“My first loyalties lie with the Taj so I wanted to come here and show support,” said Swati Mathur who had to turn back because she didn’t have a reservation. “I'm now joining my friends at the Trident.”
But for the guests who did get past the security check — and not all of them had reservations, it became more about how confidently you strode in — it was a moment of significance.
A soberly decorated Christmas tree in the centre of the lobby became a star attraction, as patrons clicked photographs in front of it and children scampered around it. Others made their way to the five restaurants that reopened on Sunday evening, and a few others just lounged on the couches in the lobby.
Yusra Dawood, a 28-year-old Yemeni national who works for the UN, was there to enquire about the residential suites at the hotel.
“I love the Taj. I wasn’t here when the attacks happened but I was sad to know it wasn’t open when I arrived in India. I am checked into the Intercontinental right now but am shifting here tomorrow.”
The restaurants buzzed with the chatter of patrons from all walks of life, and it felt like it could have been just another busy evening at the hotel.
Outside the Shamiana, patrons wrote tributes and words of encouragement on a large-sized guest book with faded images of the Taj in its days of glory.
Food columnist Rashmi Uday Singh took up an entire page with the strident words: “Home again. Bravo!” while another patron, Nelson Thomas Derya, signed off with a touching tribute, “I was born in the Taj 15/9/1980, I live with the Taj, I'll die for my Taj, apna Taj.”
Earlier in the evening, chairman of the Indian Hotels Company Ratan Tata, said these words, “We have heard many stories of magnificent courage and selfless service, not just in the acts of the police and security forces, but also by the staff of the hotel. They have set new standards that we can only hope to aspire to.”