I have barely been able to sleep for the last three weeks. How can I forget what happened to the Taj in Mumbai? When I left the hotel in October last year, I had been heading it for close to three years. And that came at the end of six years during which I headed its food and beverage operations.
I had been associated with the Taj group for almost three decades. But of all the Taj hotels, this one is truly special — for guests and employees alike. It’s more than just a hotel. It’s an institution that belongs not only to Mumbai but to India, and even to the world.
Why did the terrorists choose it? Was it because of the hotel’s iconic stature, or was it because it’s a symbol of our country’s economic progress, national pride?
There will be many stories told of the employees’ bravery, loyalty and their going the extra mile beyond the call of duty. It is a very deep and intense relationship that thrives on a culture of trust, integrity and a commitment second to none.
The security team deserves a special mention. They worked bravely and tirelessly to help the NSG and other forces locate the suspected terrorists without a thought that they were not wearing bulletproof jackets.
I recollect when the floods happened. There were so many employees who waded through chest-deep water and torrential rain and reported to work. I was overwhelmed. It’s a culture that will take other companies decades to emulate and establish. But it’s worth striving for.
I went to Mumbai on November 30 to attend the funeral of the family members of my friend and ex-colleague Karambir Kang, the current general manager of the Taj. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. I also had a dear colleague and friend in chef Banja. He was a humble soul, full of life and outstanding in his skills. I went to meet his wife Farida and his 14-year-old son Rohan and shared their grief. Many other Taj employees lost their lives trying to save others. My heartfelt tribute to their families.
I’m sure the restoration work that’s already underway will make the Taj an even better and safer place. I earnestly request the patrons to feel the same way.
May the happy days be back soon when I can sit with chef Hemant Oberoi for a cup of chai, when we re-create Wasabi, Golden Dragon and Harbour Bar all over again.
Farhat Jamal was general manager, Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. He is now President and COO of Grand Group