Her Master Key by Shruti Johri takes you behind the scenes in a plush hotel. It takes you to the world of impeccably dressed women whom we find always smiling, but who have to deal with a whole lot of secret lives of their guests besides their normal duties. As a travel blogger, I end up having long conversations with hospitality professionals. I have told a lot of them to write the stories – they are so juicy and so insightful of human behavior. So, when I saw b the ok by Shruti Johri, I knew I had to read the stories that only hoteliers know.
Her Master Key is a series of anecdotes from a hotelier’s life in their fictional avatar. The stories are well chosen. Some that show the vulnerability of the staff when their bosses have to tow the line for business benefits. There is a story that showed the violence and cruelty that hotel staff has to witness and take care of at times. There is a story of an artisan who leaves the hotel staff emotionally attached. There is a hilarious story of government functions and the adulterated food. There is a personal story of a pregnant employee who does not shy away from going an extra mile to help a customer.
Each story of Her Master Key shows you a different aspect of a hotelier’s life and that of its guests. The stories more or less stay within the corridors of a plush hotel but they sometimes step into the room, bathrooms, swimming pools, lawns and behind the doors into the unglamorous service areas of the hotel. There is humor for the reader although it could be a tough situation for the hotel staff when they are handling it.
My favorite story is that of the barman who refuses to leave the bar at the hotels and let’s go his professional career. He is waiting for someone to return. She does return but in a way that he would have never wanted. Very heart touching story. You hate the story of an Arab Sheikh for what it tells you but the author has brought it out in a way that it invokes that emotion in you. You say ‘Reeks’ when you hear what went to a daal at a banquet.
It is a book that will hopefully inspire many other hoteliers to tell their tales. Believe me, this profession is privy to so many of your everyday habits, so many of your dirty secrets. There is no dearth of stories this fraternity has.
I liked reading the book. The language is simple – a bit formal. You feel a hospitality staff wearing an artificial smile while telling you what you asked for. I would have liked a conversational language that would be like listening to these stories sitting in a lounge with coffee in hand.
The format of the book confused me. The author starts by introducing Gauri who is the person or character narrating rest of the stories. At the end, there is an interview of this character with a reporter where she answers questions about this very book and the stories mentioned there. I understand that Gauri is nothing but the alter ego of Shruti Johri – the author herself. It looks like she wanted her life to be a part of this book and interview was a way to inject it into the book. At places, it gets a bit confusing. However, I must admit it is a good experiment and tells you that all these stories are real-life stories.
At 160 or so pages, including that long interview, it is a small book – a quick read. I wish the author had shared some more stories. At places, the description of the back-end processes of the hotel go for too long and begin to get boring. Good editing could have pruned them.
Overall, an interesting and entertaining book that you can easily read over a weekend.
Buy the book Her Master Key A Hotel Housekeeper’s Stories from Inn-Dia by Shruti Johri from Amazon
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