Friday, October 14, 2011

A new definition of service

The service in India has been over the top. Our guides have told us that Indians are taught to render utmost respect to parents, teachers and guests. 'Guests are golden', as he says. At the Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur, they said they wanted us to feel like a Maharajah and Maharanee - after all, we were staying in the palace of a Maharajah.

At every hotel on arrival a bevy of hotel staff will gather, to present flowers, to offer cold drinks and cold cloths, and to mark our foreheads with an auspicious mark. At the Rambaugh Palace, an impressive gentleman with a vast flowing mustache escorted me from the car with an ornate ( antique?) umbrella to the stairs; as I walked up the stairs, a lovely lady in a sari was throwing beautifully scented rose petals over my head.

 Flowers are a constant theme. Every lobby will have flowers, or elaborately arranged flower petals, floating on water in shallow bowls, often with lit candles at night. At the Rambaugh Palace one afternoon, I heard music and went outside to see a band playing, trumpets and drums, a man dancing with a horse body hanging from him(in bare feet on black pavement) and a line- up of hotel staff in the driveway to greet a woman arriving in the hotel's antique car. I couldn't determine if she was a celebrity, or had maybe just booked a more majestic room. One evening, there was a performance on the patio.

Everyone has a constant eye on you, to see if there is anything they can do to help. At breakfast one day, I gazed yearningly at the Cambazola on the cheese board. One of the hovering waiters offered to cut a slice but I explained I didn't dare eat cheese (lactose intolerance) just before going out touring. Lo and behold, when we returned, there was the Cambozola, crackers and dates in the room. My iPad charger gave out in Jaipur and the hotel lent me a charger. As we were leaving at nine there were no stores open to buy a new one, since the stores open at 11. The upshot was I left with their charger which they would replace later. Good problem solving. The woman who did this had a delightful personality and was one of the most attractive women I have ever seen. After a quick photo, I whisked my husband away from her !!!

At an Indian hotel, You don't walk up to a desk to check in. Oh no, you are escorted to a nice seating area to fill in the registration form. (In one hotel, we even filled in registration form in our room). And, of course, someone escorts you to your room. This was true even in the fairly modest hotel we stayed in at Varanasi, so it's not just limited to the outrageously gorgeous hotels that have been the norm.

A buffet is not self-serve in India, at least not in the hotels we are staying in. After your plate is loaded, someone will rush to your side to carry it to the table. Items are also passed while you are sitting.

When you say thank you for these services, or for the driver always opening the door for you, the response is "It is my duty". Our van is stocked with cold drinks and snacks; when passing drinks to us, they are always presented on a small silver tray, as with other things in the hotels.

I have high hopes that my husband is taking careful notes about this assiduous service. Of course, he is probably hoping I am the one taking notes!

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