Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Manor Revisited

Over the weekend we celebrated our friend Kristin's birthday by staying in Delhi. It might seem odd to get a hotel room within an hour of your apartment, but it was a luxury that seemed to make sense so Lindsay and Kristin could make a day of shopping and a night of going out without driving back and forth between Gurgaon and Delhi. Think of it like a suburban couple staying in the city for a night. As usual, Americans spend money in weird ways.

Kristin, as usual, initially selected a Taj property (she's kind of a sucker for Taj properties) but did some additional research and found a place called The Manor in Friends Colony West, which is one of the few small boutique hotels in Delhi. As soon as she mentioned this place, the wife and I said, "Sign us up." The Manor was significant because the lawn of the hotel was the sole place of refuge that the wife was able to find when we were in India for six months starting in late 2004. It was first first "hidden gem". And, if you've ever spoken to Lindsay, you know she loves her hidden gems.

While we never stayed there during that assignment (after all, why would you stay in a hotel in a city where you were living in a different hotel at that time), it was pretty much the only stop on our brunch tour back in those days with the rest of the crew from work here on short term assignments. With one of the few open lawns we were able to find, we found a green oasis in the big city at a time when we didn't feel like a place like that could exist. I remember it being an expensive brunch at the time (approximately Rs. 600 though it may have been a little more) but had a free flow of watermelon martinis so the price seemed worth it. They also had pressed coffee which was a rarity at the time. The Rs. 600 price tag looks like an absolute steal when compared to the prices charged around Delhi and Gurgaon for brunches today (Rs. 2000+).
A scene from Lindsay's 2005 Birthday Brunch at 77 at The Manor
In 2005 the hotel was owned and operated by Aman Resorts as a sort of stopover hotel to serve their other properties in India and Bhutan. Today, Aman has opened a new 7-star (whatever that means) property in Delhi so this little boutique hotel's utility had been consumed. While owners had changed, with the exception of the name of the restaurant (from 77 to Indian Accent) the hotel hadn't in six years, which was both a good and bad thing. Good because some things don't change. Bad because things should change a little. It was exceedingly modern in 2004 and was would still be considered contemporary, but definitely not as "different" as it once seemed.

The lawn was where we had spent most of our time and was a perfect example of how the snapshot in your memory molds your perceptions. I remember the lawn being a quiet, idyllic place shut off from the rest of Delhi with little noise and happy times. Obviously, it's still located in the same upscale leafy neighborhood, but it no longer seemed shut off from the hustle and bustle of the city. Adjacent to the lawn a large block-styled three-story home was under construction. A train with screeching breaks traveled on the rails behind the hotel (in hindsight, I know remember the trains). And the cars honking and dogs barking that is associated with Delhi seemed to encroach on the paradise we once knew.

A visit back to The Manor was inevitable at some point during these two years, but the visit back was a testament to the fact that places alone don't make memories. Memories are snapshots of the places, people, conversations, and other contextual events in your life at the time. While it was fun to go back, something was missing and the place seemed empty. I think that "something" was Mohammed, Colin, Allison, Szesny, and the rest of the 2005 gang.


  1. A truly beautifully written insightful essay....one of those personal pieces which not only leads us quietly to the AHA moment you experienced so fully, but also invites the reader to reflect upon his own
    similar experience. Bravo, John. A+ for starting my own day out on the right foot.

  2. Thanks for leaving the comment; I'm very glad it helped start your day out well.