Hotels have been central to several narratives. Recently we learnt the fictional Society of the Crossed Keys, a guild of top concierges whose deep connections in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, dir. Wes Anderson) help save the life of Ralph Fiennes’ suave Gustave H., was inspired by the Society of the Golden Keys, first started as a French-only affair in 1929.
The Les Clefs d’Or (pronounced ‘lay clay door’, meaning ‘keys of gold’) is an international network of concierges expected to make the ‘impossible requests of a guest possible, no matter how strange’. They have ‘sources of inside information, intelligence and communication’. The first hotel in India to have a member of the Les Clefs d’Or was The Oberoi, Mumbai in 1986.
Sunny Prasher, a decorated member of Les Clefs d’Or India, was Chief Concierge at The Leela Palace, New Delhi on 17th January, 2014. It is widely alleged that on that date a murdered Sunanda Pushkar’s body was moved from Room No. 307 to Room No. 345. If this is true, the concierge’s role cannot be understated.
#345 has gone down in history as the hotel room that has been closed to guests for the longest possible time, since January 2014. Over three years later, any possible evidence of foul play or forensic clues would have long gone. No one from the Delhi Police has checked in, or checked out, for the past 15 months. No other police force in the world can preserve clues and evidence for so long in a room that must be, by now, covered in dust and cobwebs since housekeeping has been barred.
The Leela Palace recently moved an application before a Delhi Court. It was claimed that there are 17 Suites in the entire hotel. The cost of these range from Rs. 55,000 to Rs. 61,000 per night, depending on the season. But the hotel’s inability to offer Suite No. 345 to its patrons in the last 3 years has caused a loss of approximately Rs. 50 Lakh.
The Room Number Duality also existed while filming The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick). Timberline Lodge, located on Mt. Hood in Oregon, was used for the exterior shots of the fictional Overlook Hotel. Ironically, the lodge requested that Kubrick not depict Room No. 217 (featured in Stephen King’s book) because future guests might be afraid to stay there. A non-existent Room No. 237 was substituted in the film. The number 237 and its special significance to Kubrick has been analyzed ever since. Some say, it represents the moon landing.
There is a long list of notorious hotel room numbers. In Room No. 100, Hotel Chelsea, New York – Sid Vicious, The Prince of Punk awoke finding his girlfriend dead on the bathroom floor from a stab wound. He was charged with murder. He died of a heroin overdose while out of jail on bail, awaiting trial. Don’t go looking for the infamous Room 100 if you visit, it’s not there anymore. Bob Woolmer, coach to the Pakistan Cricket Team, would be found dead in the white-tiled bathroom of Room No. 374, on the 12th floor of The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. It is now a ‘hot tourist destination’. Janis Joplin (105), Jimi Hendrix (507) and Whitney Houston (434) are just some of the talented and famous who have met their demise in a hotel room.
Does the temporary nature of staying in a hotel inspire the urge to make a lasting impression or cause permanent damage? Or is it the knowledge that all indulgences, or at least most, will be forgiven the moment the bill is signed? So many rationales, none of which begin to explain why you would dangle your baby out the window (Michael Jackson, Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin).
As per Court Orders, Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik has formed a team of four senior officials under the supervision of DCP (South) to prepare a report on the plea of The Leela Place. At present, the hotel is spearheaded by two sisters, grand-daughters of Captain Chittarath Poovakkatt Krishnan Nair, one of them a fan of Wes Anderson. Connoisseurs of alleged crime and the hotel motif wait eagerly for their next step.