It was The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel here that saw the worst of the terror attacks on November 26 last year.
With almost a week to go for the anniversary of 26/11, the hotel management has announced that the heritage wing that was destroyed during the attack will reopen in phases. Two five-star restaurants and the city’s first licensed bar in the hotel, which were the scene of much of the battle, are slated to reopen by November end.
Thirty-one people were killed and hundreds injured when four terrorists stormed the 103 year-old heritage hotel on the night of November 25. The hotel, one of the four targets of terrorists, witnessed a fierce battle between the ultras and the National Security Guards (NSG).
Dome under repair
The attack severely damaged the hotel’s palace and heritage wing, particularly the fifth and sixth floors. The famous dome of the hotel caught fire and has since been under repair. This wing of the hotel was shut after the attack.
“The rooms, ballroom, and all grand suites in the heritage wing will be reopened in a phased manner by the first half of 2010. Guests can request for rooms on the second, third and fourth floors by the middle of January 2010; the ballroom will be unveiled by the middle of March and the grand suites by April 2010,” a hotel statement said.
The hotel was unwilling to comment on the extent of physical and financial damage. It, however, said 90 per cent of the artwork that was damaged in the palace wing was restored by experts and some by the original artists.
Priceless art collection
The Taj hotels, particularly this hotel, house an extraordinary collection of priceless art that are displayed in the hotels common areas.
What is known as the new wing was not as badly affected and it was reopened on December 21, 2008 — 25 days after the attacks “as a mark of confidence and signalling the path to recovery,” the statement said. “It has been business as usual” in this section of the hotel with guest occupancy showing an encouraging percentage.
Other than the scaffolding surrounding the affected wing and the new fortress-like entrance, the hotel is back to its old self. Numerous people continue to throng it like they used to. Several big events were held in the past year and, of course, the restaurants remain as popular with Mumbaikars.
The hotel, having 565 rooms, is considered the most luxurious of Indian hotels. After 26/11, informed sources said, there was blood all over its corridors. And its interiors were completely charred and ridden by bullets and grenade blasts.
The hotel’s biggest loss was the death of 10 staff members and 21 guests.
To commemorate the tragic incident, the management has said “the month of November will be spent in quiet reflection and remembrance.” Private multi-faith prayers will be held to bring together the families of the victims and the hotel staff. On November 25, a private internal meeting will be held to unveil a place for a memorial for those who lost their lives, the hotel statement said.
The hotel has received over Rs. 9 crore as donations in a massive outpouring of support. This has been put into a public service welfare trust, to be used for the families of those who died during the attack.