The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai is probably one of the most famous palaces of India. It dates back to the 20th century and remains by far one of my favourite hotels of the country, and one of my favourite hotel worldwide, due to its extraordinary location by the ocean, extravagant and sumptuous architecture, comfort, and luxury.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the only decent hotel of Mumbai was called the Watson, built and run by an Englishman of the same name. At the front door one could find the following sign “ Indians and dogs banned”. One of the wealthiest Parsis of India, a man named Tata, founder of a legendary financial dynasty in the country, was moved by this racism. He decided to build a hotel that would overshadow the Watson and force it to close its doors.
And so it was he who built the Taj Mahal. As predicted, all the swanky customers rushed to the new hotel, forsaking the Watson, who soon went bankrupt and still to this day stands, deserted, dusty and abandoned. Tata had won his bet.
I asked to a particularly cultivated Indian woman: “ Why is it not written on the doors of the Taj Mahal ‘Englishmen banned’?” Her answer: ”These methods are not in the tradition of India.”
Tata, due to his immense wealth, also wanted to be recognized by the English society of Mumbai and, more specifically, be admitted in the inner circle of high society, the Yacht Club of Mumbai; which still stands today by the waterside, not far from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. In order to achieve this, he offered the Yacht Club the most beautiful, the most magnificent pool table, entirely of mahogany and golden bronze. The Committee of the Yacht Club graciously accepted the gift and never admitted Tata as a member of the Club.