Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aah Taj.... Wah Taj

Yes. The high alert is still on. Mumbai is bracing itself for.... for.... I don't know. The cops aren't saying. The silence is ominous. And revisiting the venue that has become a ghastly symbol of the 26\11 terror attacks, is a little like self-inflicted pain. But nothing can keep me away from a hotel that has such a strong connect. The Taj is just not another gracious and grand hotel. It is an emotion. These were my words in an article I'd been commissioned to write by the editor of the Taj Magazine, Fatma Zakaria ( she's the same lady who'd given me my first break as a national columnist by asking me to contribute a weekly piece to the Sunday Times way back in the early eighties - an association that still continues!). Well, it was 'Raksha Bandhan' and my son Aditya did want to treat his sisters.... so, there we were at our old haunt, The Sea Lounge, ordering the best dahi puri, bhel puri and sev puri in the world. Looking around the spacious place we tried to figure out what had changed ( it reopened recently). Got it! It was the people. Sea Lounge was only half full. Before the attacks ( and the recession), it used to be difficult getting a table, especially at lunch. Entering the hotel these days is challenge number one - it is not a pleasant experience given the super tight security measures in place. I guess this puts off people. The Taj has been converted into a fortress, sand bagged extensively, fortified and barricaded, which spooks guests. It is old faithfuls like us, who gamely go along with the triple screening, knowing it is in our own interest.Even so, it is still disturbing to walk into a much loved meeting place and find sections of it closed ( lots of exciting openings and events in the offing later in the year, but as of now, it remains eerily empty ).
As we sat at our favourite table and Arundhati decided to indulge herself ( Cafe Viennoise - loaded with calories, but so irresistible!), we watched dozens of tourists on the footpath outside, taking souvenir shots of the hotel. I could see them pointing to the floors that were set on fire, and taking close- ups of the magnificent dome ( how can anyone forget the sight of that dome blazing?). While we were celebrating the festival, Qasab was wondering who would tie a raakhee around his wrist. I mean.... get real. Which woman in her right mind would want Qasab, a mass murderer, as a raakhi brother??
I've been asked why I have not written about the other Raakhi ( Sawant)? Frankly, she now bores me. Her old spontaniety has been replaced by a certain calculated cunning that I find most unattractive. Besides, I hate being manipulated by these absurd reality shows with their 'fixed' programmes and fake winners. I cannot bear to watch any of them. However, one must hand it to Raakhi - she coyly disclosed her own 'honour code' on camera when she said, she was willing to do anything for money, but she won't 'do that'! Wow. Does one call that a free ride ??


चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

"she was willing to do anything for money" AND thats the story of her rags to riches...dancing all the way from villages to megas.

Gia Fernandes said...

You're a true blue celebrity Ms De - eating chaat at a luxury hotel!!!!
It is sad to hear that the Taj seems deserted these days. I guess mere mortals like me will no longer be able to pop in to use the loo after too much walking down the Causeway.

You're right about Rakhi Sawant being boring now. I guess the freshness and "honesty" from her Big Boss days have now been replaced by too much Botox and BS :-) Watch out for her big split with the dude from Toronto soon...I wonder how much they're gonna get paid for that one!

Anon said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I feel the same way about the Taj as you do.

It strange that most people grumble about the tight security. Why can't people understand these guys are putting their lives on the line to safeguard us!! Nobody can deny that the Taj staff did exactly that! Even the security guys are polite almost apologetic at times. I make it a point to give the grumblers a cold stare & tell the security guys thank you with a big smile! Ofcourse the cute sniffer dog who once came up with a wagging tail to say hello helped!

Long live the Taj its the most gracious symbol of Mumbai, not just the city but more importanly the spirit of the people! Gracious,beautiful but most of all indomitable!

Narendra shenoy said...

You speak my mind! The Taj is indeed an emotion.

And I heartily agree with your views on Rakhi Sawant.

Am I sounding like a Congress party worker, yessing away like this? Apologies.

Prasun Kulshrestha said...

Hello shobhaji,

Qasab, Who would tie a rakhi???? Do you think that he would be actually worried of having a sister when he kicked his parents & other family members out of his life????????

And yes, even his life would be kicked out soon

Harish said...

I have dined just once at Taj... but have been there countless times for their social welfare initiatives. Somehow I can never, and will never develop that kind of affinity for Oberoi/trident. Taj comes with a very desi flavour... What ambanis are trying to be... Tatas genuinely and convincingly are--- A peoples brand.

Terror Tourism is what the government loves to bank on... Im not against it. pain always fascinates more than wellness. Pain always has a story behind it... and hence is glorified. but i just hope this money... goes to the real needy...

I hear that they are planning a statue of chatrapati shivaji at gateway which is taller than the statue of liberty... Why??? What do we prove by doing this? I am not against Chatrapati Shivaji or any revered leader... is a statue the need of the hour??? why not concentrate on stopping people from squatting by building toilets everywhere?? Why not build more loos for women.. it is so sad that men can pee anywhere but women have to wait till their kidneys explode.
Why not spend money on beautifying and conserving our spaces... ??

And if at all there should be a statue, why just Chatrapati shivaji??? Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport (domestic), Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport (International), Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (VT)... id love to have JijaBai's statue there with a child in her arms.. standing taller than statue of liberty.

heres the article that I excavated when i googled...

Rakhi, i used to love her too... until i saw her on TV recently. She was on NDTV with vikram chandra... vikram had to take a break as he couldnt control his laughter...

But I appreciate one thing... She made silliness her brand.. like you had the Sadhna Cut... and helen's cabaret, you have the rakhi's silliness.. thats what she wants.. hate me.. but dare not ignore me.

She wont do "that"??? lol. We as a nation are always sorry for sex... and sorry for being rich... and poverty, piety is a virtue.. Why live in pretension... ??? We aint born to virgins...???hai na... I expected a more explicit Phataka Type answer from Rakhi.. but she was like a pusky bomb..

Prasun Kulshrestha said...

@ aham...

Rakhi is not a phuska bomb but a daring girl who " actually " is preparing her way of success.
Now pls dont start saying success? with this...helll...hihihihihi

Roshni said...

hahaha...just loved your remarks on Rakhi Sawant and Qasab!It is preisely because of such witty observations ,by you,about people,which makes me follow your blog.....keep blogging!

Aaditya M. Joshi said...


Why get into the 'statue at Gateway' issue when the blogpost doesn't even talk about it. Why add such an irrelevant line to your comment?

To add to it, Aham, the 'statue' is at Marine Drive and NOT Gateway.. maybe you should get your facts correct next time you speak about something so irrelevant to a post..

Couldn't read something so irresponsible from someone I thought was well-read.

The Geekie said...

no 1 will forget the deadly 26/11

2nd part was hilarious :D
Raakhi bores u now?? :D lol

hope she doesnt ponder into this post
else one more drama will b started :D

Dyslexicon said...

"Sugar-coated" but incisive . . .

Once again the government seems to be becoming complacent and everyone seems to be drifting into the usual comfort zone of oblivion. There may be three zone of tight security at Taj but where else? But what about the railway station(s)?

At times like this, writings like Shobha's can be a wake up alarm - and if they do, they have done their job.

"Raakhi" (et al) is just chatter - background pink-noise.

Anonymous said...

SRK & Rakhi - Great PR skills.

Unknown said...

Tomorrow definitely Mayavati will build a bigger, most expensive statue of herself to beat all the competition.
Rakhi cannot remain the way she was. She is an entertainment industry herself now and then.
Taj tragedy had to happen one day or the other. How long the rich can live a cocooned existence cutting themselves from the commuting public?

Unknown said...

And do not use the words jealousy or envy. It boils down to poetic justice, the ultimate justice where the rich cannot escape by merely showing off the arrogance of money power. They have to live with barricaded security because the social and political environment gives them loads of opportunities to earn money while disadvantged had to cope with every obstacle to get some opportunity. The system fails the vast majority and thats how the rich become richer while hardly anything trickles down to the needy. The rich use political connections and vice versa and this makes the neglected embrace other avenues out of sheer desperation. This desperation manifests itself in many forms which make even the privileged threatened. Z category security will increase and there will be more fences and barricades.

Harish said...

@prasun :)


Thanks for your faith in me. You are right. Yes, i dint read properly... It is in Marine Lines. I was referring to forward an email I received. but that email said something and the article i have linked here says something else. Thanks for correcting me.

Manish'sMom said...

Shobhaaji god bless you for speaking your mind! Just keep those thoughts and blogs flowing!!!!

here i 'm said...

This was second post for me today talking about 26/11 and Quasab. I don't understand why our country is treating a terrorist like celebrity ? And on top of it... all the newspapers have to highlight it and print some c**p about him everyday. Ugh! I totally hate it.
Anyways...hope you had fun at Taj. :)

Unknown said...

Love u !!!! for writing (mentioning) ur opinion on Rakhi..,,, it feels u read n I feel connected wth u …

Godd I was watching the show everyday to ‘feel better’,,itnee badee drama queen… all those tears n fake sentiments.. Rakhi - I hate my parents (read PARRONTS) but u (groom) MUST love urs as she wl marry the families… eeewwwwwww

Also, I totally agree with ur review of ‘love aaj kal’ took my sister to watch it on RB ///guess it was 2 heavy and complicated wth fewer fun elements.. the story is good but that’s that of it… and the new girl aka harleen loved her…

U shud write abt these so called critics how they gv 4 n 5 stars to the it they r paid ??

Two main issues I have wth movie (many more) –
Rakhi looked far better in her bridal attire thn Deepika’s wedding day in the movie…

Always fail to understand how a husband can b as understanding as Rahul KAhanna in the movie…the only way is that he is GAY lol

My frnds r still mental abt the movie n r watching it multiple time whyyyyyyyyyyy

The only reason I can think of is that living here (UK) it is important n normal for people to first fall in love ..have sex n then marry if they feel like NOT that they have to…

Love u Gulshan

Unknown said...

Wake up lady, if you have seen the video with Qasab's'd be stupid to think he must be thinking of Rakhi!! means anything to the guy.
Its ridiculous to see you call Qasab a about Shiney Ahuja in flattering terms AND talk so carelessly about the maid.
Given what Qasab has done, it disgusts me to see you throw these statements out...your blog ..your views I get all that..and yet a little cognizance isnt too much to ask for is it?

ekta khetan said...

Oh I love Rakhi sawant. Dont you think she is way better than those negar khanz, some chopra, rosa catilano...and god knows who all...yeah meghna naidu...God...kaha kaha se tapak jaate hai!

Incredible said...

Hi Shobhaji,

I still remember those ghastly images of Taj Domes blazing... and we really cannot blame the management and government for converting it nothing short of a fortress..

But what I fail to understand is the security measures at the Chatrapati Shivaji terminal or for that matter any of the railways stations across India is not as tight as one would want them to be.. so is it we as a country are tired of our population? the sheer number of it makes it easy to forget the lives people lost in not so glorious place as Taj!

Is not it time we start thinking for the security of the 'Aam Aadmi' the common man as well.. who is also worth something for someone..

Anonymous said...


While one cannot squarely blame the authorities or police for these rogues/terrorists for creating havoc in the City/Country. It is not easy to see through so many of us, though they should have intelligence. Guess they are sleeping on their laurels, thinking that they are still second to Scotland Yard. It's HISTORY.
Our Police carrying out various duties, like naka bandhi and checks at railway stations etc. should at least carry out their duties seriously and with a commitment.
At each and every Naka band, you will find the Pandus/officers in conversation (yaking) with one another. They are least bothered about their job. In fact they cause so much of inconvenience to the public with these stop overs. There will be only one pandu who oversees all the traffic, as if he is Superman and can see through metal an all.
Where ever there is a bunk, the guys will keep their legs up and their arms (not at arms reach)Some carelessly hold their weapons pointing towards the public.
The Railway platforms are the best. Most women police staff keep doing their knitting/personal work, or reading the papers. 100% of the time they are on their seat.
Like you once said It is only HE up there who is keeping watch over us.
Let's be practical. We have to take care of our selves. PRAY.
Pray that the Swine flu does not take over, as we have been spared the 24th of July floods. The Authorities are asleep.


krish said...

hy dear..

Wah taj!!!!!!!! am sure u agree the security is for the good ......

Ahhh finally Ms sawant makes a debut ...u shud hav seen the way she was flaunting her solitare........shes lost her spunk.....but any way shes making a lot of money......good for her



christy said...

Dear Mrs Shobhaa Dé,
I am a student of Sophia College and as part of an assignement for
journalism class we have to write a feature story about a celebrity.
If you do not mind, please spare a few minutes of your time to answer
the following questions.
It would be a great help to me and my project, if you would consider
my request. Thanking you in advance for the time taken to read this page. Please send your answers to my gmail address at

The following are the questions for the feature story;

1. Your books have diverse and interesting characters, would you
credit that to experience or imagination?

2. With your diverse credentials, would you say you’re a jack of all trades?

3. Has motherhood has helped you achieve a fresh perspective of the world?

4. How do maintain a balance in your writing to appeal to the present
and mature generations?

5. Your book seems to empathise with the youngsters caught in the
cultural time warp, would agree with that statement?

6. Your column on Bombay times is interesting; do you think that
mature writers are finding more competition from younger writers?

7. Your have now become a prominent figure in fashion industry, who
would be your idol within the industry?

8. As a film critique, How would you compare the Bollywood of today
with the industry of thirty years ago?

9. The cover story on vogue has your perspective on age, if you
consider what you had said; would you say you will be ageless?

10. Youngsters today attempt to simplify marriage but you have written
a whole book on it. What would be your advice to these youngsters?

11. As you have pursued different fields of writing, do you have to
adjust your technique and mindset to the changes?

Thanking you in advance for the time taken to go through my email. Your answers will assist me a great deal in writing the feature story. Please be so kind as to send it within three days.

Your sincerely,
Christina Pinto

Rahul said...

Well I do appreciate the fact that people still think about the 26/11 and the related events and Quasab and what not...But tell me have you really taken seriously the threat that CHina Provides to India???

The recent aspect of Maps where part of Arunachal Pradesh is shown inside china and the huge huge military movement going in Chinies boarder and the installation of tanks on sikkim border both by china and india....??? The yearly infiltration that Chinese soilder does???

Well sadly India is too obessed with Pakistan who I dont even think are capable of using the nueclear war heads they possess.

and Sadly there is only one Pak Occupied Kashmir but there are many China Occupied Indian territoru like the one in Leh and Ladhak and in Arunachal Pradesh....
But sadly where is the awareness among our people of these development.... The tabloid of hating muslims and Pakistanies has I guess blinded Indian public and the psuedo intellectuals too much that people cant even think anything other than that

Unknown said...

nice facts....

Work from home India

arun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
arun said...

I hate Shoba De... She is a bad example for a Bhartiya Women...