Evergreen emissary

Evergreen emissary
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First Published: Fri, Dec 19 2008. 10 35 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Dec 19 2008. 10 35 PM IST
Growing up in big-city India, one of the big joys of Christmas was to traipse into the lobby of the nearest five-star hotel and gaze in awe at the lobby, transformed magically for the holiday season. In the 1980s—in the India before malls and multiplexes—the midnight mass and the five-star lobby were really the only places where urban Indians could “experience” the Christmas spirit. In south Mumbai, staff at the Taj and Oberoi always competed furiously to ensure their hotels were the best decorated during this season. This year, of course, everything changed when terrorists attacked Mumbai on 26 November, killing at least 183 people and forcing both hotels to shut down. Tomorrow, the Taj reopens its new wing—the Trident will also begin operations on Sunday—but Christmas at a five-star will never be the same.
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The Taj hotels in Mumbai and Delhi will showcase messages written by guests on “peace trees” decorated with messages from people. Hotels across the country say their celebrations will be low-key this year. Some have cancelled or sharply downsized their year-end festivities; many luxury hotels in New Delhi don’t even have a Christmas tree this year. The ITC Maurya and the Hyatt Regency say they have no plan for an elaborate Christmas tree in their lobbies/foyers. Others such as the Park, Shangri-La and Radisson MBD have opted to celebrate Christmas through subdued displays at their confectionary outlets.
“It’s sad that Christmas is not being used to impart a message of positivity and create awareness like it always was earlier,” says Nimi Khanna, an interior designer who has been decorating Christmas trees for the ITC Maurya for the last 30 years. Last year at the ITC Maurya, Khanna created a “jingle-bangle” tree with 400,000 glass bangles. She says the idea was to create awareness about the plight of the little children in Firozabad who make glass bangles. “Festivals like Christmas, and especially the tree in a public spot like a five-star hotel, can be a vehicle to give a message about peace, which is the need of the hour,” says Khanna.
Photographs by:
Abhijit Bhatlekar in Mumbai
Hemant Mishra in Bangalore
Indranil Bhowmick in Kolkata
Ramesh Pathania in Noida
Text by:
Rachana Nakra in Mumbai
Pavitra Jayaraman in Bangalore
Seema Chowdhry in Noida
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First Published: Fri, Dec 19 2008. 10 35 PM IST