A love for travel and the finer things in life is a trait shared by millennials across the board. Place the two together and you have the exquisite hotels that strive to bring a distinctive experience. Celebrating such stays across the country is ‘Glorious Hotels of India’, the soon to be launched coffee-table book for the travel and design enthusiast in you. Co-authored by Cosmo Brockway and Harriet Compston, and photographed by Karam Puri, the book showcases 40 hotels, each possessing a unique character and representing India’s evolving hospitality. A measure of how we’re growing as leaders in the international hospitality landscape and a visual treat, the book is one-of-its-kind in its own right. We speak with Cosmo on what went behind creating ‘Glorious Hotels of India’, and why it should definitely grace your coffee table.
How did the idea of ‘Glorious Hotels of India’ come about?
I’m an India travel specialist with Ampersand Travel, a London-based travel company, and I lead cultural tours to India. I’ve been coming to India for about 17 years, since I was 18, and have travelled across most of the country. The evolution of the luxury travel market and hotels over the years really excited me. And I realised that books on Indian interiors are actually quite rare, apart from the palaces books, and everybody’s maybe a little bit bored of palaces now! So, I wanted to create a book that was fresh, original and captures where India is heading in terms of design, interiors and hospitality.
How did you, Harriet and Karam come together to realise this idea?
Harriet is an old friend of mine and also a travel journalist. I approached her about producing this book together, and she said yes. We were editors for the official magazine for Great Britain, launched at the British Prime Minister’s residence. With the money we got from that project, we left our houses and jobs, took a suitcase each and came to live in hotels all over India for six months. It was the most extraordinary thing and I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before [staying in hotels for such a long duration for research].
Karam is married to Priya, who is the Editorial Director of Roli Books [publisher] and suggested him as a photographer. And we connected and it worked.
You talked about the evolution of Indian hospitality. Could you elaborate on that?
A lot of hotels are working towards a better India, they have a very strong, social, ethical, and ecological consciousness now, which they didn’t have before. Things like a lot of the chefs having organic kitchen gardens, supporting local farmers and produce; and hotels not relying on imported materials for interiors but using the best of local craftsmanship. They’re really doing their bit to sustain and improve Indian society, which is really inspiring.
How was the experience of constantly staying in hotels for six months?
I encountered a lot of visionaries in this project. People who’ve given their all to creating something unique, which again moves away from being cliché golden triangle hotels, and that’s what the book has really tried to capture. What is great is that even the Oberoi, Taj and Leela chains have realised this and are now making their properties unique as well.
The most memorable experiences you had during the research period?
Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner; they’ve taken the story of Maharaja of Bikaner, who was a great traveller, connoisseur of arts, literature and food. They’re actually reinterpreting Indian history to make it fresh, modern, vibrant and relevant to the new generation.
In Kolkata, there’s the newly opened The Penthouse, by the same company as Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling. And it’s again a modern take on a colonial style. On top of a modern glass building which has a bank at the bottom, you’ll never realise what it contains looking at the building. But you go up the elevator and suddenly you’re transported to the 1920s’ Kolkata, though in a very fresh way. It’s incredible, from their terrace outside the verandah, twenty floors up, all you can see is Victoria Memorial, the Maidan, the Howrah bridge, and you can sit with your Darjeeling tea from Glenburn. It’s another world.
Then you have people from traditional Rajput families who’re really going beyond their heritage to create something new.
There’s a Dev Shree in Rajasthan, a beautiful bungalow built by a couple on the side of a lake. You also have Ahilya by the Sea in Goa, it’s a new property but it’s not relying on the past, it’s gone to a whole other level of international luxury.
Your personal favourite out of all the 40 hotels?
The Bujera Fort, just outside Udaipur. It’s by an English guy who’s been in India for about 20 years, and he’s built this Rajput fort from scratch.
A foreword by Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, quotes on their favourite spaces by the likes of Judi Dench, Sonam Kapoor, and Christian Louboutin, Glorious Hotels of India has the stamp for bringing the royalty of travel to the reader.
To be launched by mid-December, the book will be available for INR 2,995.
All images: Courtesy brands