Lessons From My Grandfather

09/12/2014 8:05 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2011/10/16: Man teaching his granddaughter to fish. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Capt Krishnan Nair, my grandfather decided to become a hotelier at the age of 65, an age in which people normally tend to retire. His tenacity was alluring and was known for his unwitting charm. He had a glorious old world way about him, his grace in interactions made one feel like they were the only one in the room.

Amongst most basic things a child learns from their grandparents, like etiquette and proper decorum, my lessons were learnt by observing him in action at the hotel and during his downtime at home.

He was a great believer in the concept of "Atithi devo bhava" in Sanskrit which translates to guest is god. Even before the government used this beautifully coined term in their countless marketing campaigns, it was a philosophy from the ancient Vedas much appreciated in the Nair household. Being hospitable in any given situation was just second nature. Making your guests comfortable always is and always will be de rigueur. From the minute they enter your doorway until the minute they leave your sight, you are at their service, orchestrating every whim and fancy. Such is the law in our household, upheld with great dignity.

Think fast, Act Now; was another thought pertinent to his life. Much of my generation envisions beautiful larger-than-life ideas with very little will to see them through. 'Acting now' is certainly a virtue of people with talent. I remember an incident wherein my grandfather and I were traveling in the car and spotted a perfectly situated billboard, ready to be hired for advertising. He then proceeded to intimate that I follow up on the specific details, it was already 10pm. I cordially agreed to do so of course, without realising that he meant he has wanted me to follow up that very moment itself. This one of many instances made me realise the urgency of grabbing opportunities in a timely manner. That timely manner just happened to be in the now.

He always helped people, even if they could never offer anything back in return. Being a hotelier one has the opportunity to constantly interact with a variety of people. Whether they are guests in your hotel, a family friend or relatives Captain Nair never let anyone down. If he could help in any way, big or small, he did. Charity is something he learnt from his mother and was keen to share with us, his grandchildren. He instructed me to give people my time and listen to their stories. Everyone can teach you something, was his philosophy.

Appreciating nature for its bountiful beauty was a trait he was lauded for with numerous awards. He propagated countless initiatives to promote greenery in the country and making every hotel he fashioned a green haven.

Communication was always key to him. He truly believed that marketing and public relations would get you everywhere. Being a stellar natural spokesperson it was an obvious choice he would always support. I cherish his encouragement for all my professional efforts whenever they were appreciated in the media. He was my ultimate motivator and confidant. What amazed me was that he would personally write back to any guest who wrote to him with feedback for any of our properties or hotel stay experience.

We bonded intensely over our love for travel & cuisine. We would talk endlessly about our favourite places in Japan -- a country to which we had a strong connection and admiration for its ultimate perfectionism. He always encouraged me to travel and experience new cultures "the more you travel the more you learn about who you really are." I never failed to disappoint him with my stories of new places I uncovered through my travels around the world. He was always very supportive of my penchant for wine and could listen to me explain its delicate nuances and characteristics for days.

A truly dapper gentleman with a serious affinity for fashion, coming from the garment industry background, it was but natural. His sense of dress was unparalleled to any other. His fondness for clothing and bold design taught me that ones demeanour truly dictates an expression of their innate character.

I will certainly miss my grandfather's joie de vivre, unrelenting exuberance and especially his genuine warmth. He persevered to create and envision a better India through the art of luxury hospitality. Men like him are very rare. Although gone from the present, lest forgotten.

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