Things have changed at the Oberoi.
Well, not inside particularly - apart from a faint sniff of the cage. Everything looks exactly the same. Outside it’s a very different matter. I guess we all know why.
The first sign, just after the limo guy makes that ‘he’s imminent’ call on his mobile, is the double line of yellow crowd control barriers outside the hotel and the large numbers of policemen. Those great black wrought-iron gates are closed these days. The car slides in between the barriers to be halted by the politest security guards you ever saw. They peer in.
Ahhh – the celebrated Mr. Dogster has arrived.
They salute back and search some more. Open the doors, check around the paws for ammunition.
Apparently I’m not about to explode. The dogmobile is allowed to advance another three feet.
More peering. More saluting. Two more guards open the gates. We drive in. Opposite the front entrance is a sentry box – sandbagged to chest height, with a sweet little green roof. Inside three not-so-sweet looking soldiers in full riot-gear sprouting very big guns. I didn’t wave gaily and salute. Lordy, I was thinking – sandbags. No time to dwell on the armed soldiers – as we drive along to the front door I’m aware of a welcoming committee. It appears to be for me.
This is my fifth or sixth visit over the last 18 months. They know who I am. They also know who I used to be. I’ve totally forgotten who that youthful puppy was - but my past follows me in cyberspace. I guess I’m not the only one with that problem. Mercifully my extensive criminal history seems to have disappeared, leaving only minor notoriety. Sometimes that notoriety translates into free limos, a welcoming committee, floral arrangements and an upgrade from the cheapest possible room to what is known as a ‘Classic Suite’. Well, in Kolkata, anyhow.
So when that limo door is opened, when Dogster tumbles out, he’s met with a wave of the purest Oberoi spirit, a manager or two or three – or four; various glamorous personal assistants to ease my way up to the room, to whisk my luggage away. After the handshakes and the smiles, the ‘welcome back’s’ and ‘hello, again, sir!’, I’m dutifully scanned by a saluting man with a hat and a small black tennis racket. No strings. Perhaps it’s not a tennis racket. He’s getting awfully personal with his probe
I appear not be carrying weapons, but my lethal cigarette lighter is discovered, as is the foil in my fags. Thank God I decided against the steel penile implant.
Nothing so vulgar as checking in at the front desk. Ptoooey. I’m carried bodily past gawping, deeply jealous tourists. I can see gimlet sets of British eyes. Why is HE getting all this attention? Well, quite frankly, I’m not sure either…
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Things have changed at the Oberoi.