Taj saga: Three restaurants in the more badly-damaged palace section of the hotel are due to reopen by the end of November
THE GENERAL manager of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, Karambir Singh Kang, still works at the place where his wife and two children were killed.
Neeti Kang, 40, Uday, 12, and five-year-old Samar were among the 31 people who died at the luxury seafront hotel after militants stormed the building on November 26 last year and began shooting.
Kang, 41, who has worked for the Indian Hotels Co. Limited that owns the Taj for 19 years, confronts his past every day when he crosses the polished marble floor of the hotel lobby to his office, near the memorial to those who died.
Working at the place where he lost his family has been “both difficult and rewarding”, he told a reporter in an interview.
“It’s been tough in the way that you have to deal with the memories of whatever has happened, but rewarding when you say you want to carry on and you want to give it your best shot and do the right thing,” he said.
“Sometimes, what you fear the most is what you should face first and try to overcome. You first have to deal with what is in your mind. It’s very easy to run and not everyone can do it.
“But sometimes, I think it’s a gift, that God has given you a chance to live.”During the 60-hour siege at the hotel and after his tragic loss, Kang stayed at his post, working to help save the lives of more than 1,000 guests.
Accommodation manager Amit Mehta said Kang led by example and has inspired the rest of the staff as the hotel tries to get back to normal.
“For us the biggest motivating factor was Mr Kang because he was there with us trying to get things done in spite of what happened,” said Mehta.
Kang refuses to take any credit, instead praising his colleagues for their courage and resilience and paying tribute to the hotel owners and the Tata Group parent company for looking after the families of fallen staff.
Salaries of those killed are being paid indefinitely, while families will receive money to pay for their children’s education from a trust fund set up to help victims of extremism, violence and natural disasters.
A Taj official said Rs30m ($647,000/£388,501) of the Rs90m ($19.2m/11.5m) raised has already been distributed.
The 565-room hotel - a magnet for the rich and famous and an Indian icon for more than a century - partially reopened less than a month after the attacks.
Kang has recently welcomed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former president George W Bush at the hotel he calls the “finest in the world”.
Three restaurants in the more badly-damaged palace section of the hotel are due to reopen by the end of November, while the first guests are due back in renovated rooms and suites by March next year.
He said the first anniversary of the attacks will be difficult for many staff, who have been offered counselling and post-trauma therapy for the last 12 months and no major public event has been planned to mark the day.
“On that day, it will be very sombre. We want to keep it low key. We will just offer prayers and remembrance, just the staff,” he said.
Mehta said the hotel, where prices range from Rs19,500 ($417/£250) to Rs50,000 ($1,071/£6,44) a night, is fully booked on November 26, with many guests who were there last year returning “to show solidarity with the staff and hotel”.
Kang said keeping the memorials low-key and treating the first anniversary like a normal working day would help people come to terms with it.
“You just want to move forward and look ahead. We want to replace that image of the burning flames of the Taj with a message of hope and move on,” he added.
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