There’s nothing grand about the Fortune Select Grand. I choose to stay there because it is ten minutes from Maraimalainagar, where I have an interest beginning this year. The hotel hosts South Koreans, East Europeans, Japanese, Americans, and guests from West Europe, most of them arriving for business in the automotive industry. Maraimalainagar is home to the Ford Motor Company, and a clutch of large and small manufacturers of auto-components.
The Fortune Select Grand is new, I am told. There’s a bareness in its rooms, rather like at the Woodlands kind of budget hotel. And you get only one key for your room, even if you’re with spouse and you’ve argued and proved the illogic in their rule.
But I like the hotel. For its proximity, as I said, but also because the service — in its two restaurants, at the reception, in the gym — is outstanding. A same-class hotel in Bangalore would charge twice, thrice the tariff of the Fortune Select Grand. So I overlook the occasional negative, like the Fortune Select Grand’s treadmills in its modest gym — they’re cheap builds from the Far East, labelled Proline, a brand long buried in the memory of middle-aged Indians.
Today, we were three on the treadmills on my side, looking toward the glass windows. Facing us, by the windows, two men and a lady — all Caucasian — worked out on the ellipticals. Next to them, a portly man cycled at leisure on a stationary bike.
The man on the cycle was fair, I took him for a Caucasian first, but on subsequent glances, I realised he was an Indian from the north. He was rich every inch, and most of all in the sheen of his skin — a biggie, clearly the owner of a large enterprise. You could tell that from his demeanour.
He wasn’t five minutes on his stationary bike when he got off and picked a green yoga mat and unrolled it in the wide space between the treadmills and the ellipticals. Lying supine on the mat, eyes closed, he entered shavasana. His protuberant belly began to rise and fall in a rhythm.
In time two of the three whites on the ellipticals changed places with us on the treadmills. The third among them, young and tall and white with the name SV Motor printed on the back of his T-shirt, began a series of squats, starting freehand, using dumbbells in subsequent sets. A motorman, East European — from his accent when he shouted to his buddies running on the machines. He wouldn’t stop his squats. He had perfect long limbs, and he wasn’t going to let them lose shape.
Mister supine-man in the middle stayed in his asana. A smile had come over his face. The auto-suggestion routine in shavasana was working. His body parts were tingling, perhaps. He must’ve reached the visualisation phase, turning the world beneath his shut eyes to golden. At any rate, his fair face gleamed up at the rest of us.
The young man from SV Motor grunted, progressing to heavier weights as he moved from set to set. The ellipticals stayed busy, the treadmills as well. My workout ended, and when I switched to cool-down, the rich Indian rose, beaming with a beatific blankness in his eyes. As I came off my machine, he hobbled over to the pool table on the far side, took a stick, and bent and took aim.
The gym is on the first floor. Taking the glassed lift up to my room on the seventh floor, I looked down into the inner courtyard, a beautiful enclosure for the tobacco-loving to take pleasure in. It was empty, but as I watched a lone man who appeared to be Korean walked in, a backpack slung over one shoulder, a troubled look on his face. He was dressed in soft olive-green overalls that had crumpled all over him. He leaned against the parapet round a little tree and lit a cigarette, looking lonely and forlorn early in the morning, breakfasted and readying to go to some automotive factory in this sizzling place so far away from home. I was in sync with his mood, fresh as I am in this industry that builds cars for a world that already has too many of them, and, much like the hapless alcoholic, can’t make bold to shake off the excess.