The Gravedigger at Taj Bengal

Calcutta, a city characterized by its colonial hangover, has a handful of heritage 5-star hotels and Taj Bengal is one of them. A 28-year-old institution, this Taj property has updated itself to suit modern needs but some age-old traditions and truly world-class services are still the order of the day. 
A good Concierge can build or break a luxury hotel. One of my best experiences internationally has been at the Metropole Hotel in Moscow. The Concierge there was hands-on and helped in whatever way possible, be it scoring amazing seats at the Bolshoi, getting us a table at some of the best restaurants in the city to planning our entire itinerary and making sure we made the most of our time there. To intuitively tell what the guest would enjoy and tailor-make their experience for them is an art, one that a Clef’s d’Or Concierge has mastered. The Russian Concierge was a part of this elite community and so is David Aaron, the Concierge at Taj Bengal. 
The Les Clefs d’Or (pronounced ‘lay clay door’, meaning The Society of The Golden Keys, in French) is an international network of Concierges expected to make the “impossible” requests of a guest possible. It was formed in France in October 1929. This society constitutes 4,000 Concierges in over 60 countries. These Concierges wear Golden Keys (crossed gold keys) on the lapels of their uniform and that’s how you can tell you’re in safe hands. There are 177 such experts in our country, David is their western region chair.
An unassuming, tall Anglo-Indian gentleman, David is an expert at striking a conversation to plan your stay in Calcutta. From an array of restaurants, mithai shops, bakeries and tourist spots, he’s got you covered. But what sets him apart from the usual 5-star hotel Concierge is his ability to redefine luxury and go beyond the usual service expected.
After a long and fun-filled day-1 planned by David, he joined us over breakfast to help us plan our day. What ensued was an interesting and animated conversation and just why he’s been labeled as the gravedigger of Taj Bengal. Of the various guests over the 20 years David has served here, many have been Anglo-Indians themselves. An Anglo-Indian lady checked into the Taj a few years ago, once they discovered their common heritage, she requested him to help her search for the house she was born in. David tried hard and ended up locating not only her ancestral home but also her great-grandfather’s grave. The grave was in shambles and the lady with David’s contact restored the grave to a large extent. Alas, the grave couldn’t be completely fixed due to some letters missing and the technology they used for grave lettering had changed. Once she had gone back, David didn’t give up and finally ended up restoring the grave to tip-top condition. He refused to accept any reimbursements from the lady and has now taken full responsibility for that grave. This isn’t an isolated experience; David has helped numerous guests with similar requests and now takes care of several such forgotten graves. He’s earned this nickname along with a lot of respect & experience. 
Staying in a soulless, 5-star business hotel with large rooms, a spa, and cookie-cutter service is something I expected from this property. What I got instead was a warm and charming man who gave me a short lesson on Kolkata, its history, its demography and of course, its gastronomy. Over Americanos, he talked about the identity crisis people of his community face, how well his son is doing at a boarding school at Darjeeling and of course, a comparative analysis of where you get the best baked Rosogullas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *