amazing genius of human engineering.The Palladium with all its flamboyance. I followed my friends past these well air-conditioned passages quietly. They had done this before, they walked ahead. For me (I come from Punnayurkulam in case you’ve forgotten and I stay in Pisoli, Pune). This was titillating to say the least.
‘Jimmy Choo’ said one window and barely did I go past when I was faced with an even larger show window. This time it was an absolute tongue-twister..‘Ermenegildo Zegna’. (Pardon me, Milan, If I got that wrong, I believe this is a Milan-based design house).
Fortunately, I have no clue about Milan or its designers. I did however feel a suit there which sported a price that would need me to sell my 12-year-old Honda City. Am I not glad that I don’t wear suits, and If i do, it would rather be a modest Pune one. They didn’t quite like me sauntering in there with my clean-shaven head and huge frame, but that didn’t bother me. I had to experience this first hand and I did. I promise you I used santiser before I felt that suit.
It’s amazing how customers dressed for the ramp were floating around nonchalantly, often to glance at their reflection on the shop windows. A quick flick of the hair, a pout of the lip and they moved on in stoic silence. Quite regal this whole thing.
The flipside of all this was the million flies being done to death outside the Mc.Donald’s, courtesy a granule-like pesticide that was being carefully thrown around. Not a pretty sight though. Straight out of bejewelled corridors to the Mumbai, that is.
We left soon after, to the station to take the predictable Pragati Express (veg cutlets included) from the Dadar Terminus. Train No 12125 Down Mumbai-Pune, Pragati Express is just arriving on Platform No 6. It sounded so much like life.
Simple, uncomplicated and bereft of show windows.
Until recently Jaisurya Das, Co-founder, Pune365, would essentially put pen to formal papers. But to those who know him and as writer of one of the more popular and longest running columns in the trade media – Dear MxM, JD, as he’s known to friends, has been a prolific writer. With this ‘despatch’, we hope to get the Das to write more frequently. Perhaps not every week. But with writing in his blood (more than beer!), you never know. – Ed
Illustration by Suraj Lokare
Jd also consults in Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing, both of which are integral to his brand interventions.