The Fairlawn Hotel - a 235 year old colonial heritage site

Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata

235 year old Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons

The Fairlawn Hotel on Sudder Street, Kolkata is a historical hotel that had been run by a British family without a break for successive three generations. This hotel that carries the colonial charm and legacy was a famous hang out for the people of all walks in particular, from the rich and famous. 

Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata Flickr

The boutique hotel's fame was so good, it attracted such well-known people as film producers  Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, actor Patrick Swayze and writers Dominique Lapierre and Gunter Grass. It was here the late Bollywood vintage actor Shashi Kapoor met his future wife - Jennifer Kendal. The hotel was up for the grabs and the successful bidder was the Diamond Oberoi  group that owns Elgin chain of  Hotels and resorts. The earliest owner was Rosie Sarkies from whom her daughter Violet Smith got the precious property. The last inheritor was Jennifer Ann Fowler,  daughter of Violet smith.

Rosie Sarkies, said she was happy to leave the hotel in the “best possible care”. But the sadness at letting a family legacy go was unmistakable. The reason behind the sale of this iconic hotel was, being in the UK, with mother having been gone (2014), Jennifer Fowler found it tough to run the hotel. Mrs. 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 never missed her birthday and other parties, and the hotel on Sudder street was a beehive of activities when she was leading the parties on the balcony in typical British style. Upon Violet Smith's death in 2014 at the ripe age of 93, a pale of gloom descended on this sunny hotel and her 70 year old daughter found the going tough  because of her family commitments . Her husband was not well either. Steps to sell the hotel had been taken when Mrs. Smith was alive. At this old age flying between England and Kolkata was not a good proposition.
An elaborate sale agreement envisages the protection of the employees of the hotel about 100 people who will be working under a new boss.  On their part, the Oberoi management assured that the core heritage values of the hotel will be retained and the restoration work won't meddle with old charm and the colonial aspects of this fine hotel that has been around for more than two centuries

According to Mrs. Fowler's lawyer, P K Jhunjhunwala, the sale was with respect to  Fairlawn Hotel Pvt Ltd and not that of the premises that were owned by someone else. At last the Fowlers took off after a memorable Indian-style farewell Their innings in Kolkata had been a long one since the colonial time. The staff garlanded them and gave them red roses to record their love, affection and gratitude for having been a boss for too long a time. By the same token, the staff welcomed the new owners of this wonderful heritage hotel. For the Fowlers, it was a wonderful new journey to Taunton, Somerset, a journey laden with sweet memories of Kolkata and the  235-year-old building and nearly a century old hotel which they held close to their hearts recently. 

Time keeps changing and what is yours today may be someone else's tomorrow or later.