Naina.co Luxury, Travel, Fashion & Lifestyle Photography + Contemporary Art Brooches ITC Maurya Staycation, New Delhi


With girl-energy and a goal to swim and eat at Bukhara, we packed our bags to hang out together at ITC Maurya in New Delhi. There were five of us and all five of us believe that no matter where you put us, we will MAKE it fun. And so we did. A memorable staycation but with very little thanks to the hotel, unfortunately.


THE ART

What an absolutely stunning collection of Indian art! With pieces specifically created for the hotel and it’s Mauryan theme, by artists like M.F. Husain, Krishen Khanna, Satish Gujral, etc.

Check-in at the front office was weird. We were left standing around for about 30 minutes – not a soul came to even check if there was something they could help us with. And on us asking how much longer it would take, we were told, multiple times, “Two minutes ma’am.” So, I had 30 minutes to observe the weave on this MF Husain tapestry, which consists of four panels. The theme is supposed to be of war and peace but only the left two panels of “peace” are described in the metal plate description at bottom left of the tapestry. The Tiger is mislabeled as a Lion. Make of that what you will.

Once we were being checked-in, despite having a phone confirmation with reservations, we were told that no Twin Rooms were available in the Towers, which is what our booking was for. I mean, we girls love each other but can we please sleep in separate beds? Some of us dance in our sleep! No joy.

Krishen Khanna’s ceiling mural called “The Great Procession”, was painted in 1980. It’s a riot of colours and forcefully draws the viewer’s eye upwards. There’s a lot happening in the painting, so one could spend a day just craning one’s neck and catching the details. Fun. But, I also got a sense that Khanna probably got miserably tired after painting for four years and left out some details on a lot of the figures in the painting. For example, the eyes on some of the figures are just brown paint lines. No eyeballs. Which, to me, makes the painting even more interesting! I’m not aware if he painted it himself or if he had an army of assistants do it for him, so it’s just a gut feeling.


POOL TIME

We immediately went to our rooms and changed into our swimming gear – well except for the one chick who checked-in in her swimming costume. Yes, that is how enthusiastic we all were supposed to be. Assignment failed.

Pool time was glorious! We all splashed around in the heat and the Sun and we had the entire pool to ourselves, except two foreigners who were turning redder by the minute and yet, refused to hide from the Sun. It was SCORCHING but not inside the pool.

What was scorched, however, was the inside of my nostrils. There’s a godawful stink of poo around the swimming pool. High-stank sewage. I’m happy to gag at specific occasions and this was not one of those. On asking the pool-side person, he said he would “check” and get back to us, which did not happen, unsurprisingly. The stench stayed over both the days we were there. There’s also construction going on right next to the pool and the workers walk right past the pool. So much for the illusion of privacy.

We were quick to order pina coladas and lemonade and lots of glasses of water. The glassware is plastic and you’re not allowed to be in the pool if you want to consume drinks. Monu’s service was top class, much obliged. By 6pm, the Sun wasn’t actively attempting to suck the life out of us, so other guests started to jump in. The pool is open till 9 pm, around which time, I had the misfortune of witnessing one of the male guests, stripping down to his family jewels, barely even attempting to hide them from the view of at least 30 other people who were present. It was a flash but it was enough. Yikes!


BUKHARA

The service and the food at Bukhara were such a pleasant experience that I was surprised it’s even in the same hotel premises. Rahul was wonderful – he got us a table and at the time we wanted it and he checked in on us during our reservation and once we were leaving after eating and even when we were leaving the hotel. Not a single other soul asked us anything!

The Raan and the Dal are just heritage at this point. And we went for the massive Naan, which had a couple of foreigners at the adjacent table, severely tickled. We couldn’t finish the Naan, alas, because we had stuffed ourselves at the Towers’ Lounge high-tea and cocktail hour prior to Bukhara, which was a HUGE mistake in retrospect. Santosh at the Towers’ Lounge was great – good service – and she’s been working there for 14 years! The peanuts on the tables at the lounge were rancid. Whole jars of them.


THE ROOM

We were in rooms called “Tower Double” with double beds. We asked for an extra bed in one of the rooms. Neha in room-service was fabulous. I slept on that extra bed. And by the middle of the night, it was evident that the hotel needs to get new mattresses. The one I was sleeping on had body-shaped dents on both sides and I had a backache by the time I woke up. The toiletries were great by the way! Especially the body lotion / moisturizer. Probably some of the best I’ve ever used at a hotel. I forgot to ask for replacements / refills else I would’ve posted a picture. I regret not asking for more to take home. Yes, that good. Face towels were stained. Yowzaaaaa!


THE LOBBY LOO

Ok excuse me but holy shit that loo is BEAUTIFUL! Shalini ji, very proudly informed me that the loo was renovated sometime post-COVID and that it was, indeed, beautiful. I was trying to take a photograph at night and she, very helpfully suggested that I come back during daytime actually soak in the beauty and she was RIGHT! And the wallpaper is also beautiful.


EMOTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE

Now, in terms of the significance of this staycation, the more I say, the less comprehensive it will be. To me, it meant a lot of be part of a “girl gang”. For once, at least for this staycation, I felt like I belonged. It was short enough for none of us to get on each other’s nerves and long enough for us to have actual long conversations and get to know ourselves a bit better. It was swimming and feeling like I hadn’t a care in the world, wearing my two-piece black and white polka dot bikini, floating on my back, getting burnt by the Sun, watching the clouds float by, embracing the presence of yellow wasps and poo stench along with girl energy, easy conversations, and the reinforcement of the realization that I am alive and that I get to do this. I am grateful that I got to do this.


hospitality significance

How the hotel continues to proudly display “Responsible Luxury” is beyond me. Service was shit. Now maybe I’m used to service from 100 room hospitality brands in Rajasthan and 438-room capital-city business hotels cannot possibly match up to those standards. But I genuinely did not expect it to be SO bad at ITC Maurya. Some have suggested that it is because Nakul Anad has retired, the current team is from Sheraton Saket and they have not been trained for “Responsible Luxury”, and things have been just going downhill. I truly don’t know.

The people who were actually doing the serving, I have nothing to complain about – Santosh, Shalini, Rahul, Monu, Neha – wonderful. Perhaps there’s a power struggle at the higher levels after Nakul Anand left and because of that there are factions and no common vision anymore? Newer, younger managers behaving threateningly with junior but seasoned colleagues, from a point of ego – this I witnessed. Which isn’t new in any organization, sadly. What is new is that this ego is affecting guest services, which, IMO, should be sacrosanct at a hotel.

Oh and the pork sausages at the buffet breakfast look like severed human fingers and taste like rotten dirt. The service at breakfast was so much better than anywhere else though – maybe the restaurants have different training protocols? I’ve loved working alongside F&B team, sleeves rolled up, so maybe I’m biased, but I doubt it. There was a point during the stay where I was ACTIVELY looking to ignore all the lapses in literally everything because I was determined to have a good time.

A good time was had.

The End.

Oh! Oh! The staycation was because it was the birthday of one of the chicks. The hotel sent us two cakes. The cakes said, on top of them, “CONGRATULATIONS”. And even the poor sod who came to deliver them, looked at me, with cake in hand, and said, “Congratulations ma’am!” I LOLed in his face. It was not my birthday. Delicious cakes by the way. The one served to us at Bukhara said, “Happy Birthday”, but it was dry and not as delicious.

(This was a paid stay, for the sake of disclosure. Like we paid for it. All images above, shot on the Google Pixel 8 Pro.)





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