Friday, December 11, 2009

India on Three Leg : Chennai + Mumbai

SQ is smooth all the way. They ferried me on the wheel chair from the Changi airport lounge till the aircraft. Jet Airways too is good, but at Chennai and elsewhere too, their jurisdiction is up to the security/immigration then airport authority staff with a new wheel chair takes me to the car park/aircraft. It's understandable to plug any security gaps that could get exploited.

Jet airways wheel chair has two horizontal side bars that jut out on the front on the either side. I felt it was a great protection from anything that would come sideways but I was also concerned if they would hurt if my attendant were not cautious and were to bang to people ahead of me. This feature remained standard on all airport wheelchairs in India.

Chennai : Chennai is getting cleaner, No doubt about it. No encroachment on the side of the road instead some walls have paintings. I visited Taj Coromondal after long time. In 82, they would serve coffee for single digit. Later in the decade, I had dinner at Chinese restaurant. Now it’s renovated with cosy bar at the entrance. I saw Tata Nano closely. Rear engine like Bajaj auto, height of Hyundai Santro the car is hallmark of Indian brain what we can achieve.

This was my first experience to see how handicapped room in a hotel is fitted with. I am pleased with Accord metropolitan in Chennai. I didn't expect this hotel to have strong side bars next to the toilet seat. Bathtub was given away for foldable plastic chair with hand held chair. Easy and convenient for someone on crutches. Few little things could have made life easier. Bath Towel stand was way too high; soaps wrapped tight on plastic foil could easily have been dispensed liquid dispenser. Two days in Chennai and off to Mumbai.

Mumbai: I had expected a lot from J W Marriott, Mumbai. Two factors made my expectations go high. First, a premium hotel brand known for customer friendliness and second being in vibrant international city like Mumbai. The outcome based on my solitary stay of two nights was 'utter disappointment'. I would never recommend this hotel to physically challenged person.
Insensitive reception staff, they process check in at their pace in the order they collect passport. In my case, one person handled three passports and took him half an hour despite having a confirmed reservation. A canvas painting, behind his desk had an expansive sky and red soil with tiny dome of church sandwiched in between. This young man too appeared lost behind huge desk and backdrop of Marriott ambiance. He operated computer, scanned passport, checked the room availability, and punched credit card details, waited for their confirmation. All at fast pace yet took him half an hour to complete. The other guy on the counter stood while attending passer by questions. Maurya at New Delhi has buzz of activity across the reception counter and they seem to be hurry. Reception staff at JW Marriott didn't reflect the spirit of Mumbai.

My special room was allotted far from elevator, no chair in bath room. Normal bath tub. Only benefit is side bar between toilet and bath tub. How can a person with fractured leg can climb up, slide or stand in bathtub while ensuring water doesn't seep in the wound? Ac controls is far away. Floor is slippery marble. Door for toilet opens out blocking the corridor (sliding would be easier I feel). The good thing is having a bell next to bed for any emergency. In terms of hotel amenities, they are outdated. No key slot to turn automatic power off, telephone instrument don't have designated number for services, no flat screen TV and huge monster cabinet blocks the passage.

Coffee shop, bar and business centre are aesthetic, active and comfortable. Apart from Kingfisher beer and old monk rum, there is local spirit. No Hindi or Marathi newspaper and no local channel either - Marathi or Gujarati. I can however see Saudi, German and Japanese. Today, domestic clientele outnumber foreigners. Jet airways have distinct emphasis on Indianans through food, entertainment tools. Wonder why are star hotels are still in colonial mind set?

Having home in Mumbai, I rarely use hotel stay except when I am with colleagues. First it was Great Maratha Sheraton, now J W Marriott. Both have disappointed me. Next time, I would try Hyatt at Santacruz.

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