Arthur and Roscida (pc: Roscida)

A couple of days ago, I received news of the demise of a gentleman, who was the Resort Manager at the second property that I worked. He breathed his last in his adopted country down under and passed on peacefully in presence of his wife and children.

It took me back 30 odd years, more precisely to 1988 when I moved from Lonavala, went home to Kolkata for a break, made my trip to Madras (Chennai) reported to the head office and made my way to the hillstation of Kodaikanal, which rivalled the Queen of the hills, Ooty in all aspects. Reporting to the lakeview property which was still in the finishing stages, with the first guest expected to land up in three weeks or so on the 1st week of April, 1988.

So the motley group of people was tasked with the challenge of getting the resort ready and this gentleman with a background from Oberoi, had the unenviable task of making the first impression. He had is wife by his side, who was looking after the front of the house operations, a few Management Trainees, Pratap Reddy, Ajay Sharma and I, four waiting staff George, Lionel, Dominic and Abbas, front office manned by John, Abraham and Peter, Guest relations managed by Priya, Anupama & Radha, the kitchen managed by Shiraz Thomas (RIP) and Dhiraj Veerula along with Ramchander Yadav, Houskeeping with Jaya Jacob (my wife) along with Susheela and Linda, Stores Subbayan and Sagayam, , Accounts Mohan and Karuppaiah , the Holiday activities by our own Mohan Daniel and his team, who not only kept the group cheerful then and continues to do so. I am sure I am missing out some more people but I’m sure the early settlers would remember.

All of the supervisory staff were accommodated in a building called Orchards, which had two rooms occupied by the two official couples, Resort Manager and his wife in one and Anu & John in the other, the rest were on the floor on mattresses while Jaya got herself a bed in the attic. We experienced an embarrassing moment when my rendezvous with Jaya was called out by the RM on one of my nightly visit to the attic and I was pulled up like a child with his hand in the cookie jar!!

The challenges at the resort would keep up working long hours in getting the place ready, from converting a cow shed into a workable kitchen are, to preparing the rooms which were being handed over even as late as the day before the guest arrival. This meant that the housekeeping had their hands full in the takeover from projects and everyone including the Resort Manager, the consultant Sunit Banerji, Padmanabhan (Paddu) requiring to roll up the sleeves. Even then only some 46 cottages were ready of the 108 required which entailed renting out THDA (now Kodai resort) which was also in the project stages. The remaining guests were scattered throughout the town and it required special skills to provide housekeeping and F & B services with the help of two Matador Vans in addition to the regular pick ups from the bus depot and railhead (Kodai Road) and trips to tourist spots.

And all of this was accomplished by the genial resort manager in his spotless white shirt over his sloping shoulders, deep booming voice, bouncing gait, twirling pen in his left hand with aplomb. I was in the alternative accommodation and hence was not privy to a day to day interaction and had to settle for instructions over the phone. It was tough going but we laughed through them. Jaya’s winning flower arrangements in the annual flower show at the botanical gardens was well appreciated as well as my epic exercise in writing the recipe card for every dish on the menu while the other three Danny, Thomas and Dhiraj kept me entertained in the ghostly surroundings of the Chettiar bungalow. It was a different matter that my effort was hijacked by Ajay Sharma (something, I have not yet forgiven him for) and presented as his work to the resort manager to get brownie points. But I guess the RM saw through the charade.

I remember the time when Ms. Thangam Philip had visited the property as a Board Member and we were on tenterhooks the whole time, specially with her chicken liver on toast request, which was a impossibility as the handlebar mustachioed supplier had not delivered with the chicken but was deftly handled by the RM.

Jaya’s father entrusted her to the RM and he ensured she was well cared for. He also gave permission for many people to make the trip to bangalore to attend our wedding for which I am eternally grateful to the RM.

Thank you Arthur Mortimer, my second boss and Resort Manager at Sterling Lakeview, Kodaikanal for your contribution to the group and to my life and to the life of others.

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Academician, Author, Foodie, Traveller with myriad interests and skills, all jacked and none mastered!