Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Changing profile of a city

St James Crown Plaza Hotel, London: Sunday today arrived at Gatwick airport from the Emirates.
On Friday, I had cancelled the trip to London but again re-booked on Saturday for a two-night trip to London to receive an award at the House of Lords. For the past 10 years, like many other Indian travellers, St James has been my address in London. This hotel is owned the Taj Group and managed by Crown Plaza.
I have keenly observed the changes that London has undergone since my first visit in 1994. The city's profile has changed rapidly in the past 15 years. The Britishers are hardly in London. One has to visit the country side to see the real British families and the British culture.
A large number of British families have shifted from London to Barcelona and Madrid. The housekeeping and room services jobs in the hotels that were once with the Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and immigrants from other Asian countries, have, by an large, been replaced by the Romanians, Polish, Czechs and workers from countries that were under the former Soviet Union. It is hard to believe the amazing rate at which the number of personnel from these countries have multiplied.
If you are in Victoria Station or Kingcross and seek directions you are likely to get a reply “Sorry I am new here.” The mini cab business is still very much controlled by the Bangaldeshis and some Punjabis. I remember about a decade back, if one inquired from an Asian, he or she would invariably say that they were either from Indian, Pakistan or Bangladesh. But the same query now and they'd say they are from London.
While availing the Emirates drop service from Gatwick to St James , the person who was driving me told me his name was Mohammed and he was from London. After a few minutes of driving I got a call from Kolkata on my cellphone. When I hung up, the driver asked me in Bengali “Dada apni ke Bangla janen?” (Do you know Bengali?)
I learnt that Mohammed was from Bangladesh and had shifted to London with his whole family 15 years ago. For Mohammed, and many others like him, when asked about their home country they say they are from “London”. To know about the native country one has to rephrase the query, in fact, the new terminology is “What is your motherland?” 
The quality of service at the St James Hotel had declined about four or five years back. But from the last two years it has improved and is back on track. No wonder, the Hotel and its 342 rooms and 82 apartments next door are all booked for this week. St James address remains a favourite place for Indian politicians , film stars and cricketers especially with the 51 Buckingham Gate Apartments next door.
During my last visit in March this year I was discussing about London with David Burner the head concierge and perhaps the only Britisher at least I could spot among the hotel staff. David has been working at St James Hotel for the last 38 years. Even he agreed that London has changed a lot.
Today evening I will go to attend the  Function at Kent being organised by the NRI INSTITUTE.
ess bee

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