The passion to innovate, think out of the box is never ending. Here is another proof of the pudding, lies in the eating, with Jose Dominic, a guiding figure for decades in the success story of CGH Earth, as it unfolded in Kerala, is back at it again. This time, exploring the concept of a distributed hotel model. In his own words, this is what you can expect by end of this year.
“I have acquired two houses on Synagogue Lane. It happened this way. Kenny Salem, whom I knew long ago, called me one day and told me that they were preparing old Jewish dishes and would I come and taste them. These were being cooked by their help who had been taught by his parents and grandparents. Would I would like to come and taste them? Of course, I said, who would give up such an opportunity. And, I was there at Kenny’s House.
After I had a taste of the old Kochini Jewish Fish, Kenny confided that they had used this ploy to lure me to their house. He told me that he and his sister Linda had migrated to Israel and from there to Canada. When they were in Israel, they would visit at least once or twice a year. But after they had moved to Canada, only once in a few years and hence had decided to sell their house. He had made a list of a few people whom they thought would make ideal buyers for their house and I was number one on that list. Hence, they had got me over. They said if I do not purchase it, they would then go to the next name on the list. I ended up buying the house.
The house is known as Salem House; its famous occupant was AB Salem who was also known as the Gandhian Jew. A road in Jew town was named after him. After purchasing the house with the help of my daughter Mridula who is an interior architect graduate from CEPT Ahmedabad, I went about restoring the house to what it would have been during the time AB Salem, their grandfather, resided there.
The house is to be made into a tourist residence.
While I was undertaking the restoration work, the owner of another house 50 m down the lane, offered to sell his house, too. This house had been named as Leela Manzil by current owners from the Jewish owners. I ended up buying that house, too. Researching its history, I discovered that it was once owned by the Jewish Ezekiel family. It’s owner Rahabi Ezekiel was a prominent trader during the Dutch times who traded with China on Dutch ships. He was the one who had donated the Hand Painted Chinese made ceramic floor tiles the Synagogue is famous for. This happened in 1758 when the Synagogue was undergoing renovation. These houses were ancient around 400 years old. The Synagogue Lane was the lane the Jews referred to, as the one on which Paradesi Jews lived. The Syngogue is known as the Paradesi Synagogue.
The restoration of the two-ancient 400-year-old Jewish houses was taken up sometime back. When the Pandemic struck, the work was suspended. Now I am completing the work. The AB Salem House will have 4 guest rooms and the Ezekiel House 6 guest rooms. The Ezekiel House will also have a Cafe serving Jewish cuisine. I hope to compete the work and open the two houses in December 2023.
I am experimenting with a different concept referred to as ‘Distributed Hotel’. This is in contrast to the ‘Fortress model’, which hotels usually are. Enter through one gate and all the facilities and rooms are within the four walls. In the ‘distributed hotel’ model, the hotel is spread on the street. Four rooms in one house, further down more rooms in another house. Another house is a café, another a gallery, and so on. The street functions as the corridor of the hotel. Now for the exciting part. Others too, set up rooms and cafes. The more the better. In other words, the hotel is distributed along the street, and having different owners, too. On the same lane, other houses have been converted into guest houses. One has already opened. Two more are in the pipeline, likely to open in 2024. In all, I can see a distributed hotel on Synagogue Lane aggregating about 25 guest rooms, differently priced, differently owned, each having its unique concepts spread over 5 houses. In addition, there would be a cafe and galleries. The street therefore gains identity as a great place to stay.
As told to Navin Berry