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

Read more

Queen Elizabeth II Could Be Removed by More Countries as the ‘House of Cards Falls’

Queen Elizabeth II could face a rash of countries removing her as head of state with Barbados causing the “house of cards” to fall, a royal expert has told Newsweek.

Elizabeth II wearing a wedding cake: Queen Elizabeth II talks to guests at an evening reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace on December 11, 2019 in London, England. The monarch now faces Barbados removing her as its head of state.

© Victoria Jones/Getty
Queen Elizabeth II talks to guests at an evening reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace on December 11, 2019 in London, England. The monarch now faces Barbados removing her as its head of state.

The Caribbean island announced plans on Tuesday to remove the queen as its head of state and achieve “full sovereignty” before the 55th anniversary of independence from the U.K. in November 2021.

The move has triggered speculation of a domino effect among pro- and anti-monarchy commentators alike.

Jamaica is widely tipped as the next country to remove the queen, although the opposition People’s National Party lost a general election earlier this month after promising a referendum on becoming a republic.

Ingrid Seward, author of upcoming biography Prince Philip Revealed, told Newsweek: “I thought that was really sad about Barbados.

“I’d been there a lot because I had friends that lived there and they always seemed to like the queen.

“It seems to me that once one country goes the house of cards falls a little bit.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recently called for the Commonwealth, made up predominantly of countries in the former British Empire, to have a conversation about the past in order to move on from colonialism.

However, Seward said she believed he may also have contributed to the problem with his own past behavior, including an infamous incident in which he wore Nazi

Read more

Biden White House economic team could include Elizabeth Warren, Lael Brainard

Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden shake hands as they arrive onstage for the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Despite an uncertain economic outlook and a diverse array of advisors on Joe Biden’s economic team, Wall Street speculators and Beltway wonks have nonetheless drummed up a list of policymakers who could play roles in a potential Biden White House.

The cast ranges from progressive favorite Sen. Elizabeth Warren to equitability economist Heather Boushey. Longtime Biden confidant Jared Bernstein is also thought to be a top contender for a role, while others speculate that Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard could be on the short list.

CNBC reached out to several economists and politicians who reportedly are advising the Biden campaign. All declined to offer comment for this story and on their interactions with the campaign.

The economy — along with the coronavirus crisis itself — are likely to be Biden’s top priorities should he defeat President Donald Trump in November. The former vice president holds a lead of approximately 7 percentage points in polling averages and narrowly edges Trump in several swing-state polls.

The U.S. unemployment rate is still over 8%, more than 13 million American workers continue to receive unemployment benefits, and Covid-19 remains far from contained and could rebound this fall as people spend more time indoors.

So whom Biden chooses to lead the White House’s economic policy will likely have more impact than usual for a newly elected president.

“Steven Mnuchin emerged as the key negotiator between House Democrats and the White House, and demonstrated the key role the secretary of Treasury can play,” wrote Tom Block, policy analyst at FundStrat Global Advisors. “If VP Biden wins, getting the economy back on track will undoubtedly be his highest priority.”

Here some of the people considered to be leading candidates for economic roles in a potential Biden administration.

Elizabeth Warren

No conversation about Biden’s future Cabinet would be complete without a mention of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose crusader-like devotion to holding Wall Street accountable has made her something of a progressive icon.

Though she was among Biden’s challengers in the Democratic primary, her deep knowledge of the U.S. financial system and bankruptcy law makes her a compelling contender for Treasury secretary. She and Biden now reportedly hold regular phone calls to discuss policy. Biden has touted Warren-endorsed ideas ranging from topics such as personal bankruptcy and expanding Social Security to ending student-loan debt for millions.

But a key force that could potentially doom Warren’s appointment to lead the Treasury is her indisputable value to Democrats as a senator.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers a campaign speech at East Los Angeles College on March 2, 2020 in Monterey Park, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Even if Biden wins the White House, the composition of the Senate is far less certain and Democrats may be hard-pressed to

Read more