She is 82. She is Manjamma. She is from Karnataka, the cradle of coffee in the country. Her ambition, according to The Telegraph, Calcutta, was to sip a cup of coffee at the Taj Mahal hotel overlooking the Arabian Sea in Bombay.
Her mother had done so 60 years earlier, and since then the dream had been firmly implanted in ajji‘s mind.
On Monday, during a visit to the Gateway of India in the company of her daughter, Sapna, a gynaecologist, and son-in-law Laxman Dandin, Manjamma spotted the five-star hotel and decided to swing in for a cuppa.
Shock: “The hotel wouldn’t let us in because of her sandals,” says Dandin. Manjamma was wearing slippers.
Shocker: “We were treated so shabbily because we are from south India and have dark skin,” says Sapna.
Sure, a sign outside reads, “Rights of Admission Reserved”. But if fair-skinned foreigners wearing slippers and shorts can be saluted by imposing looking durwans; if paan-stained politicians wearing khadi and kolhapuris can be ushered in by managers on all-fours, what’s Taj’s beef with Manjamma?
If M.F. Husain being turned away from Willingdon Club for entering barefoot can be news for our papers and TV stations, will Manjamma’s ignominy be?
A hotel owned by the Tatas shuts its doors on an Indian, and the same Tatas say they will “sue” Orient Express on being turned away from acquiring it because the US luxury hotel chain snubbed it saying, “any association with the predominantly Indian chain would erode the value of its premium brands.”
For the record, the Taj Mahal hotel was set up by Jamsetji Tata in 1903 after he was turned away from the exclusive British owned and frequented Watson hotel.
Ah, Taj. Ah, sweet irony.
Photograph: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta
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