We can be hurt but not knocked out, says Ratan Tata
"We can be hurt but we will never fall," Ratan Tata, chairman of the Taj owner Tata Group, said shortly before his hotel was to start checking in new guests for the first time since it was attacked on Nov 26. See specialindia Updated: Dec 21, 2008 21:34 IST
Two luxury hotels--Taj Mahal and Trident--on Sunday wiped out the traces of the unprecedented terror strikes and opened its doors again, exactly 26 days after gun-fire and grenade blasts shook the enduring symbols of the country's financial Capital.
"We cannot be knocked down--this is a memorable day and a tribute to those who saved many lives," an emotional Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata said as the iconic Taj hotel, a group subsidiary, was ready for business again.
"It gives me a great sense of pride - this is the start of a new era," an emotional Tata said as receptionists wearing warm smiles welcomed the guests in the lobbies of the hotel to the strains of piped music.
The cling of champagne flutes was back amidst the buzz of who's who of the city as the Taj hotel extended a red-carpet welcome to its guests.
Playing the perfect host, the hotel pressed into service luxury Jaguars cars to ferry about 150 guests who had made reservations at the Taj Mahal Tower.
The day for the Taj began with prayers as Tata along with Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces Managing Director, Raymond Bickson and staff joined together in muti-religious prayers to "cleanse" the hotel from all "evil".
At four in the evening, the doors were first opened for high tea, meant only for a select group of VVIPS. By seven, the hotel was finally open to its guests with the impeccably dressed staff greeting every patron with folded hands.
Poignant moments were witnessed when Taj Mahal hotel general manager Karambir Kang, who lost his wife and two sons in the attack, returned back to work today.
"Thank you for your support" was the first greeting, besides loads of smiles and flowers, offered by Trident to one of its first customers in place of the usual bill as the Hotel came back to life.
The Taj gourmet restaurants like the Zodiac Grill, Masal Kraft and Souk that have been every food connoisseurs delight, started again with special menus for the reopening prepared by the chefs.
No one could really ignore the majestic heritage wing of the hotel standing alone, which incidentally bore the brunt of the audacious terror attack.
Standing right under the moon, the heritage wing didn't for a bit look like something that had been ravaged from the inside. The hotel brimmed with the same elegance and pride that it always did for the last 105 years.
Even Tata who dedicated the re-opening of the hotel to the people who lost their lives in the terror attack could not hide his yearning to see the heritage wing open and said, "When the old Taj, the heritage wing is restored and rebuilt to the extent that it needs to be, it will send a stronger message ... We can be hurt but not knocked out."
Meanwhile at the Tower wing of the hotel, every room had a small personalised card addressed to the guest expressing gratitude for support in difficult times besides mentioning that the room rent would go into Taj Welfare Trust that has been set up to look after the needs of the family and children of those killed at the hotel.
Many room furnishing have also been changed though the hotel officials claimed that the look remains the same.
In the lobby, a huge Christmas tree spruced up with lights and decorations greeted the guests.
The famous and the envious art collection of the hotel still adorned the walls.
One piece of art with a bronze framework, 'Tree of Life' which is about seven feet high and had been placed on the sixth floor did not suffer any damage though many at the heritage hotel indeed did.