“I’ve been with the Taj through its most difficult phase. I want to be with it even after it has passed.”
This affirmation came from Karambir Kang, general manager of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, who suffered a dual tragedy on November 26, 2008. Not only did he lose his family — wife Neeti and sons, Uday and Samar, perished in a blaze that broke out during the attacks — the hotel he loved was virtually destroyed.
A year later, the 41-year-old remains single-mindedly dedicated to the Taj. Each day involves the heart-wrenching task of revisiting the spots where he witnessed such personal horror.
“I have grown with the Taj and Tata group, and I feel a fierce sense of loyalty to the company,” said Kang, who has been with the Taj for 19 years. “The Taj has done a lot for me. Leaving it would be like running away.”
Running away was something Kang never did. Even as Neeti, Uday and Samar found themselves trapped in the fire, Kang did not abandon his guests, choosing to supervise the rescue.
Remaining with the hotel even after the tragedy, he felt, gave him a sense of purpose. “I want to see this place rebuilt. I’m leaving no stone unturned for its restoration,” he said.
The hotel has engaged five international designers to redo the rooms affected by the attacks; they will reopen by mid-January 2010. The restaurants will open by the end of this month. “The hotel will retain its old charm and soul, but with a contemporary touch,” said Kang.
Kang derives a lot of his strength, confidence and positive attitude from those around him, whether friends or strangers. “When you read stories in the papers of others who have lost someone, you realise you are not alone,” he said.
Keeping the hope alive, Kang does not believe in dwelling on the ifs and buts of what happened, and whether the events of that day could have turned out differently.
“You can’t undo what is over. Anger and frustration only lead to misjudgement. I know it won’t help me,” he said.