Bachi Karkaria’s biography of Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi is one of my favorite books and I have read it thrice now.
Rai Bahadur Oberoi’s life is a remarkable story of a man who built an international hotel chain from scratch, and his qualities of diligence, perseverance and patience are very inspiring.
It is a fascinating tale which truly starts when Rai Bahadur takes and fails the PWD (Power and Works Department) test, which was the first test he ever took.
He then applies for a job at a hotel in Simla where he is again told that there are no vacancies. This doesnâ€™t deter him as he waits patiently for the manager to go home for lunch, and impresses him with his perfect tie knot and impeccable manners to score a job tracking coal supplies in the Cecil hotel, and thus starts the career of the man who will later go on to own many hotels much bigger than the one where he started off.
Bachi Karkaria has written the book beautifully and she draws lovely parallels that bring a smile to your face and make the biography read like a novel.
The effects of Spencer and Coâ€™s neglect of AHI had to be reversed. Flashmans at Rawalpindi required a new wing. Maidens in Delhi needed funds to get back its former glory. Its predicament was not unlike that of three young women, who decades earlier, had come out East, stayed in the hotel and, caught up in Delhiâ€™s blandishments, overshot their budget. They were forced to send a telegram to their parents: â€˜Send money or can remain maidens no more.â€™
The story is very inspiring and the hard work and innovativeness of Rai Bahadur Oberoi is really impressive and makes a mark on you. One of the examples I like the most is of the troubles faced by Oberoi Sheraton in delivering tea and breakfast fast enough to the upper floors of the groupâ€™s first high rise hotel. Rai Bahadur, who was 72 at the time, woke up at 5 every morning, and stayed in the kitchen till he found a solution to the problem, first by moving the entire room service bay to the other end of the kitchen bringing it closer to the room service elevators and then by installing â€˜pantry elevatorsâ€™ that were stocked with soda, chips, tea and coffee. Room service relayed the orders to the waiter manning the lift and then he would make his way quickly by just pressing the button on the elevator and making tea while he made his way to the room.
This is just one of several such incidents mentioned in the book and while the book highlights the grit and charm of Rai Bahadur Oberoi throughout the story, it also does justice to the number of other people who contribute to his success, especially his mother and wife.
Bachi Karkaria also chronicles the part fate plays in the success of Rai Bahadur and it’s quite clear that he couldn’t have achieved his success without a little help from lady luck.
I really love this book, and I heartily recommend this inspiring and entertaining story to everyone.