MUMBAI — If a city were a person, Mumbai would resemble a faded aristocrat, cash poor but asset rich, resplendent despite a veneer of grime.
In this island city, nothing exemplifies that legacy better than the stately pile that is the 560-room Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
For residents and tourists alike, the 100-year-old Taj is something special. It is the place for special occasions, the hotel you choose to impress a guest. Part of the experience are the hotel’s six doormen, commonly called durbaans in Hindi but referred to a bit more formally within the company as dwar pals, or door caretakers.
Among them is Jaswinder Singh, better known as “Daddy.” He is one of the hotel’s most photographed features: a Sikh who stands 1.80 meters tall, or 5-foot-11, but whose turban makes him appear much taller.
Mr. Singh’s eight-hour shifts are usually split between the hotel’s palace wing, the historic, and more expensive, part of the building, and its newer tower wing. He often stands in the hotel drive, wearing his uniform of a long cream tunic and pants with an embroidered cummerbund, to open car doors and welcome guests with folded hands and the traditional “namaste” greeting.
“Some foreigners don’t always know what ‘namaste’ means,” Mr. Singh, 44, said in Hindi. “In that case, I explain it means ‘welcome,’ and follow up with a ‘good morning, good afternoon or evening,’ depending on the time.”
Divia Thani Daswani, editor of the India edition of Condé Nast Traveler, said of the doormen: “What they are actually doing is minor, but people are going to remember the visual experience of entering this historic building and being greeted by these big, strong, charming-looking men.