“Sparkling clean now! if we are happy, then the guests will also be happy, right sir?”, Ramu remarked at the service supervisor as he came out of the deluxe room of the Taj hotel Mumbai where he worked as a room service and cleaning boy. The supervisor gave a nod and went through the checklist of items that need to be replaced for the guest arriving that day. “I will take one final look sir”, said Ramu and quickly checked the room and the toilet. “Feels fresh, now we can go”, he wiped his name badge pinned to his shirt and straightened his shirt. “You do that every time we come out of the room Ramu?”, asked his supervisor. “Haan sir, I am proud of it, this job makes me stand on my feet and my parents proud. I still don’t believe I am not at the port catching fish…”, he smiled.
Ramu was recruited by Taj Hotels the previous year. He hailed from a poor fisherman’s family of Ratnagiri, a port town in Maharashtra and was destined to follow his family tradition. Getting an opportunity to join Taj was, “…a life changing event for us…”, he remarked at least once every day to his fellow mates and supervisors. “That boy has a smile plastered permanently on his face…never seen him tire”, remarked one of the supervisors to the superintendent after their morning huddle. “I see him recite the company values at the start of each day”, he added.
The staff worked like clockwork through the day and night, receiving guests cheerfully and maintaining an aura of happiness and joy. It was one such day when Mr. Swaminathan arrived at the Taj. A Vice President of Motorola corporation, he was visiting Mumbai briefly for few days over business matters and arrived one hot and humid afternoon. “Your room is ready sir, you will be escorted by Mahesh here, and we will bring your luggage to the room shortly….Ramu…”, said the receptionist softly as she welcomed Mr. Swaminathan. He gave the impression of being a hard to please middle-aged strict disciplinarian, who was not happy to be away from home and demanded a natural order and respect from all those around him. Ramu noticed the slightly worn out but sturdy walking stick on which Mr. Swaminathan was leaning on as he took each step, and seemingly in slight discomfort with his right leg. He was escorted dutifully to his room and as Ramu gently placed his suitcase in the holder beside the door, he wished a pleasant, “Taj wishes you a pleasant stay sir, we are here for you” and left the room.
Ramu visited Mr. Swaminathan’s room for room service the next couple of days. He noticed that Mr. Swaminathan spoke very little and when he did it was crisp and direct. He kept a very strict routine, and arrived at breakfast exactly at 8 am each day, and had just buttermilk at dinner. Ramu promptly wished him each time there was an encounter, and all Mr. Swaminathan would do was to give a curt nod at the boy. One day Mr. Swaminathan briefly paused and noticed the mop stick in Ramu’s hands as he was clearing away what seemed to be a stain in the hallway. “It is nothing sir, shall I bring up your buttermilk in 30 mins?”, Ramu asked with a smile. And there was that nod again.
The next day, Ramu noticed that Mr. Swaminathan returned earlier than usual and was assisted by another young man wearing a tie. “Something seems amiss!”, Ramu thought to himself, and continued with his work. At sharp 7.30 PM Ramu softly knocked at the door, “Sir room service, I have brought your buttermilk”. “Come in”, came a tired reply. Ramu gently opened the door and walked like a soldier approaching the general to receive a medal with the tray in his hands. As he placed the tray on the table beside the sofa, he heard angry mumbling from Mr. Swaminathan which was unusual for him – “how on Earth can I misplace it! Serves me right to get bureaucratic and walk around without my stick as if I have no limp, what’s wrong in being myself…”.
“Can I help you with something sir please?”, Ramu spoke with utmost concern.
“Can you walk me to the bathroom, what’s it, Ramu?”, Mr. Swaminathan strained his eyes to read the name tag on Ramu’s shirt. “Certainly, sir!”.
Then it hit Ramu. He recollected that the young boy with the tie was escorting Mr. Swaminathan to his room earlier in the day. His walking stick was missing! He must have misplaced it. “Oh! how difficult it must be for him without his stick. He is supposed to leave tomorrow afternoon and he will not have time for getting another one, looks like he is not around from Mumbai”, Ramu wiped his badge involuntarily lost in deep thought. Then it hit him, and he smiled broadly – “At Taj, no one stays unhappy” – and he made a dash for it.
Next day morning at 7.50 AM, Ramu went up to the room of Mr. Swaminathan and knocked softly, “Sir room service”.
“What is it? I didn’t call for you, what do you want?”, came a stern reply.
“Please sir, may I enter”, persisted Ramu.
Mr. Swaminathan walked to the door with discomfort and let Ramu in.
“Sir, please take this, compliments from Taj for you”, and handed over what looked like his lost stick, but it was not the same!
“What! Where?! What is this Ramu…”, Mr. Swaminathan stammered in shock and Ramu could see that he was clearly overjoyed.
“Wait a minute, now I see it”, Mr. Swaminathan noticed the small inscription of Taj on the stick towards the bottom. “Bless you dear boy! This is a mopping stick, how on Earth did you do this Ramu?”, he took Ramu’s hand in his affectionately as he leaned on his new makeshift walking stick with his other hand.
“Sir, at Taj it is our utmost responsibility that all our guests are happy and satisfied. When I saw you in discomfort yesterday, I did not know what else to do. I did not want to disturb my manager or anyone else. I took my mopping stick to Gokhale chacha, he is a carpenter and requested him to change it like this. I am very happy to see that you like it”, Ramu smiled ear to ear.
“Like it? my dear boy, you have made your company proud, no, you have put Taj on the map. This behavior is inconceivable, who teaches you these things? This is the best and most touching compliment I have ever received. Are you telling me you did all this without even informing your manager?”, Mr. Swaminathan spoke fast and did not believe what he just heard from Ramu. How could a room service boy take on such a responsibility on his own and act out of humanity and genuine concern, without expecting any favor! Such commitment was unheard of in his long career so far.
“Why sir, at Taj we take our responsibilities very seriously, it is my job to keep you happy, I did not need to ask anyone, I am sure my management would be supportive”, Ramu spoke sincerely. “I will make sure they are much more than supportive dear boy, will you please take me to your manager?”, Mr. Swaminathan put his hand kindly on Ramu’s shoulder. “Surely sir”, said Ramu and as he stepped out, he gently wiped his badge and smiled.
Ramu now serves as the General Manager of one of the prestigious Taj Hotels in the Country, and Ramu’s heroics are one of several tales of pride and customer centricity that Taj and Tata have displayed for generations.
Narrative based on true incidents, with names changed for anonymity.
Categories: True Events Inspired