The Taste with Vir: Elizabeth Kerkar’s contributions to Taj Hotels created new school of Indian interior design – opinion

In the 1950S and the 1960s, the big American hotel companies looked as though they would take over the world. Such chains as Hilton (owned by the eponymous family and then by TWA), Intercontinental (owned by Pan Am) and a little later, Sheraton (owned by the multinational conglomerate ITT), opened in many of the world’s capitals.

Some of these hotels were not bad looking structures (though it later became fashionable to dismiss them as ugly skyscrapers) but it is fair to say that they had no sense of place about them. There may have been a few token nods to the city they were located in, but most days, if you suddenly woke up in a Hilton or an Intercontinental, it was hard to tell which city you were in.

That began to change a little from the 1970s onwards but it continues to be a problem for many global chains even today. They use the same service model, the same systems and often, the same architects and designers no matter where they build their hotels. So there is very little to distinguish one property from another. Nor is there much sense of art or aesthetics.

Indian hotels have always been different much to the bemusement of foreign chains. I have heard it said that when the Tatas did not know what to do with the Taj Mahal Hotel in the 1950s, they asked Hilton if the chain would run it. Hilton said it would. But the existing building was too awkward and had to be pulled down. A huge new skyscraper would be constructed in its place.

The Tatas said goodbye to Hilton and decided to run the Taj themselves. They were up against the Oberois, India’s leading hotel chain who had collaborated with Intercontinental in Delhi and were about to collaborate with Sheraton at a brand new hotel in Mumbai. It should have been a no-contest. But against the odds, largely thanks to the genius of JRD Tata and the team he entrusted the Indian Hotels company (which owned the Taj) to, the Taj brand grew from one Mumbai hotel to rival the Oberois as a national chain.

Though the Oberois worked with the great American chains, they retained an Indian sensibility. Such great Indian artists as Krishan Khanna and Satish Gujral created works of art specially for Oberoi hotels and Rai Bahadur MS Oberoi, who built the chain, was keen to imbue it with an air of Indian-ness.

At the Taj, JRD Tata and Ajit Kerkar, the man who turned the Taj into an all-India chain, worked to a similar brief. Their combined efforts helped create the Indian hotel industry: one reason why India is probably the only non-Western country where the top hotels in each city are still run by Indian companies and not by foreign chains.

At the Taj, at least, a key element of the planning of each hotel was the design. Kerkar had worked in London before he was headhunted by the Tatas

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House Democrats to investigate accusations DeJoy reimbursed former employees for GOP contributions

House Democrats have launched a probe into allegations Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pressured employees of his former company to make campaign contributions he later reimbursed.

Carolyn Maloney looking at a screen: House Democrats to investigate accusations DeJoy reimbursed former employees for GOP contributions

© Roll Call/Pool
House Democrats to investigate accusations DeJoy reimbursed former employees for GOP contributions

Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement the panel will investigate whether DeJoy lied under oath. She also called on the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors to suspend DeJoy, saying “they never should have hired [him] in the first place.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday that as CEO of North Carolina-based New Breed Logistics, DeJoy and aides pressured employees to contribute to GOP candidates and compensated them in the form of bonuses. Such an arrangement would be illegal under federal and state law, it added, noting that the federal law has a five-year statute of limitations but there is no statute of limitations at the state level.

If the allegations are true, Maloney said, DeJoy would face “criminal exposure,” both for the payments and “for lying to our committee.”

DeJoy denied reimbursing employees for contributions to Trump’s campaign in testimony before the committee last month.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has also called for an investigation by the North Carolina attorney general.

“These are very serious allegations that must be investigated immediately, independent of Donald Trump’s Justice Department,” Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.

The Post, which first reported the House Oversight investigation, analyzed federal and state campaign finance records and found 124 employees donated over $1 million to GOP candidates between 2000 and 2014.

“Mr. DeJoy was never notified by the New Breed employees referenced by the Washington Post of any pressure they might have felt to make a political contribution, and he regrets if any employee felt uncomfortable for any reason,” Monty Hagler, a spokesman for DeJoy, told the newspaper .

President Trump said on Monday that he was not familiar with the allegations against DeJoy but said he should lose his job “if something can be proven that he did something wrong.”

–This report was updated at 8:58 a.m.

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House Oversight panel to investigate postmaster general over campaign contributions allegations

Washington — The House Oversight and Reform Committee is launching an investigation into embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following a report alleging he pushed employees at the logistics company he led to make campaign contributions to Republican candidates and reimbursed them for the donations.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York who chairs the Oversight panel, said in a statement DeJoy “could face criminal exposure” for the scheme reported by The Washington Post, as well as for lying to her panel under oath, if the accusation are true.

“We will be investigating this issue, but I believe the Board of Governors must take emergency action to immediately suspend Mr. DeJoy, who they never should have selected in the first place,” she said.

According to the Post, employees of New Breed Logistics, the North Carolina-based company where DeJoy served as CEO, were urged by him or his aides to make campaign donations or attend fundraisers for GOP candidates at his home. DeJoy, the Post reported, would then reimburse his workers for the contributions through bonuses.

During testimony before the Oversight Committee last month, Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee, asked DeJoy whether he repaid his employees for donations they made to Republican politicians.

DeJoy called the claim “outrageous,” and said no.

“I’m fully aware of legal campaign contributions and I resent the assertion, sir,” he told Cooper during the hearing. “What are you accusing me of?”

Since taking over as postmaster general in June, DeJoy has come under scrutiny for changes to the Postal Service’s operations, which caused mail delays. Democrats have accused him of seeking to hamper the mail agency in the run-up to the election because of President Trump’s ardent opposition to voting by mail, which many states are expanding because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the face of public opposition and pushback, DeJoy halted a series of changes imposed not long after he took the helm of the Postal Service until after the November election. But he has continued to face calls for his resignation from congressional Democrats.

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