By Nishiraj A. Baruah
Vikram Mittal, Managing Director of The Royal Plaza Hotel, New Delhi, has some crazy stories to share from his travels worldwide. “Feeling like 27” (well, keep guessing his age!) he has just taken over the reigns from his father to run the hotel, and is out refurbishing it with quirky and interesting ideas (just check out the rooftop Sky Lounge!). He is also a storyteller and it turns out he has quite a few amusing ones to share from his worldwide travels.
What the hell! I’ve never flown a plane, man!
But then he had little option but to manoeuvre when the father of a friend of his in Brescia, an Italian mining town, flew him off the ground on a tiny microlight plane and suddenly left the controls to Mittal thousands of feet above the ground. That alone would not have been a problem, but what freaked him out was that the gentleman spoke no English and Mittal, no Italian, which meant Mittal couldn’t understand a word of the instructions. Of course, the result was a very turbulent flight, dangerously free falling for a while. “No, I wouldn’t fly that thing anymore. It’s too small and small planes are really scary,” he said.
When Taj Mumbai came under terror attack, he was getting a massage at the spa
And thank god for that. Blissfully unaware about the mayhem in the Taj lobby, our man was happily surrendering his body to the healing touch of a masseuse. His massage was over and he was about to come out to the lobby when the therapist suggested another 20-minute ritual to sort out some of his aches. “I can’t thank her enough! Had I left the spa a little ahead, you never know what would have happened to me!” he says.
How to smoke shisha? Osama bin Laden’s nephew taught him!
The fact that Mittal loves shisha is evident from the Sky Lounge, the rooftop bar of his hotel, the Royal Plaza, where there are plenty of them for you to enjoy. This love can be attributed to Mittal’s first experience smoking up one. That happened when he was a student of Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland. Away from home and family, friends from 40 different nationalities became his family. One of his friends happened to be Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s nephew. “Have you tried shisha?” the nephew asked Mittal. No, he said. And that’s when he taught him the way to do and that was his first experience with the shisha. He was 19 then. “After 9/11, I lost touch with the guy,” he says.
Our ski novice blindly followed a champ only to…
Of course, when you are in Switzerland, you gotta be skiing, right? Which was when a bunch of his friends from Franklin University decided to go skiing to Zermatt, a mountain resort known for skiing, climbing and hiking. The town, at a height of around 1,600 m, lies below the iconic pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. While most of them have never done skiing, one among the group was a champion skier. Which was great, only that the champ asked Mittal to follow him. “Like an idiot I followed him only to find myself staring at one of the most dangerous slopes in Europe where only hardcore professional skiers go,” he recollects. And there was no way he could retrace his steps back – there was only one way and that was a steep descent down, even as his champion friend flew off like a pro. What to do now? With his heart skipping a few beats, skiing down can only mean one thing: Sure death. With wobbly legs, he held onto a rope and tried to descend but got caught by the snow. One of his snowboards came off too, even as professional skiers wheezed past him like rockets without even throwing a glance at him. He fell several times, got himself a couple of bad bruises, injured himself, until he couldn’t move anymore. He was stranded, unable to figure out what to do next. Finally, a snow mobile came to his rescue, and picked him up. “It was terrifying,” Mittal says.
What he couldn’t experience in Istanbul, he did in Greenwich
His first trip to Turkey where he went to source marble for his family business, was disappointing. Mittal was very sure what he wanted to experience in Istanbul, and there were three of them: shisha, kebabs and belly dance. That’s what he told his local business partner as they both set out looking for a place in Istanbul that had all three under one roof. Strangely, they could find none. His wish got fulfilled only when he took off from Istanbul to New York. He was telling his NY friends about his failed effort and sure his friends knew a place in Greenwich, a town in the southwest part of Washington County, New York, where all three experiences were offered. So how was it? “I was younger and shy; it was for the fist time I witnessed belly dancing. It was al right,” he says, a smile playing on his lips.
What a fall!
He froze with fear, blood gushing out of his head. “Oh my god! Am I going to be paralyzed like Christopher Reeve!” he thought, disoriented. Just seconds ago he toppled over a horse to suffer a mighty fall at Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai, where he was learning riding under Olympic champ Imtiaz Ali. Just days ago, Hollywood actor Reeve who played Superman had a fall from a horse and was permanently paralysed. But thank god again, he got away with minor injuries.
I’m packed and ready to go!
Mr Mittal was attending a friend’s wedding in Switzerland. After a night or two at a hotel with all the wedding guests, it was time for breakfast after which they were all supposed to check out quickly and board the coaches that were taking them to a different venue for the wedding functions. “Everyone was talking about how they were yet to pack up their bags and how painful/boring the process is,” Mittal says. That was when Mittal smiled cheekily and said, “Oh I am already packed!” All eyes turned to him! So quickly, how did you manage? Everyone was surprised. It was now Mittal’s turn to reveal a secret. “Oh, I just called the housekeeping stuff who packed it up for me!” Mittal said. A 20-euro tip did the trick. The idea was latched onto by everyone. And that’s what he has been doing all these years. Great idea, isn’t that?