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As soon as I check in at the Dream Hotel,Kochi,a text message invites me to Vikram Chatwal’s Presidential Suite for a drink.

After New York and Bangkok,Vikram Chatwal opens his Dream Hotel in Kochi with much vanity fair

As soon as I check in at the Dream Hotel,Kochi,a text message invites me to Vikram Chatwal’s Presidential Suite for a drink. The suite is stark white,much like the rest of the hotel (imitating pop architect Philip Starck’s passion for fluorescent white),but it is almost effete by the time I arrive. Many guests (several foreign journalists from The New York Times,Vanity Fair,Vogue Brazil,Harper’s Malaysia,GQ and their ilk) have moved to dinner at the Thai restaurant,Ayela. Vikram escorts the remaining few of us down to a delicious dinner which he has little of before taking his party back up to his suite.

Dream Cochin is the third of Vikram’s wish-fulfillment endeavours (the first two Dreams are at New York and Bangkok). It’s young,pop-ish and imaginative. It is also a mix of two complicated and sometimes colliding elements — luxury and modern,or marble and glass. Vikram bought this property readymade only a few months ago and touched it up with his brand of cool. Ideas from the older structure are visible,but only if you do away with pop art like giant shiny disco balls in the lobby.

Why Kochi,I ask the New York-based Sardar,lovingly dubbed “Turban Cowboy” and “Chic Sikh” by their local press. “I love the sea,and I’m in a Kerala frame of mind,” smiles Vikram,37,promising more hotels in Mumbai,Bangalore and Jaipur.

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Even though the hotel could be called a “budget luxury” space,the service is impeccable. And Vikram,I suspect,is hoping for people like him to frequent it— young people (25-35 years) who work in fashion,music,events and advertising. Them,and locals,who don’t have many eating-out options. Dream Cochin has a library bar called Wellington,a discotheque Ava,an all-day diner Keshia,and a beautiful poolside space called the Highbar (despite all the watering holes,they still await their liquor licence).

The next evening,principal secretary to the prime minister TKA Nair,is to do the ribbon-cutting. Vikram’s father,Sant Singh Chatwal,who won his way to Bill Clinton’s heart via his stomach,is presiding,along with Vikram’s very quiet and almost invisible brother,Vivek. Mom Daman is taking care of other NRI ladies,all here for the party. His wife,Priya,is conspicuous by absence; Vikram says she isn’t well and is in Delhi taking care of their daughter Safira.

Among loud Kerala drums and a decorated elephant,Dream Cochin is declared open for business.

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Vikram is MIA at the press-con,but shows up at the post-conference party,where a foreign violinist in a red gown has Kochinites entranced. Quickly,we’re taken away from the jamboree to the nightclub where DJ Whosane is going crazy with the turntable. Each space of the hotel is having a party of its own,and we hop from one to the other. At Ava,the nightclub,Vikram gets behind the bar and pours everyone a tequila shot,before getting us on the floor. In minutes everyone’s grooving to Gainda phool,including Ursula,a stunning,statuesque Slovenian model,also Vikram’s ‘minder’.

The bartenders are flaming cocktails and pouring them down unsuspecting gullets. Christopher Mason of the NYT tries one; it makes him dance like no one’s watching. Nadine Johnson,one of the best PRs in NYC,is laughing with stylist Arjun Bhasin.

In minutes,the gang of 50 is at Highbar for the barbecue. Vikram is seated on a divan,where he suddenly says: “Let’s get in the water.” No undressing,no swimsuits,he dives in with his shoes on much to the delight of that effervescent and brilliant photographer Billy Farrellx. In seconds,Ursula is lifted and thrown in too.

Dream Cochin is also open for pleasure.

First published on: 08-04-2009 at 11:22:15 pm
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