Five stars ***** and I have a very limited acquaintance.
Then again, there are five star places with different personalities.
Some, like a rich dowager grandmother, entertaining a wonderstruck grandkid or kid to a lovely meal on a visit, indulgently watching him slurp.
And some, so obsessed with status and nomenclature, that they actually change the name of their locality, say from Lower Parel to Upper Worli ; because the former shouts out middle class, millworkers, taxes and chawls, and the latter marinates in sea faces, promenades, perks and apartment complexes of posh sports persons, politicians, industrialists , and so on.
One has had occasion to attend weddings, meets and so on at various five star places in the city and suburbs, and has never had a problem with entering the premises. Regardless of the vehicle that one was travelling in. Yes, security checks were in full force, regardless of the class of vehicle, obstructive pillars in the ground were raised and lowered to let folks in after checking , in their respective vehicles.
I had occasion yesterday to attend a blogger meet at a five star hotel near the International airport. 7 pm , off the worst traffic bottleneck road leading to the eastern suburbs, and we turned in at the road leading to the hotel.
A closed gate , guarded by folks, who were letting in folks with vehicles which had 4 wheels. We were travelling in a three wheeler rickshaw, and the rickshaw was stopped . They were not allowed into the driveway leading to the hotel entrance some distance away. So the unformed man at the entrance said.
Thousands of moons ago, I had been to this hotel (to meet a travelling relative), when it was a collaboration with someone else ages ago, and the only five star set up at the airport then. I remember driving up in a rickshaw then.
And nobody died of mortification then.
When you have , a day ago slipped in some invisible water on the house floor, and got stuck in a Carl Lewis starting position , trying to balance yourself, you are just about tolerating the onset of muscle/limb/tendon aches in all kinds of movement, and this prompted me to ask the guy who stopped us, how one was supposed to reach the place in time , if we had to hot foot it down the long driveway.
He , amazingly simply pointed to a longish , prosperous and stubborn looking car, parked at the entrance parallel to the closed gate, and said, "I will drive you" and that we should check our names off the bloggers' list maintained by the gatekeeper.
Some blogeshwaries arrived in the meantime, and I informed them about this facility. Mind you, there wasn't a notice anywhere saying folks would be driven etc etc. I asked and I was told.
We are very down-to-earth types anyway, and the daughter, with her heels, photography paraphernalia, and sense of humour, cracked up so hard at a joke by one of the blogeshwaries , about a BMW and me, that she lost her balance (on the aforesaid heels) and fell down.
Faced with a semi limping old lady, and a bunch of us helping the fallen photographer, the driver actually rushed to open doors , we all sank into some fairly deep seats, and were driven in great swishing speed and style to the hotel entrance, making some folks wonder how we landed up so fast.
Around elevenish, on or way back, we were already late, and I asked the darwan if he could call a taxi for us. Then I heard more. Metered taxis were not there. The minimum charge was Rs 490 for the short distance I needed to go. I asked how I was supposed to reach the gate where I could gate a decent normal taxi or rickshaw.
And the guy suddenly whistles, and summons the same BMW. The driver speeds up and passes us. We must look like the rickshaw types. The darwan whistles again, the car reverses. The driver must have been disappointed . We got in, and he kind of raced us to the gate, where we got off after thanking him.
A nice rickshawala on the outside potholed , but honest road, immediately agreed to take us, by meter , where we wished to go, at what turned out to be one fifth the cost.
Naturally, I called my friends who were still inside and informed them about the availability of the car upto the 5 star gates.
I often wonder about this 5 star stuff. Yes, it is a pleasure to be in very aesthetically done up opulent surroundings, where everything smells like you are in a garden, and folks kind of tiptoe and glide around, while some music kind of plays in the background, and folks whisper at the front desk.
But there is a different world outside, and while the hotels are free to price their offerings anyway they wish, they certainly cannot decide how their visitors should travel to the hotel portals.
It was not a parking problem, as 4 wheelers were allowed inside the gate. A thoughtful hotel management would have organized minibuses to run at required intervals between the gate and actual hotel for every one's convenience, and indicated where one should wait for such a bus.
There was no sign saying that there was a car ready to transport folks to the hotel entrance.
A typical case of "you don't ask and we won't answer"....
But here were hundreds of folks who came for the meet, and had to walk the distance although they came in vehicles.
Actually, I didn't realize it was a BMW,and really couldn't care less. I wouldn't recognize one if it revved up in front of me in bright daylight for, say even 10 minutes. I am not unduly impressed by huge fancy cars that guzzle gas, and have a distracting array of stuff on the dashboard. The younger folks with me were excited after the ride, which was understandable.
But it angers me to know that someone else decides how I should travel. To meet their standards. And that my mode of travel must match with the guest profile the hotel has decided for itself.
Despite the stuff that appears in the papers, the occasional strikes, the refusals to ply certain areas, rickshaw travel is today the most affordable , for those who cannot travel by train or bus, for geographical reasons.
I have had occasion to travel for meets, to many other hotels in this category in Mumbai, and my mode of travel was not an issue with any of them, and their reputation did not suffer because I had one wheel less.
I must register my protest regarding this hotel.