The Taj is not just an iconic luxury hotel.
Over the last century, it has given Colaba the distinction of being the ‘tourist hotspot’, and has given birth to an entire industry of souvenir stores, selling everything from antiques to ethnic shawls, carpets and curios, which are thronged by foreigners.
Little surprise then, that most of the stores on the street behind the Taj are still reeling from the shock of 26/11, which paralysed both the hotel as well as their businesses. These shop-owners now wait with bated breath for the reopening of the hotel this week, which will hopefully usher in the long-lost state of normalcy.
“Winter used to be the peak season for my sales, but since last November, business was at a standstill for nearly six months,” said Yasin Ali, the owner of a small, unnamed antiques store right opposite the Taj entrance. “Even now one hardly sees large numbers of foreigners shopping in the area.”
Though Ali relied on the income from another branch of the store in Chor Bazaar, others have not been so fortunate.
“I used to get most of my orders from Taj guests throwing parties in their rooms, so my business is low even today,” said Shravan Kumar Dubey, who runs a small cold-drinks stall, Taj Communications, opposite the hotel.
When Dubey, the sole breadwinner of his nine-member family, shut shop at 7 pm on 26/11, he could not have imagined that those shutters would remain locked for a month and a half, thanks to a complete roadblock. “We had no option but to sit at home and wait,” he added.
Half a block down the same road, Farooq Ahmed, a salesman at the souvenir store Mughal Art, looks up pensively at the silent dome of the Taj.
“They say it will reopen on the November 26. Let’s hope that brings our customers back!”