Exit Shangri La?

Malavika SangghviAnother disappointment for the luxury hotel chain the Shangri La group. Though the chain has an enviable reputation for quality with a new hotel opening high up in The Shard (also referred to as the Shard of Glass or Shard London Bridge) the 87-storey skyscraper in the heart of London’s financial district in the next few months, it’s record in India has been a disaster. The Delhi Shangri La is a convention of an old ITDC hotel and remains the one luxury hotel that nobody in Delhi talks about.

The Shangri La group had hoped to turn its fortunes around with a spanking new property in Lower Parel helmed by the genial Farhat Jamal. But even though the hotel has been open for some months it has failed to open its restaurants on schedule or to meet with any public acclaim. Industry insiders say that the Shangri La group has not seen eye to eye with the property owners. The group has also has a complicated relationship with Eros, the owners of the Delhi hotel.

Farhat Jamal
Farhat Jamal

Now, comes the news the Shangri La is pulling out of the Mumbai venture. Hotel industry insiders are asking whether the Delhi property will be the next to see a Shangri La pull out. All this is bad news for the Mumbai hotel scene. Even the much talked about Soho House project in Juhu now seems to be much behind schedule. Perhaps, a new hotel chain will sweep in and pick up the properties that Shangri La is abandoning. Word on the street is that the owners are talking to Marriot, owners of the Ritz Carlton brand.

The Shangri La hotel in Parel
The Shangri La hotel in Parel

Gloomy days in the media
First TV 18 sacked 360 journos with the hint of more sackings to come. Plus rumour has it that those with iron-tight contracts can also expect to be ejected in the near future (whether this extends to its head honcho like Rajdeep Sardesai who built the channel isn’t clear though). Then NDTV’s Good Times shed 30 staff members. Outlook group has served notice to another 15 staff members and the future looks bleak.

Aveek Sarkar Rajdeep Sardesai
Aveek Sarkar, chief editor of ABP group of publications and (right) Rajdeep Sardesai

Meanwhile, Aveek Sarkar’s ABP group has put Business World magazine up for sale. If no buyers are found it may close the magazine down completely, it is rumoured. Speculation continues to rage over possible cost cutting at the Hindustan Times and other large papers. With the death of mainstream media now looking like a distinct possibility within our lifetimes, we are training ourselves to get all our news from Facebook and Twitter!

All for a larf
How much we love to larf at ourselves! Friends who tried booking tickets to watch Canada-based Anglo-Indian stand up comic Russell Peters perform at his forthcoming Mumbai show were in a for a shock when they found that all the Rs 6,500 and Rs 5,000 seats were already sold on the first day!

Russell Peters

As for us, we adore Peters! His take on the Indian accent, the expat ethnic jokes and best of all that goofy ‘Indian face’ he hams is priceless! But 6,500 a seat? We think we are going to wait for the YouTube upload to go viral.

The France, UK, US alliance against Syria has been dubbed FUKUS!
- One policy wonk to another overheard at the India International Centre, Delhi.

Salaam MumbaiA dedication on Teacher’s Day

The teacher I loved best of all was my fifth standard teacher at St Joseph’s Convent, Bandra, Miss Ferreria. Those were the days when each of us in school felt as uniquely different, alien and isolated as the next person and I guess Miss Ferreria won an eternal place in my heart because she recognised and cherished each of us scraggly, unlovable schoolgirls for our individual eccentricity. Mine was according to her being a ‘Grumpuss’ - her word for someone broody and sulky and introverted like myself.

She never made me feel weird for preferring my own company in the short and long breaks, for staring out of the class during geography lessons or for doodling all over the margins of my text books (so much that we could never re-sell them as was the practice of the era, much to the chagrin of my mother).

Miss Ferreria made me feel special and that is what a great teacher — or a great human being possesses: that ability to look at another human being and give them the feeling that they are understood, and loved, all of them, even the awkward bits.

Of course, I can tell you how she was the one who introduced me to the fine art of writing poetry, how she taught me the importance of sentence structure and humour in composition class and how she took a shy lonely nine-year-old and made her feel confident enough to stand in front of the class and make up stories and jokes. That is not the point.

All of us know and have had teachers who inspire us to discover and celebrate the world around us. But that is only the mechanics of what they do. What is far more significant is how they make us feel about ourselves and our place in the world. And how they make us celebrate our unique talents and gifts. I was lucky to have had a teacher like Miss Ferreria and I am sure that you had some one like her in your life too.

And as I write this on Teacher’s Day today - wherever she may be - I thank her and all those men and women who lit our separate fires. So that they know the difference they made! 

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