Thursday, 28 January 2016

Sipping at the Sea Lounge

Sea Lounge at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai

I have had a love affair with Sea Lounge (at Taj Mumbai) ever since I was at Jamnalal Bajaj. As a part of the curriculum at Bajaj, we had group discussions that would last for hours, and those occasional times when I missed my last bus to Grant Road and decided to hang out with friends till the first bus left at 5:30 am or so the next day. Those were the times we would spend hours drinking kona coffee at Shamiana with all the money we could gather among us and animatedly arguing over some subject that I no longer recollect. Each time we expected to be thrown out in an hour or two but the waiters never got mad at us, never stopped us from going there, even though 4 or 5 of us would share only one coffee and completely abuse the idea of refills.

When one of my professors invited me to meet him at Sea Lounge for a 30 minute meeting as he was catching me between meetings, I felt as though I entered heaven. Even though we mastered the midnight coffee at the Shamiana, going to Sea Lounge was a whole different deal. That short meeting sitting by the windows of Sea Lounge is forever etched in my memory. I left for US soon after graduating from Bajaj and when I came back for the first time after 5 years, one of my first visits was to Sea Lounge and this time, with enough money to buy myself a gin and tonic.

Even now, whenever I want to be by myself and think, I go to Sea Lounge. It somehow reminds me of the distance I traveled and yet keeps me grounded. This evening I found myself wanting to sit at a place where I could put a structure to thoughts floating around in my head and my feet automatically took me to Sea Lounge. I knew that it was a good sign that a window seat was open.  I sat there as though it was my living room and sipped on my Fresh Lime Soda as I wrote. Once they realized that this is all I was going to have, there were no waiters hovering over me asking if I needed anything else. I was left alone so that I could travel into my own head and write uninterrupted for over an hour. And even though I contributed very little to the bottom line by my Fresh Lime Soda, the treatment was the same as they gave everyone else. As I left, a young man opened the door and thanked me profusely for being there. It’s amazing how memories from way back when still stay with us even after all these years. It’s even more amazing that the staff at Taj remains the same making everyone feel at home, no matter what their purse size. That’s why it’s a place where I never feel alone.

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