On 4th December 2008 at around 11 pm, I received a call
from Mr. Arindam Mukerjee, Director - Projects of Taj Group of Hotels asking me
to come to Mumbai the next day morning for an urgent meeting. This was just a
week after the deadly 26/11 terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.
When I reached the Oxford House, which is the corporate office
of Indian Hotels Company Ltd , who are the owners of Taj Group, just behind the
Taj Mahal Hotel, the entire place was like a fortress. There were military personnel
every where. You were not even permitted anywhere near the place. I was
escorted to the office after getting special permission from the security.
I was told by the management of Taj that I should go into the
hotel and assess the extent of damage and the repair time for the wooden floor
in the heritage block of Taj. They want the hotel to be made functional (
partly atleast ) within a month.
We have been working with Taj group for their prestigious
projects since the year 2000 and we were their preferred contractor for all the
major projects for wooden floors. We were told that time is the key and they
are only giving contracts to their best vendors and we are the only vendor
selected for the wooden floors.
The scenes I saw inside the hotel were heart breaking.
Guest rooms were a mess. Things were spread out of the room, doors were
in a broke open stage, bullet holes every where, blood stains, some guest rooms
completely destroyed by blasts.
We were asked not to take any pictures so I cannot share any
pictures here. The wooden floors were damaged every where. Water was every
where and some of the floors were damaged due to grenade attacks.
It was a challenge we had never undertaken and a sense of
patriotism was involved when we undertook this project.
We also tried to renovate and repair as much as floor as
possible instead of replacing the floor. And the priority should be given to
the lobby area and the ' Shamiana' coffee shop which was part of the lobby. A
grenade had fallen in the wooden floor in the ' Shamiana wooden floor' and
there was a big hole in the centre of the floor.
We mobilized our team and within 20 days, we renovated the
floor in the entire lobby area by replacing just about 10% of the wooden floor.
The hotel was partly re-opened to public by end of 2008, which was indeed a
proud moment to us.
Then we went on working in the other parts of the hotel for
another year or so to renovate the wooden floors in the guest rooms and other
restaurants. We can proudly say that we renovated about 60% of the wooden
floors without replacing the timber.
The entire project was one of the most challenging and
satisfying of all the projects we have done
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