My mother shook me awake at about 2 o'clock early morning. "We have reached Bombay. Come and see the lights." Standing on the deck, rubbing off sleep from my eyes, I stood watching the twinkling lights in the distance. "That's the Taj - the famous hotel in Bombay." My mother sounded proud - as if it was something that belonged exclusively to her.
The year was 1976. The Taj Tower, whose lights had warmed the hearts of my parents, was almost brand new. It was majestic and tall and stood proudly towering over all the other buildings of the city. Next morning fresh and completely awake, I saw for the first time the Taj Mahal hotel, clearly visible from the sea. Glorious and elegant, it completely overshadowed it's much taller and newer extension. It created a lasting impression on my young mind.
Years later, when I came to Bombay as a young bride, I would often go to the Apollo Bunder, where the Taj was located, with my husband. We would walk on the promenade and admire it's old style architecture and elegant facade.
The last time we went to the Taj, it was with our friend who came from New Jersey. We took her and her son to the Elephanta caves and stopped at the hotel to refresh ourselves. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were staying there for the shooting of A Mighty Heart. The hotel and the surrounding lanes were full of curious onlookers. The polite staff never expressed any displeasure over any of this. They attended to us as if we were celebrities ourselves. I still remember the beautiful flowers in the lobby, the magnificent archways and the exquisite artwork on the walls. The sheer grandeur of the place was breathtaking..