I remember being sent out to write a report on the Armenians in Kolkata in the early ’90s for Business Standard. There were a handful of them still living in the city and Joyce Purdy who ran the Old Kenilworth Hotel was on the top of my list. Slightly apprehensive about going to the hotel on my own, I took my mother along with me. I was all of 21 and unmarried.
Joyce Purdy was a formidable old lady and she barked at me from the door. “Go away, I don’t want to talk to anyone. These are troubled times for us and I don’t want more trouble!” (Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan and Turkey had closed it borders to the former as a result of the dispute)
I stood uncertainly wondering what to do next. My editor wouldn’t like it if I came back without a story. The door opened a crack and she peered out again. “Who is that with you?” she yelled. She had spotted my mother looking just as apologetic as me.
“Er … My mother … Ma’am” I mumbled.
“I see.” was her answer.
The door opened wider and she came out smiling. “You can come in dear. I can see you are a girl from a good family. You’ve come with your mother after all. I can’t turn you away.”
There was tea and cookies waiting for us along with stories about the hotel and her childhood.
I hear they are demolishing the hotel to make way for a swanky 35-storeyed residential tower. (Report)
What a crying shame!