On the implied theology of Indian hotel butlers

by on December 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm in Religion | Permalink

As the eldest of the three-man team, Mr. Guha. 29, said, he is fluent in 22 subjects related to five-star doting, which include in-room dining, knowledge of international customs and, of course, complaint handling. His skills also extend to fixing the remote, getting spots off the carpet and something called “power dressing.” Mr. Guha says that his primary role, however, is to act as a super-efficient liaison between the guest and the hotel staff — part fixer, part personal assistant, and all yes-man.

“I would never consider a request to be bizarre; we always say it’s challenging,” Mr. Guha said. “I have always been taught that guest is god, and god cannot have a bizarre request.”

Of course I interpret this last quotation in entirely Straussian fashion (furthermore he doesn’t say it’s true, only that he has been taught as such, a classic Straussian move).  Here is more, interesting throughout, and for the pointer I thank Apoorv Trivedi.

Claudia December 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Doesn’t seem Straussian to me. Sounds like a good ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra given his work. He needs to believe it to excel and so it was taught to him. Just saying it gets him nothing, so why hassle with double meanings?

Reminds me of a mantra in a different context. Part of my job is to answer questions. I was taught, yes we get formal training for this, to never comment on the quality of the question. Never say “that’s an interesting question” (as they all are) … it’s not my job to openly evaluate, it’s my job to answer. And if I’m well prepared and deft I can answer the question they ‘should’ have asked too.

Such instruction focuses your mind and energy on your job. I bet he functionally believes it, as it has served him well. In any case, neat piece and link.

freethinker December 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm

are you in Chennai Tyler?

Dismalist December 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Mr. Guha doesn’t work in a market with asymmetric information. Or does he? Pity his employer accepts money from guests who are stupid. :-)

Ted Craig December 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Must everything by Straussian, Tyler? Can’t a cigar ever just be a cigar?

Urso December 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

Keep in mind that Prof. Cowen’s invocation of Straussian theory is, itself, Straussian.

Urso December 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

This would be a good time to admit that I have no idea what “Straussian” means.

Anon December 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

In Indian 5 star hotels , the service often seems obsequious rather than courteous and deferential . Sometimes I get the feeling its not just the Butlers but the entire Hotel staff that gets trained that way.

Rahul December 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Very often what the hotel bills the guest for a night is what most staff-members will earn in a month.

I suppose that does play a role.

Ashok Rao December 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I highly doubt the staff guests interact with (receptionists, waiters, walkers, etc.) get paid so little. Taj Mount Road, for example, has a starting rate of Rs. 10,000 which gets you much, much more than $200 does in the US. Good domestic help that can’t speak a drop of English costs that much a month, I highly doubt that polished, Taj-trained employees are paid so little.

They certainly earn enough to live a (relatively) international lifestyle, at least on the facade. We stayed in one for several months and got to know some of the folks there quite well. One of them had an Italian girlfriend, the other loved international literature, and I’m not even talking about the ones at the top.

I can’t comment on home life or savings, but I’d bet they get paid a bit more than what you’re suggesting.

Rahul December 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Fine. A bit more. Say two nights billings? Doesn’t do much to change the obsequiousness.

Also, how much do *you* think the “starting salary” for a bottom rung Taj waiter really is?

Sean Cavanagh December 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

FWIW, “Guest is God” is a saying in Hindi, and a core Hindu value.

de Broglie December 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

Sounds like Baucis and Philemon. It probably has ancient Indo-European roots.

Hadur December 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm

“Guest at home, God at home” is a saying that my eastern european parents taught me.

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