Wednesday, 19 August 2009
The Bell Hotel in Sivakasi, when it opened its doors to the public more than fifteen years ago, was not a hotel at all. It was just a restaurant. Set in the middle of a huge grove of fruit trees, it was a long rectangular dining hall kept cool by noisy air-conditioners, where the itinerant business traveller could find safe haven during those languorous hours from 1 pm to 3 pm, when the heat was its worst and the whole town hunkered down in an uneasy siesta. The menu was madly eclectic, mixing and matching the South Indian-Tandoori-Chinese cuisines with reckless abandon. But the food was decent and that was all that we cared.
When I visited the restaurant the second time, there were already changes in the air. Mr RS, the enterprising businessman who owned the restaurant, had purchased two 40-feet containers, mounted them on iron girders at a height of two feet from the ground, cut out windows on the sides and had converted them into hotel rooms with air-conditioning, TV, attached bathrooms and room service from the restaurant.
As innovations go, this one was simply marvellous and became a big hit with the small traders and businessmen who came to Sivakasi from all over the country and who, hitherto, had to make do with dingy lodges with smelly toilets near the bus stand.
Within a year or so, the number of “hotel rooms” multiplied–one part of the grove began to look like a well-maintained container park, with fresh water and sewage lines discreetly laid underneath the sturdy, metal trellis. I stayed in one of those rooms once; it was a refreshing experience to wake up to sound of birdsong and sit on the narrow veranda outside (it was actually a narrow platform running on all four sides of the room) and have my cup of morning tea.
But all this was just the beginning. The tip of the iceberg, if you will.
The visionary Mr RS had a few more aces up his sleeve.
Photo Courtesy: http:// fusions.files.wordpress.com