The people of Jaipur are as fascinating as the places to visit in Jaipur. Kailash Singh is a Rajput, or son of a king, part of the clans that once ruled the princely states of Rajasthan and big swathes of central, western and northern India putting up ferocious fights against the invading Moghuls. His flamboyant turban is his crown. He is the face of the Trident Jaipur.
He stands tall and whether he descends from the solar deity Surya, the lunar deity Chandra or from the fire deity Agni, he holds your regard with eyes that beckon from behind a busyness of neatly trimmed beard, moustache and giant sideburns.
He is the first person that helps you out of your vehicle and greets you. Kailash has been here a good many years after a border control military career.
A PINK PALACE BY THE LAKE
The Trident Jaipur is one of the Pink City’s genuine gems.
Not over the top but just relaxed luxury, the kind you would enjoy were you a zamindar (local land owner).
Part of the Oberoi complex, this pink palace-like building stands across the Mansagar lake and the sparkling jewel of the Jal Mahal on the way to the Amber Fort.
The 132 rooms are spacious, comfortable and with killer views over the lake or the lawns.
From your own jharokha (those intimate, roofed balconies so typical of Rajasthani architecture) you can feel part of the beauty of Jaipur.
THE TRIDENT JAIPUR
When I encounter a technical glitch at the Business Centre, a young guy passing by stops and gallantly solves my problem.
Dynamic, unassuming and upbeat I later on learn he is the General Manager: Anupam Dasgupta who hails from Kolkata, used to have a rock band named The Shadow Lines -after the eponymous book by fellow Bengali literary star Amitav Ghosh- and has worked in Oman and the USA.
Over drinks at the candle lit poolside veranda, we discover a common love of literature and travel.
At my mention of the Oberoi’s philosophy towards its staff, Dasgupta leaps from his chair, returns promptly and gifts me a book: Dare to Dream, A life of M.S. Oberoi by Bachi J. Karkaria, a book which is so well written, I couldn’t put it down till the end.
The Trident Jaipur prides itself of having minor staff turn over because here ‘we offer a career, not just a job’ THE GM says and indeed, the life of the Oberoi brand creator, leaves one inspired.
A boy from a small village in the Punjab, Mr Oberoi started as a clerk in a hotel in Shimla at 18 years of age. In a few years, the enterprising, level headed Sikh ended up owing it.
His empire grew through dedication and hard work and today the Oberoi brand is a well-known luxury chain girdling the globe.
KARVA CHAUTH, WOULD YOU FAST FOR YOUR HUSBAND?
I find myself at the Trident Jaipur during the fasting festival of Karva Chauth.
Hitendra, the Food and Beverages Supervisor, proudly shows me a picture of his stunningly beautiful wife.
He himself is a handsome man from Uttarakhand. He has purchased some exquisite bangles to give her at the end of her fasting tonight -as soon as the moon is sighted.
This is a custom followed by many in northwest India.
Wives have a day off while they fast for the wellbeing of their husbands on the full moon of October/November.
They get together and exchange clay pots (Karva) filled with make up items, bangles and small gifts, a custom originating from the days when a young bride would be officially given a god-sister at her husband’s village to confide in and trust.
This festival also has roots linked to military campaigns conducted to defeat the Mughal invaders.
Just before the men would take leave to go to war, their wives would pray for them dressing up in their finest regalia, resulting in a romantic evening spent with their husbands before parting.
THE NEW INDIA HOSPITALITY
Gorgeous Kajol has come to my room to help me put on a festive sari for the full moon occasion.
I ask her if she was fasting.
‘I wouldn’t fast for anybody’ she says, laughing off the suggestion. She is young and like many women her age, considers this observance an anachronism.
Ever moving Yuvraj at the restaurant, cannot understand why I don’t know anything about cricket so he brings me little treats from the kitchen before dinner instead -perhaps I could grow to understand the game. He works long hours but he is always full of cheer.
Pramod busies himself about the pool and keeps an eye to anticipate your every need.
He makes sure I know about Happy Hour and explains the deal. His white baseball cap identifies him as the Activities manager.
He is young and full of energy like the other members of the team.
It is rare to have the opportunity to interact with the staff in this way.
I am the richer for it but what it really shows is that the new hospitality generation in India is miles apart from the original, low-to-invisible profile personnel of the past. Mr Oberoi would be very proud indeed…