November 2012. The Oberoi Gurgaon.
I was staying at this hotel for a catch-up revive weekend between business weeks in India. The hotel staff are at their busiest during Mondays to Fridays, although they normally have weddings and social stuff going on at weekends. Not the weekend of the November I stayed there, however. Starting on Monday was the most astrologically auspicious week of the whole year for weddings. Anyone who wanted to get married in India that year probably got married that week. Newspapers had headlines: “Wedding Week Approaches“. In Delhi alone, they were estimating 5,000 weddings a day.
So what was happening at the Oberoi Gurgaon that weekend, the weekend before wedding week? NOTHING.
I was almost their entire guest allocation. It was a little like The Truman Show. If I went down to the gym, a member of staff was at the gym, smiling, asking if I would like a personalised hour of training. If I went to the pool, I swear someone got through to the show director and said: “The Guest is going to the pool now. I repeat, the pool area, now.” I would walk out into the pool area and within ten seconds I’d have someone bringing me towels, someone else popping up with sunscreen, someone else plying cold flannels, someone else offering to move the sunlounger and then a waiter turning up with the drinks menu.
By the Sunday afternoon, I had so become Empress of The Oberoi Gurgaon that when the spa therapist told me that my pedicure would be in their sister hotel, a five-minute walk away, I didn’t say anything.
She said, “It’s just a five-minute…”
I looked at her.
She said: “Of course, madam, the therapist will be coming here for you.”
One weekend was all it took. One weekend and I was behaving like a former colonialist. I was behaving like a former colonialist in a former colony.
I could plead recent knee surgery in my defence, but I still felt like an oppressor of peoples.
That said, I was still comfortable enough in the role of oppressor of peoples to require the therapist come to me. And a very lovely pedicure she did.
Thank you, Oberoi Gurgaon. I loved all your lovely staff who made my weekend a joy.