Money can buy beds but not the sleep. Internet can give recipe but not breakfast. A clean dress cannot hide unclean skin; it would stink and itch anyway. Stars cannot hide the darkness of night...and star hotels only prepare one to forget the reality and start believing in seamless lies. हाँ, सचाई छुप नहीं सकती बनावट की उश्लों से / कि खुशबू आ नहीं सकती कभी कागज़ के फूलों से . And finally, one cannot fire his or her hearth by pouring hot water into it!
How to ensure continuity of entertainment?
A good question. I wouldn’t have
got an answer to it myself had I not got a chance to stay in a star hotel last
week. There was this spectacle waiting for me to bump into.
This one is just a picture, a
photo opportunity. Take a close look at this.
Now tell me what is special in
A washroom, and a bank of
urinals…um…oh yeah, a plasma television above.
Wow, you hit the nail on the head!
This one is a photograph taken inside the washroom of that particular star
hotel in Delhi. But do we really need to watch TV while facing the pan of
urinal? I mean while having a tinkle in the loo? Haha! It’s a star hotel: one
shouldn’t forget that. It wants to provide its guests with uninterrupted entertainment
streaming in forever! Or else they might get bored and flee for their life.
Well, I see, this constitutes the
specialty of the star hotel then. And what about the stay in star hotel that
ensures uninterrupted entertainment streaming in for ever?
Aha! It’s quite unforgettable I should say. Look,
how it enriched my experience!
The routine started right away,
as soon as I reached there. Before entering the lobby of the hotel, I was
supposed to satisfy the security fellows standing at the porch and also their
X-ray machine. They should get convinced, first of all, that I was a harmless
soul approaching their premises with harmless baggage. The security scanning
was all over in a trice though. Otherwise, I’m used to the frisking at the
airports and so this did not irk me. No issue.
Now the trained receptionist took
over. It appeared the fellow was too much trained in hospitality management, way
too much. He was to be convinced before I was allowed inside. He was kind of empowered
to ask questions, use veto powers, collect all sorts of information. Really, entry
into the star hotel should not be made easier. The fellow demanded my photo
identity card and I offered my PAN card. That was not enough. He asked for an
identity card with my postal address on it. How might I satisfy him? I had
different cards with different addresses: My passport done from Patna carried
my address as was applicable to me then; my recent driving licence done from
Coimbatore had another address to show; my voter card was done from Bhubaneswar
and it would show yet another address…and now my visiting card said that my
address was Shimla. Suddenly a question flashed through my mind: Am I, then, as ubiquitous
as God? Or simply a poor creature with no address? A person living everywhere
has nowhere to live, like a person who loves everybody really loves nobody! In
loving and living something permanent is desirable, nay essential. I felt
disturbed: it was a profound philosophical question to crop up in a very
mundane situation. But then again, before me stood the all-powerful
receptionist, waiting for my answer and a moment’s delay or fumbling would
impel him into the domain of doubts. He could suspect me to be a terrorist or
he could take me for a drug-peddler…and he would call the police, Delhi Police.
Oh my God! I should really be intelligent to escape the present hassle and
satisfy the finicky receptionist of the star hotel. He was smileless and more
than that restless. And he wanted to be sure as to where I belonged. I was not
sure if I would be able to satisfy the smileless receptionist.
However, words formed on my tongue just on the
spur of the moment and I was convinced that it was the right moment to lose
temper while keeping cool.
Keeping cool and losing temper? It
should be an impossible state then.
Yeah, but then I did accomplish it.
‘At the moment this is all I have
to prove my identity. I’m a bona fide Indian tax-payer, right? Now tell me if I
have to check in or not,’ I just uttered it firmly, nay cried out.
And the fellow had no importance
to attach to my ultimatum. Rather he was long ready with another quibble. ‘You
are booked for two nights.’ And I protested, ‘No, I’ll be checking out in the
morning after the third night and that is the minimum duration I have to stay
in your hotel to complete my engagement.’
‘Then you’ve to talk to…,’ was
‘Look Mister, as far as I’m
concerned, I won’t talk to anybody just to stay in your hotel, right?’ was my
And this time, too, the meticulous
fellow with right sartorial mien and oodles of training in hospitality
management had no response.
‘I didn’t offend you,’ uttered
the receptionist after sufficient interval and his tone was nothing if not curt.
‘You didn’t offend me and that’s
right, but you are capable of,’ was my quip.
Somehow the check-in hassle was
over. I didn’t have to talk to anybody; the only thing I was called upon to do
was to fill up a form and sign, and then sign on another without filling it, and
initialing at a few more places…without reading any of them. It was like
clicking EULA “I Agree” while loading a piece of application software! And thus
I could satisfy him about my ability to pay, my identity, one that should not
be trifled with.
Now was the time I was ushered to
the room so reluctantly allotted to me. But there was no initiative, no offer
of help, as if the receptionist fellow was waiting for me to beseech him. Or it
was like I was made to wait till the big boss of the star hotel arrived on the
scene to satisfy himself that an urchin from the street was not trying to
gatecrash. Or maybe, according to the well-trained receptionist, a bona fide
tax-payer of India like me should know where to go and what to do and, as such,
no formal accompaniment to the room was necessary. Perforce I had to ask, ‘So,
how do I reach my room?’ And to that the fellow reluctantly delivered a
sentence that he seemed to have long mugged up. ‘You first identify your
luggage and then my colleague will take you to your room.’ As a reply it was
okay. In fact I expected nothing more than that at the moment. It was already 10
PM and it was time to take rest and not to enjoy the sermons of the reception
fellow. The décor of the lobby had no attraction to my drowsy eyes either.
Presently, there came a person to
accompany me to my room. He was diminutive but a uniformed fellow whose uniform
made him look more grotesque than smart. But the noticeable thing was the velvety-bottomed
cart he was pushing. I had only a small cabin baggage and another small bag—and
that was all I had. But the trolley-cart he brought to carry my small bags was
taller than me and it was to occupy the whole of the lift space. Was it a trolley
or a gigantic Chinese fishing net brought straight from Kochi seashore? Maybe, the
wheeled cart was brought to carry me up to my room along with my baggage, I
imagined. Design-wise, it had two long steel pipes bent into inverted U-shapes
and fitted onto its base in such a way that it appeared as though an ‘X’ had
been made to metamorphose into a couple of U’s and then get inverted, its elongated
hands and legs bent and screwed with the corners of the base of the trolley-cart.
And thus the poor X had been made to bend backward and suffer. Was our X doing
some impossible yogic posture? Ah! My suffering X, you’ve lost your identity to
a couple of Us and you are going to suffer here till eternity—I empathised. Who
designed the cart? And why did he make it so big? Then I remembered it could have
something to do with the star specification of a star hotel.
The cart trundled into the lift on
a mild push from behind by the uniformed fellow and I too managed to squeeze myself into lift.
Thus I followed my luggage and the uniformed person detailed to lead the way.
Eighteenth floor: my room was in
the eighteenth floor facing another big hotel across the road. Through my
window I observed the hotel. The lights from inside its rooms made that skyscraper
of a hotel look starry and dreamy and beautiful and enchanting. I had no doubt
that what I had before me across the road was a star hotel too…and it could be
better than mine, I thought wistfully. Then a quick flash of wisdom made me realise
that the other hotel must have more sedulous receptionists with an even
stricter regime of security. I remembered the old saying: The neighbour’s wife
and the distant mountains are always beautiful.
Agreed, it was already the time
to snore and dream but was that easy? Where was the place to sleep in the room?
The queen-sized bed was all crowded—there were six pillows already vying for a place
on it. A whooping collection of pillows of variegated colours, I say! Why on
earth the queen-bed of a star hotel should be the dumping platform of pillows? Nay,
they were not just pillows—I thought—they were the maids of the queen detailed
to help their mistress in her intimate job of satisfying the occupant! Suddenly
I reprimanded myself for going so infructuously imaginative. First things
first: to sleep there, the first action that was required of me to accomplish was
to remove the pillows—the five of them, but then where to keep them for the night?
There was no space in the dingy room to move, not even to stand before the
mirror fitted to the wall, and keeping the spare pillows on the floor below was
not a civilised choice. There was no table-top television and keeping the
pillows on the TV was also not an option. Then where could I take them? Taking
them inside the bathroom? Really I had no answer.
Otherwise, going to sleep
straight away was not possible. A star hotel had so many post check-in routines
for the occupants to go through. In my room there were many things waiting to
be read: small flyers with wise words of the hotel management strewn all over,
the do’s and don’ts in the shape of instructions to the inmates, the sermons
how we might save water by not demanding the towels and linens to be changed
every day, how we might save water by using just one mug of water for shaving (where
was the mug?), the offer of room service at exorbitant cost, the list of
services available—from massage to manicure, the feedback form that promised to
make the service better taking the cue from the guests’ suggestions and blah,
I had a great desire to sleep,
skipping the reading. But a second thought bothered me: Should I skip them? Or
to put it in other words, would it be in my interest to skip them? At least I
should read the labels of small ampoules of shampoo and hand-wash and
moisturizers and conditioners, or else I would end up washing my face with shampoo.
Before going to sleep, I should be wise and well read. An occupant of a room in
a star hotel should not expect sleep to come to him unless he had made himself
wise imbibing the instructions strewn all over the room, the bathroom included.
I decided I must read the literature. And a slow reader like me, with eyes bleary
and soporific, took at least some fifteen minutes to read all of them,
including the fire escape plan. I’m sure others would require as much time, for
the literatures were numerous and scattered all over.
Well, there was something more
interesting to do there at the mini bar embedded in the alcove, but that was
not to come free of cost. Yes, hair of
the dog at midnight must be expensive, nay prohibitive. There was an electric
teapot too, but I could not mark that it was complimentary.
When reading was over it was time
to wash and go to sleep. But the bathroom frightened me: it was like a small wardrobe,
or maybe even smaller than that. Those who have seen the Hindi movie Neelkamal
can recall how Rajkumar the hero is made to die inside a brick chamber that is
built around him brick upon brick in front of the stunned spectators! And then
he became a singing ghost. आ जा, तुझको पुकारे मेरा प्यार ... The bath closet of the
star hotel was not a brick chamber, though, but a glass one. Nevertheless, one
would hardly be able to stand there with arms akimbo, let alone do any stretching
manoeuvre. Bending downwards to rub legs would be possible but one should take
a special position…and with special caution. And what about water? The knobs
had all the controls. खुल जा सिम-सिम—One should be careful or else drench himself
from scalp to feet. One should be careful to turn the knob or else he would end
up singeing himself. I began to cogitate: what I needed then was not an unabridged bath but
an ablution, and should I not skip it for a night? It was a star hotel, and
here I should not insist doing everything that I was doing when I was not in a
And I skipped my ablution. I was
not required to sing आ जा, तुझको पुकारे मेरा प्यार….
It was not only the nocturnal
ablution that I had to skip; I had to skip drinking water too. The
complimentary bottle of water was already over during the tiring one-hour
acclimatization process. I still needed a glass of water so that it should
compensate, to some extent, the loss of coolness due to skipping the nocturnal
ablution. But how to get water? Oh yes, I was already a wise man by now, and my
reading of the entire room literature had made me aware who was to be contacted
for water. I just flipped the pages and selected the number to dial. But my
wisdom made me flip some more pages in that book too. And I got the page where
the cost of ordering a water bottle was written. Ah! It was whooping one
hundred eighty rupees per bottle, fifteen hundred percent more expensive than its actual cost in unstarred market!
Suddenly, my thirst disappeared.
I tried to swallow some saliva to manage my thirst. I felt like a hero in a
fairy tale who could forget his thirst in the desert, in the land of fire, inside a bottomless pit, and whenever
required. I tried to feel great that I was staying in a star hotel, trying to
catch the twinkling stars.
A N Nanda