At the grand opening of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel back in 1903, fifty ruling princes checked in at once. One actually brought a pet tiger. Since then the hotel has hosted many maharajahs, kings, heads of state and Oscar-winning Hollywood celebrities. Notable amongst them include Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jacky Kennedy, The Beatles, The King & Queen of Norway, The Prince of Wales, Roger Moore, Mick Jagger – and the list goes on.
I started with a simple one – shine my leather moccasins that I bought especially for this trip and have been wearing throughout India for the past 2 weeks. He came back as quick as could be and informed me that not only had he shined the shoes but also repaired the hole that I didn’t even know existed. Shine the shoes and press the clothes – that’s the easy stuff. When I informed the butler that I needed to find a pharmacy to pick up some aspirin for a headache, he insisted I lie down in bed and wait for him to do the pick up. When I queried some other guests, they told me…yes, I’ve asked for my maps to be ironed flat…I’ve asked for rare books to be found…I’ve asked for garment alterations in a crunch…I’ve asked for help packing…and the list goes on.
The humbling thing about my butler was that he always came right back at me after completing a task and with his head lowered asked if he had met my expectations. I just timidly replied “Oh yes, thank you,” as if this level of service was the norm in my everyday life.
An Architectural Marvel
When the hotel first opened its doors at the turn of the century it was considered the finest hotel in the East. It boasted imported American fans, German steam elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. It had a permanent orchestra, European management and staff, as well as a French chef.
The Tata Midas Touch
After suffering significant physical damage the hotel underwent a major renovation in record time and reopened its doors to the public after only 21 days, demonstrating a stoic determination to survive. The devotion and commitment of Taj employees stems in large part from the privilege that comes from working for a Tata owned company.
It is widely believed that in 1903 the wealthy Indian industrialist, Jamsedji Tata decided to build the hotel after he was refused entry to one of the city’s grand hotels of the time. Today, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is in its fifth generation of ownership, its chairman, Ratan Tata is arguably one of the most powerful tycoons in the world. His popularity at home in India stems in part from his overreaching generosity in a country that is in desperate need. Almost 66 % of after-tax profits of the Tata Group (a multi-billion dollar conglomerate) goes to charity and each of the Tata companies have a dedicated department that focuses on giving back to community and building sustainable livelihoods for these communities.
Today, if you’re looking for a hotel with a heart or looking to pamper yourself and feel like a king or queen, consider the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai for an experience rich in history and full of heart.Donna Salle is a freelance travel writer and can be contacted through her website at www.TravelsWithHeart.com.
Source = Donna Salle, Travels with Heart