Thirty-two years ago, city historian Sharada Dwivedi saw an ad by the Taj Mahal hotel in the newspapers, asking the public to come forth with any Taj memorabilia they have to help create an archive for the hotel.
When there was no response for weeks, the Taj’s then sales director Camellia Panjabi convinced Dwivedi to take on the task of research and archive-building herself. “I always admired Taj founder Jamshedji Tata, and after three years of research in the state archives, I realised there was enough material to write a book,” Dwivedi said.
On Friday, as a part of the hotel’s 108th birthday celebrations, that book – The Taj at Apollo Bunder – was finally launched by Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata.
Co-authored by British historian Charles Allen, the book is a product of three decades of archival research and interviews with a host of people who lived and worked at the hotel, “right from former maharajas to plumbers”, as Dwivedi puts it.
The book chronicles the history of the Taj as a hotel as well as an iconic part of the city throughout the country’s freedom movement and up to the November 2008 terror attacks in which it was a target.