Shangri La – Paradise just got one step closer ……..
Last night I was almost ready to go to bed when the phone rang disturbing the quiet stillness. A while later, I was called to the phone where I was given an invitation to attend the formal opening of Mumbai‘s latest luxury hotel – Shangri La by none other than the promoter herself. At first I was quite excited, honoured even and flattered to have been considered “smart” enough to be seen at such an event. (Yes one of my friends who is organising a destination wedding for her daughter told me that I made the cut as she wanted her wedding to be a classy affair and did not want people who looked distinctly rustic or ethnic). I am what you would call a “glorified extra” someone who can hold her own at a fancy wedding in her own jewelry and clothes, mingle with the guests and add to the numbers that make an Indian wedding an Indian wedding.
But that’s not really the point – the point being the opening of the Shangri La. This hotel is actually situated in the heart of Mumbai’s textile industry which thanks to the militant stance of Dr. Dutta Samant actually deteriorated from a vibrant productive working class area into a barren, desolate urban space spelling despair and disrepute. Luckily Atul Ruia of Phoenix Mills ( strangely prophetic the name uh?) turned a dead industry into a thriving real estate business by converting his family’s textile mill into a commercial real estate space with Big Bazaar and its distinctly middle class supermarket being his first tenant. After Big Bazaar took hold, Phoenix became the swankiest Real Estate Development, despite the constant construction disrupting the layout of the complex. With shops becoming distinctly up market and gradually being called Stores, today Phoenix is a success story like no other with retailers vying with one another to be “seen” there.
Mumbaikars have always associated recreation with eating and shopping and Big Bazaar and Bowling Company were definitely better than hanging out at Apna Bazar or Sahakari Bhandar the co-operative stores that were definitely a no-no for the young DINKs who became more visible in Mumbai in the mid-80s and being big spenders, demanded more. And the Ruias obliged adding on more and more shops and big names till it Phoenix became the last word in branded retailing.
Phoenix came to be the ideal spot for a day of leisure and pleasure with Multi plexes, Food Courts gaming arcades and Haute Couture. Gone were the days of shopping in the crowded hot small holes in the walls or buying stuff at Five Star Hotel stores attended to by snooty shop attendants with an attitude. I love shopping at Phoenix – and go there at least once a month. With ample car parking and morning movies at Rs. 100, Jo and I almost always catch a movie here. So often we had wished that we could hang out there the whole weekend – one hedonistic one rather than go somewhere distant and exotic for a holiday. Ah, we would say as we snacked on pop corn, if only we could spend the morning at a PVR multi plex, step out for a quick bite (with varied choices of icecreams and cuisines suiting every palate and wallet) , then browse around the haute couture stores, splash around some expensive perfume, take in a gig at the Comedy Store and then…………..
check in for a night of pure relaxation at the Shangri La hotel. That would have been perfect.
At that time the hotel was still a distant dream but today as it stands tall and ready, I wonder if and when we’ll make good our wish….