Isn’t that what butlers are for?

2010-09-29 00:00

I HAVE a butler at my beck and call.

Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way first because average folk like myself never get to utter such things.

I, along with seven other print, radio and television journalists from various South African media companies, am living it up in what is easily one of Mumbai’s top five-starhotels.

It’s the Taj Hotel, in case you are interested.

I was tired from the nearly nine-hour flight the night before, and imagine my surprise when the larney bus we were being chauffeured in pulled up in front of the Taj Hotel where a small group of locals in traditional attire were awaiting our arrival.

Greetings of “welcome to India” were accompanied by the draping of flower necklaces, the burning of incense and the dabbing of a red substance on our foreheads.

While basking in the luxurious surroundings of the hotel, what happened to catch my eye?

A Louis Vuitton store. In the lobby. “I would sell my own mother for one of those bags,” I remarked to one of the hotel’s employees, who chuckled before telling me that I was drooling over what was Mumbai’s very first LV boutique. Others have now sprung up all over India.

Right.

I am staying at a hotel that has high-end boutiques such as Dior, Burberry, Mont Blanc and the like in the lobby and I’m expected to stay sane?

We’ll see how that pans out over the course of the next few days, but so far so good.

So, I was telling you about the butler.

He knocked on my door just as I was about to doze off and he told me that I should not hesitate to call him as he was there to cater to all the journalists’ needs.

But what does one do with a butler?

Well, according to one of the other journalists, they are good for ironing your clothes in the morning.

True story.

He told us this on our way to the Mumbai stock exchange one morning and we all thought he was on to something.

Time will tell how far this butler can be pushed because some of us are clearly on a mission to see how far we can take this.

On our way to the stock exchange, we had an opportunity to get a glimpse of the streets.

What struck me was the fact that Mumbai is a city full of contrasts.

It’s so glaringly obvious that you couldn’t miss it even if you tried.

For instance, on the one hand you can come across a marvellously constructed building that models itself after Victorian architecture, but then right next door to it, a dilapidated structure sits in stark opposition.

And there are examples of this all over the city.

The slums we spotted while we were being transported to the hotel after our arrival would not look out of place in Edendale.

But that’s the thing about India: it clearly represents two worlds.

Easily the best sight after the first night: a blue-eyed blonde crossing a busy intersection in downtown Mumbai while wearing a sari.

You know what they say: when in India, do as the Indians do.

But one thing that is definitely not pleasant is the searing heat.

Okay, listen, I’m not going to sit here and say I wasn’t warned about the humidity because I was.

But to actually experience it?

I have no words.

Before I left I thought: “Oh please! I live in Pietermaritzburg. If you can survive the blazing summers here then you can basically survive them anywhere!”

Oh how wrong I was.

My advice: take one of those miniature portable battery-operated fans. You’ll need it.

As for the food, the Taj has really gone out of its way to treat us like royalty and we’re all definitely going to get a bit porky if this continues.

But I must say, having people fuss over you everywhere you go takes some getting used to.

We’re about to hit the city’s downtown markets and something tells me I might need a foot massage when I get back.

Hmmm ... isn’t that what butlers are for?

 

• Sanelisiwe (Nelly) Shamase is reporting from India courtesy of Jet Airways, which recently launched daily flights between South Africa and India. The media trip focuses on trade, economic, cultural and historical ties between the two countries, as well as the 150 th anniversary of the first arrival of Indian indentured labourers in South Africa.

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