I never imagined things would ever come to such a pass. Where one would need to re-kindle ones relationship; re-affirm the commitment and once again cement a bond that was temporarily shattered. Where the vows of affection and love would be reiterated and only so that one moved forward with unbridled joy.
On November 26, 2008 when I left her home, I knew I would be back but there was a trepidation that I experienced; there was a prayer on my lips that things should be back to normal but it was all in the domain of hope. In the realm of the possible and with dreams that had wings but perhaps no wind beneath them. Those were moments of intense rage and at the same time', intense affection: rage at what had happened to my favourite lady and affection for the times we spent. The days after November 26 were days I spent reminiscing about all the cherished moments one had spent nestling in her arms; I re-visited every nook and cranny in my mind; took in all the joys that one had experienced; the laughter; the endless chatter; the gourmand moments at the Sea Lounge or the many dates that were initiated at the Harbour Bar or for that matter my first ever fine dining experience at The Zodiac Grill.
The reminiscing itself was special only because the relationship had been both pure and enduring; it was like talking about someone youfve always known who then suddenly disappears. For me being with her itself was exhilarating only because of the kind of person she was. Each of her rooms told a story; each member of her family was a raconteur and each and every brick had been a silent witness to history. In many ways, there were two Gateways. One being the Gateway of India and the other The Gateway to fine living. In fact on November 26, when the first shots were fired by those cowards, they were fired not at her but instead directed at each one of us.
While she may have physically taken the bullets, I guess a little something died in each one of us that day. There was anguish and helplessness; there was rage and reasoning and then there was the eternal question? Why did this happen and why did it happen to her? But then therefs an adage: the nicest suffer the harshest pain. And on November 26 she did suffer pain. Not for what happened to her but in a sense what happened to each one of us. She was never trained to take bullets; she was never trained to embrace violence and she was certainly not equipped to handle tears: hers had been a life of giving all that she had; a life whose sole purpose was to create moments of delight; to help people cement strong happy memories in which they would forever revel. Suddenly all that had changed and I guess the magnitude of that event was overwhelming both for her and for us.
Which is why, when I was told she would be back with her ageless charm and her welcoming arms, I could not stay away. I had invested too much emotion in her and in our relationship to stay away from her re-birth. To not be present when she would tell the world, that more things change, the more they remain the same. It was going to be her moment in the sun. It was her moment of triumph and for once it would not be about her guests but about her. I walked in with anguish and a lot of trepidation; took a sweeping view of the lobby and nothing had changed; though if the walls could cry, they would have shed a tear. Not tears of sadness but tears of joy now that she was being re-united with her extended family. I guess, on December 21, 2008, every brick of the Taj shed a tear. Every brick was reaching out with compassion, courage and conviction and every brick was erasing the sadness of November 26. There was a spiritual cleansing that was taking place:
without fuss and melodrama but with just that much intensity that only the Taj knew how to create!
The ceremony of its re-birth was just like her: stolid, somber and subtle.
Where faiths and classes were levelled by the chanting of multi-faith benediction; where the voices that spoke, spoke about the future and not the past. Where every face that stood and listened had tear-drops to wipe off.
There was applause for the manner in which each of her family members had given so much of theirs only so that we could live to see another day. There were stories of courage on faces that knew only how to serve and not to fight and protect. On December 21, 2008, there was a new awakening. There was a revival of values and ethics, of cultures and legacies; of pedigree and passion. The grand old lady would have it no other way.
I made my way to my suite just after midnight. But that night I did not make an effort to sleep. I stared at the Gateway of India, which too had a mournful look; I stared at the passage of history that both these monuments must have been witness to. I then stared at my bed. The same attention to detail; the same orchid neatly placed on my bedside; the aroma compellingly the same and then the strains of familiar music as soon as you called the operator to place a wake-up call.
In many ways, she was back. Not just in business. But in my life. The troubled nights were over. There was a new dawn. A new awakening and the familiar hum of the pigeons when I woke up. The Taj had begun its journey yet again. With a sense of regret about what happened. But with innate optimism in terms of the road ahead.
My lady was back in my arms and I in hers. We have promised never to re-visit the past anymore. The cleansing is complete. The relationship begins from where we last left off. And November 26, in my mind, shall be an unfortunate date on a muddied calendar.