“Her Master Key: A Hotel Housekeeper’s Stories from Inn-dia” by Shruti Johri

Congratulations to Shruti Johri for “Her Master Key: A Hotel Housekeeper’s Stories from Inn-dia” an interesting and well-written book. I wish though that she or her editors in Rupa had stayed with “India” instead of the punny “Inn-dia” in the title.

Almost autobiographical in nature, this book is made up of stories from the life of an Housekeeping Executive in a luxury hotel. So far there hasn’t been much written about the work lives of the housekeeping staff in our hotels. Johri’s book reveals a lot about what remains unseen and unknown as we enter and leave hotels as guests.

It is common for guests in India to liberally help themselves to housekeeping supplies as they feel they are entitled to them! This behavior of the hotel guest is only too well known. Johri goes far beyond this and gives us many different and interesting stories including some very touching ones.

To start with, we have the incident involving Chottu the window cleaner, the General Manager of the hotel and one of the attractive lady staff!  Sadly, it is Chottu who has to bear the brunt following an “enquiry” and he is the one who gets sacked! So much for natural justice!! This and the other stories by Ms Johri hold your attention.

Some amongst them:  a bar tender whimsically recalls a rich society lady; a visiting Sheik is almost maniacal in his cruelty; a clumsy worker embarrasses the hotel in his interaction with an influential American lady guest; and the hotel workers’ union wields its influence to protect their own despite their misdemeanors.

Although it is not the main theme of the book, Johri’s writing  does cover the biggest challenge faced by a working woman in today’s India. That of balancing her career and home.  The author, after all,  spent many years in the hotel industry in India.

I loved the simplicity and direct manner in Johri’s writing. There are no pretensions of being grandiose. And, this adds considerably to the appeal of the book.

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