British owners sell off landmark Kolkata hotel
The landmark Fairlawn Hotel on Sudder Street, that GB brought to readers when Shashi Kapoor died, has been sold off. The British family who had run this iconic hotel of Kolkata for three generations, has been sold to a branch of the Oberoi family.
The boutique hotel, with its promise of colonial charm, has played host to the rich and the famous over the years, including directors Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, actor Patrick Swayze and writers Dominique Lapierre and Gunter Grass. This was also the hotel where Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal famously chose for their honeymoon in the City of Joy.
Jennifer Fowler, who inherited the hotel from her mother Violet Smith, who had in turn been handed the property by her mother, Rosie Sarkies, said she was happy to leave the hotel in the “best possible care”. Smith lived at the hotel till her death in 2014, but Fowler found it difficult to run the business as she is settled in the UK with her family. Fowler’s mother had lived at the Sudder Street address all her life, celebrating her birthdays and throwing parties at the hotel’s famous balcony in the style of British nobility. But she found it difficult to run the business when Smith passed away in 2014 at 93. The seeds of the sale were sown years ago when Smith was alive. Oberoi was among the guests at her birthday party and Fowler had broached the idea of selling the business. Oberoi had responded enthusiastically.
The Fowlers got a warm, Indian-style farewell as staff members garlanded them and gave them red roses as a mark of love for their erstwhile employers. Fowler was in tears as she shook hands with each of them, assuring she had ensured their jobs would be secure under the new management. The staff also welcomed the new owners, the Oberois, immediately thereafter.