Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

A glimpse of the taj February 14, 2014

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 7:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

“Why do you feel you have to excuse yourself for staying at the Taj…” A Mumbai guide said. She was showing us the south of Mumbai and I told her with some hesitance that we were staying at the one and only, the legendary Taj Mahal hotel. If it hadn’t been for a friend, who insisted we stay there, I would have ended up at Suba Palace, only a few blocks away but more than a few rupis cheaper.

Taj fasade

A part of the beautiful facade.

The Taj… as people say, yes it can set you back quite a few rupies – at the same time it’s manageable. And once you’re there, although in the cheapest wing and the cheapest room – which you’re sharing with your friend of course, your’re treated with a rare subdued respect and pleasantness. The whole hotel buzz with activity, but every sound seems muted.

The interior is grand; and creates a fantastic atmosphere. The huge lobby with its many object des arts and the front desk that instinctively draws your attention because of the huge painting by M. F. Hussain, is what welcomes you once you’re “cleared”. The Taj with its recent history, the terror attacks a few years ago, has its own “airline security check” and reminds us what has become of the world.
The flower arrangements are grand and exquisite, one may wonder if the budget has any limitations. The shopping arcades are tempting although you know very well that shopping should be done miles away from the Taj…

TAJ main lounge

The reception area, with the grand painting of Hussain; sometimes known as the Picasso of India.

Most of the time, a hotel is a place where you sleep and eat breakfast. When staying at the Taj, one should take time to linger. Walk about, look more closely at everything around you, and try out some of the restaurants, – if only for the atmosphere and the service. It’s even possible to take a guided tour of the hotel, which left us infatuated with the guide as well as the surroundings.

TAJ resepsjon

Breakfast is undoubtedly an experience. We made sure to allow plenty of time every day. The outdoor breakfast area is a pleasant distance from the pool. The wrought iron chairs have lovely pillows, once you’re there you want to stay a while.  And once seated, you’re taken care of by two, sometimes three waiters. They handle the tactless crows and ask if you’d like to top the breakfast with pancakes and chocolate – with the same discretion… And this is also how they place a jasmine flower by our plates, every day. When the stomach is full and the pancakes have created an uneasy atmosphere of bad conscience, we just lean back, say yes to another cup of coffee, put on the sunglasses and enjoy the – in every way – cool atmosphere. The beauty of Asia is very often the early morning hours with the heat and the humidity still lurking in the wings.

TAJ lounge

The bar lounge with its beautiful interior.

TAJ meny sea lounge

A menu is not just a menu at The Taj….. this is The Sea Lounge Restaurant with its beautiful sea view. Unbeatable….

TAJ tour

A guided tour of the hotel should not be missed.

At the same time it is difficult not to think of life outside the Taj walls. The noise is there, more audible by the hour. The honking horns, the various wallahs shouting for attention. You know about the begging children, the newborn babies in their mother’s laps, people with handicaps you wouldn’t believe existed. That is why I feel uneasy about staying at The Taj, because it doesn’t feel right to spend money like that and enjoy the luxury.

TAJ frokost

TAJ breakfast


Paper at Jor Bagh Market February 2, 2014

– It’s only people like you, tourists, who come here. The owner of the small paper shop at Jor Bagh market in Delhi both looked and sounded defeated. – Well there are some foreigners in the area, they also come to shop here.
But it shone through, clients were not in abundance.

I almost missed it, the Four Seasons Gallery, as I was looking for the rather more famous JorBagh bookshop. I was walking through the arcade when I by chance spotted handmade paper in the corner of my eye, something that I rarely miss. I had never thought of finding a shop like this among the line of rather prosaic shops.

Jorbagh paper_1

Beautiful stars and wrapping paper….

The Four Seasons Gallery, it’s tiny but colourful although a bit modest from the outside. The walls were lined with paper and paper products of all sorts. For a paper maniac, the shop was a small gem and I instinctly thought of my luggage (space being a key word…). As Christmas was only two months away, the many beautiful stars dominated the shelves.  Along with cards, note books, wrapping paper, albums, writing paper – everything in awesome colurs and patterns; from the beautifully ornamented elephants to more modern varieties.

Jorbagh paper_3

This handmade paper doesn’t crease in you suitcase. It almost behaves like fabric.

Sadly, paper is losing terrain these days. Although it might have happened once or twice, I never send birthday or Christmas wishes by SMS. I cannot think of anything more impersonal. I look upon it as an easy way out, but I realize I’m getting old fashioned. But people always say they treasure getting letters and cards sent by “snail mail”, and I will keep sending them so that I can come back to Jor Bagh and re-stock my own shelves.

Jorbagh paper_4


Jorbagh paper_5

Sadly, people prefer their smartphones to these notebooks…

If you should happen to be in Delhi, or in the area, the address is 13/4 Jor Bagh Market. It’s worth stopping by!