The sleek, silver Austin slowly took a turn round the corner to enter the driveway. The liveried gatekeeper, resplendent in his red turban and gleaming brass, puffed up his chest, clicked his heels and gave a royal salute to the occupant. The passenger acknowledged the honour with an imperceptible tilt of the head, the face unclear behind the tinted windows of the car which rolled to a stop under the portico.
The uniformed doorman hurried to open the back door of the car and stood aside, hands folded in reverence. The tall, debonair passenger stepped out of the car, his immaculate morning suit adding to his stature. The passenger walked up to the front desk without a glance at the bellboy who ran to collect his luggage.
Thirty-year-old Nidhi who had been working with the luxury hotel for some years had seen many people pass through those doors during her tenure. But the man striding towards her was special — he had the ‘it’ factor that attracted women. “He is so handsome,” thought Nidhi. Add to that the regal gait, the confident stride, the gentle manners and he was irresistible. Nidhi smiled warmly as she asked, “May I help you?”
“I would like to book a room for two nights,” he said, “a nice room with a good view”. Sensing an opportunity, Nidhi opted to offer him a suite as she deemed him capable of paying. With her heart in her mouth she said, “We do not have any regular rooms available at the moment. We can only offer you an executive suite”.
But the man was affronted. “It happens to be my wedding anniversary and I expect my wife to join me sometime tomorrow. Don’t you have something much more grand befitting the occasion? Or should I try some other place?” Seeing Nidhi’s panic-stricken face, the front office manager quietly walked to her side and said, “Of course sir, we can offer you a deluxe suite or the Presidential suite. The latter is on the 21st floor and offers a breathtaking view of the sea. Considering the special, occasion I would recommend it strongly.”
The guest smiled as he said “that should be fine”.
Struck by the man’s royal look, the manager rather reluctantly whispered, “Sir, I am embarrassed to say this but since you do not have a prior booking, as per our rules, you will need to pay a day’s charge for the room as a deposit; it is Rs 40,000 for the Presidential suite. It is only a formality but.....”
“ I fully understand young man. Rules have to be honoured. Here, keep this with you and let me know when you need more.” And casually the man flicked a bundle of Rs 500 notes on the counter.
“Thank you very much sir. Nidhi will escort you to the suite,” said the Manager, handing over his card as he said, “Just give me a call if you need anything.”
In the suite, Nidhi produced the guest registration form. The guest took out his gold plated Montblanc pen to fill the form, stumbling at the ‘Occupation’ line. “What should I write here? I do not do anything. I haven’t done an hour’s work in my life. Everything is taken care of by the estate. I am, after all, the prince of Vijaygarh,” And even though she had no clue about Vijaygarh, Nidhi was bowled over by the prince.
Soon after, the bell boy arrived with the prince’s belongings, packed in Louis Vuitton luggage. The bellboy placed the luggage in the dressing room closet and as he bowed on his way out, was rewarded with a crisp Rs 500 for his efforts. The butler arrived to ask the prince about his choice of welcome drink but the prince demurred, also refusing the offer from the butler to unpack his bags. The butler, too, was awarded Rs 1,000 for future service.
Meanwhile, news of the prince had spread like wildfire through the hotel staff and was the topic of discussion among the staff during lunchtime. While the female staff discussed the prince’s looks, the men asked about the tips. Someone asked “Arey, yeh Vijaygarh kahaan hai”? But clueless, someone quipped, “Shayad UP me hai!”
Watch out for the next chapter!