The hotel of The God of Small Things.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
“Room numbers 313 and 327,” The man at the reception desk said. “Non-air-conditioned. Twin beds. Lift is closed for repair.”
This is not true. Lift is operational and there are no rooms with numbers 313 and 327.
The Delhi Walla is in the lobby of Hotel Sealord on Marine Drive, Cochin.
You may also visit this hotel in The God of Small Things, a novel that will complete 20 years in 2017. The opening lines of this dispatch, in fact, is from that book. Its paperback edition is in my hands.
The hotel appears as Sea Queen in the novel. Its author, Arundhati Roy, who spent her childhood in a village near Cochin, once said that she had Sealord in mind while writing the passages set in the hotel.
The lobby is quiet. A glass window facing the noisy street outside looks like an aquarium, and all the pedestrians are like different kinds of fish.
Sealord’s most famous guests remain the twins Rahel and Estha, their mother, Ammu, their uncle, Chacko, and their scheming grandaunt, Baby Kochamma. They all had spent a night here in December sixty-nine. The morning after, they went to the airport to pick up Chacko’s England-born daughter, Sophie Mol, who would die within a few days after her arrival.
Did all these doomed people stand in this same lobby as I?
The manager behind the reception desk says that the hotel was renovated in the late 1980s. He points to a picture on the wall—it is of the old hotel (see photo 4 below).
A man from the housekeeping department takes me to the third floor. The renovated building has rooms with numbers ranging from 301 to 309. Since 313 and 327 no longer exist, I enter 303, stand in front of the bed and read aloud the following passage:
The original plan had been that Estha would sleep with Chacko, and Rahel with Ammu and Baby Kochamma. But now that Estha wasn’t well and Love had been re-apportioned (Ammu loved her a little less), Rahel would have to sleep with Chacko, and Estha with Ammu and Baby Kochamma.
Now, forty-seven years later, I request the personnel of that same hotel to hold the story of Rahel and Estha in their hands. It is like reading The God of Small Things for the first time.
The hotel for all time
1. (Mathew John, Front Office Manager)
3. (Sorry, name forgot to ask!)
7. (Robin Joseph, Housekeeping Agent)
9. (Renju Augustine, Housekeeper)
10. (Sini Martin, Housekeeper)