Hotel opening and 150-years functions

Posted On Sunday, 21 November 2010 02:00 Published by
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A minister, 'axed' former ministers and city manager were among the chief guests who celebrated the opening of the opulent Coastlands Gatemax hotel in Umhlanga.

A NEWLY appointed minister, “axed” former ministers and a scandal-mired city manager were among the chief guests who celebrated the opening of the opulent Coastlands Gatemax hotel in Umhlanga last Friday night.

Except for the food, changes to the social standing of a few guests and, of course the venue, the event was like a software upgrade — same programme with new and improved features — of property mogul Saantha Naidu’s opening of Coastlands on Ridge hotel almost exactly a year ago.

At that time, Naidu, who runs SNG — a property development company that boasts a range of luxury villas and beachfront hotels on its books — announced that the Umhlanga hotel was set to open in May this year. However, logistical challenges scuppered this, resulting in the lavish celebration of the opening of the three-star hotel last week.

LAP OF LUXURY: On the night, guests were taken to the fifth floor for a tour of two of the hotel’s 124 rooms. They boast modern décor with unusual objects d’art, plush velvet wallpaper, bold designs and spacious style which is seen and felt throughout the hotel. While the majority of the hotel’s fittings have been completed, it’s retail section, which is set to have a motorcycle retail store and cellphone shop, is still under construction. After the tour, guests gathered on the fourth floor — which is home to the Vanilla Cafe bar and Saffron restaurant — for delightful sushi, oysters and stir-fry.

GOING DOWN: After the starters and socialising, guests descended to the second-floor conference centre for the formalities. Like last year, theatre personality and TV presenter Jailoshini Naidoo navigated a host of speeches by eThekwini city manager Mike Sutcliffe, Local Government and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube (who apparently likes to be referred to as Her Excellency, probably as a throwback to the days she represented SA as ambassador to the Czech Republic), Naidu, International Marketing Council chairman Miller Matola (who proposed a toast) and newly appointed national communications minister Roy Padayachie — with her endless repertoire of charou jokes and anecdotes.

MOVING ON: Naidu explained to guests, who included brothers Essop and Aziz Pahad (both of whom Sutcliffe said refer to themselves as axed), that he had spent R700-million on development in the city and that his future project was a hotel near the ICC Durban .

OVERALL: Naidu’s success — thanks partly to his attention to service, business acumen and formidable political contacts — was, indeed, a night of much celebration. As Sutcliffe said, it’s not impossible to imagine that, in a few years, SNG would open a hotel in New York. Now that’s a party invite I would certainly covet.

THE following night — after a marathon five-hour event at the ICC Durban to mark a triple celebration: the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in SA, the 50th anniversary of the Indian Academy of SA and 50th anniversary of the Indian Annual — I wasn’t coveting any more invitations.

About 1000 of the who’s who in the Indian community put on their Sunday best in honour of the occasion hosted by cultural doyenne Tholisiah Perumal TP Naidoo. The venue was dramatically beautiful — thanks to a generous gift by Neo Africa chief executive Vivien Natasen who provided a montage of black-andwhite photographs depicting Indian indenture as well as life-size canvasses of sugar cane, and the skills of décor specialist Koogan Pillay.

Jailoshini Naidoo donned a beautiful sari to again compere this event and handle formalities although, at times, TP’s daughter, Vasantha Naidoo, took over the podium.

GREAT PROMISE: Apart from a few seating issues with some corporate sponsors, the evening started off on a high note with the singing of the SA and Indian national anthems followed by an address by TP, businessman and cultural connoisseur Mahmoud Rajab and Durban Indian consul general Anil Sharan. A brief trailer of the upcoming locally made film White Gold preceded the Nadaraja Awards.

TAKE A BOW: For the past 50 years, Naidoo has been honouring individuals and organisations for their contributions to the Indian community with Nadaraja and Golden Peacock Awards. I’m not exactly sure how the awardees are selected — and there has been a fair amount of speculation about the process — but on the night four recipients were legendary dancer Kumari Ambigay (who I was surprised to see hadn’t been honoured previously), religious activist Pushpa Juta, music teacher Jamnadas Chauhan and one of the founders of the Indian Academy Chintamoney Naidoo (“who is also the successful women behind TP”). Strangely, though, no mention was made of a fifth recipient who was scheduled to receive an award (according to the comprehensive Indian annual). Recipients of the Golden Peacock Awards were Tilly Naidoo, whose 30-minute-odd acceptance speech shed no light on what her achievements were (I later gleaned the information from the annual) and the academy’s youngest recipient, engineer Neerendra Ramharakh, who is involved in the telecommunications business.

HOME TRUTHS: Rajab was on the mark when he commented it was “sad to observe that a community so vibrant and prosperous hadn’t banded together to create something of a more tangible or lasting nature” as a tribute to the milestone commemoration. He added that while he was aware of a number of proposals awaiting government funding, this was “sad commentary” and that thecommunity should have emulated their forefathers who in the absence of government handouts had acted pro-actively to build schools, halls, temples and mosques. Rajab said the community was crippled by “a small minority of mindless divisions and multiple frissons”.

SHOW TIME: The Indian Council for Cultural Relations generously sponsored a group of singers and dancers as a gesture of their goodwill. But after watching the sub-standard performances, including a bubble-gum chewing dancer right in front, I was left unimpressed. Post dinner, investment banker and magician Preba Moodley, who was phenomenal with his prediction tricks, managed to make Vasantha’s jocular comments that she hoped he wouldn’t make the audience disappear, come true. Moodley’s act — the second last item on the programme — was lengthy, forcing many guests to disappear.

OOPS: The guests’ behaviour was lambasted by Vasantha in the “vote of thanks” for leaving early. Certain guests, who “nabbed” gifts that were left under the table were also rapped over the knuckles, although they weren’t there. Vasantha was clearly upset that the function had run over time but it didn’t warrant the lecture or her comments about some of the older members of the academy getting old and losing their hearing.

OVERALL: Unfortunately, complaints about the food (the caterers also made a din throughout the night) and a too-long programme marred what could have been a truly special night in honour of our forefathers.

THREE nights later, however, at Gateway’s Ster Kinekor, the forefathers would have been proud. As author Naresh Veeran remarked, the throngs of people, about 2000 of them waiting outside the foyer of the nine cinemas to watch the premiere of White Gold, resembled the situation when the passengers disembarked from the Truro and Belvedere. White Gold (see review by Devan Nair on page 10) is the labour of love by novice filmmaker Jayan Moodley who worked with a host of firsttime actors and tour agent and cultural lover Dinesh Naidoo.

AUSPICIOUS DAY: Radio presenter O’Neil Nair hosted formalities (he wore a dhoti for an outside broadcast at a prayer earlier in the day to commemorate the arrival, so I was surprised to see him in a suit). To accommodate the number of guests, the movie was screened in nine cinemas and the cast and production team went to each cinema at staggered time slots. Moodley gave an emotional and inspiring speech which included thanking her husband for encouraging her to “take all our lifesavings and put it in your dream”. As Nair pointed out, her husband, Sugen, had set a bad precedent, adding that female guests need to note that shopping didn’t count as an investment.

OOPS: Outside the entrance to the cinemas, Top Billing, which was conducting interviews, had organised snacks and sweetmeats to add a touch of elegance to the shoot. Unfortunately, guests decided to sample the snacks, resulting in two minders keeping an eye on the table.

OVERALL: Tamasha was the best way to describe the situation before guests took their popcorn, refreshments and seats but one couldn’t help but get carried away in the excitement of the country’s first locally produced independent Indian film 150 years to the day that Indians arrived in the country. — YN

LARGE luxury vehicles hogged parking spaces in the garage of the Houghton Golf Club last week on the night the 1860 Legacy Foundation hosted its fundraising golf day. The car park, which resembled an upmarket showroom, was indicative of the success of the guests who had gathered that evening, after 18 holes on the course earlier, as a tribute to mark the historic occasion.

ALPHA MALE: The dinner was, predictably, attended mostly by men who, after a clearly enjoyable day on the greens, were in high spirits. Some gentleman brought their partners and families along — dressed to the nines — to share in the cheer and stature.

TABLE TALK: Jay Nacka, Suraj Lallchand and Harmesh Bhula, clearly old friends, were my table companions until Monty Devchand, a businessman from Besonia and his wife, Rakhee, arrived. Dressed in a black-and-silver sari with pretty white-and-yellow sequined flowers, we chatted about her job as a teacher of the Art of Living (involving breathing, yoga and meditation). I think we were the only ones who devoured the burfee on the table.

FEAST: Chicken pies and samoosas were served with an assortment of bajia-type savories. After this was a feast of lamb, fish and chicken curry, butter chicken, vegetable biryani with aloo baigan among others. I wish I could have sampled each dish but had to refrain and settled for the chicken curry, which was delicious with thick gravy that made me want to lick my plate clean and the vegetable biryani — a satisfying option.

TOP TALKERS: The programme included speeches by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, who spoke about what it means to be South African. While most of the guests were prominent businessmen, I’m sure they were in the mood for something lighter and some even started chatting among themselves. Judge Chris Nicholson, who presided over President Jacob Zuma’s trial, told the story of Papwa Sewgolum, a South African golfing legend and the injustices he faced during apartheid.

OVERALL: Golfing partners Megan Naiker and Brendan Reddy were the winners of the tournament, declared amid friendly rivalry. Funds raised by the game and an auction were donated to the 1860 Legacy Foundation. Players seemed to get rowdier as the night progressed to either celebrate or drown out their golfing scores. That was my cue to leave. — NK

Source: Sunday Times


Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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