Thursday, November 27, 2008

Quote of the day: The Taj Mahal hotel

But for one thing: The Four Seasons and the Waldorf-Astoria could never claim the pivotal role in New York life that the Taj could claim in Mumbai.

It is not another Hilton or Sheraton in another Asian city. Its cash cow may be foreign guests, but it is equally a fixture of local Mumbai life, the aorta through which anything glamorous, sentimental, confidential or profitable passes in the city.


Legend has it that Jamsetji Tata, a nineteenth-century industrialist, was once turned away from a hotel in British-era Mumbai because he happened to be Indian. He decided, in a strange kind of revenge, to
build the best hotel in the country, outfitted with German elevators, French bathtubs and other refinements from all around the world.

The hotel became, for many Indians, a symbol of the overthrow of the indignities of the colonial age. And it became a symbol of the best that could be had in a city paved with dreams. -Anand Giridharadas
Mumbai is simultaneously the Hollywood and the New York of India, and the Taj is the center of the glamour of Mumbai for many Indians. It might be popular with foreigners, but it is a deeply Indian institution; it is where every Indian dreams to eat when they have "made it", and it is a constant reminder that Indians can and will succeed. That explains why the attacks have such a deep resonance compared to, let's say, a bomb in Assam by separatists. It is an attack on a potent symbol of a proud and strong India.

I remember talking with some train employee in Uttar Pradesh and when I mentioned I was heading to Mumbai he told me all about the Taj Mahal hotel and how beautiful it was. He was proud of the hotel, even though he lived hundreds of kilometers away, he had never seen it and he probably could not afford even a meal there.

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