While checking out of Grosvenor House hotel located at the Mayfair district of London, 47- year old Asim Dalal, managing director, The Bombay Store was intrigued by the hotel’s card key — a plastic key-shaped card. It had the number of the room and the hotel address carved onto it, which shined brightly. He pocketed it and added it to his collection of around 300 spare card keys, collected from around 15 countries all across the world. Even today, this key reminds him of his stay in that hotel room and the fond memories associated with London city.
Dalal’s passion for spare card keys goes back to around fifteen years ago, when he had just started travelling around the world on vacation or for business purposes. Living in hotel rooms across the world has made room keys dear to him. Each time he visits a particular place, checks into the hotel and opens the door, there is a warm welcoming feeling that engulfs him.
And the feeling is the same everywhere, whether it is Vienna, Paris and London or Shimla, Manali and Srinagar. “Travelling means the world to me. For a major part of my life, I have hopped across different hotels. And it all starts with the card key. As soon as I get the key, I find the doorway to a different world, far removed from the chaos of the material world,” says Dalal. Early on, he realised hotel life provides a space to see yourself differently. One could be the same person yet feel anonymous.
One could just shut the inn door and spend time in reckless abandon. “I have been to so many hotels, right from the big ones — Ritz Carlton, St Regis, Hilton — to small motels around the gas stations and the card keys collected from each place brings back the memories of evenings spent in solitude. I really enjoy that,” gushes Dalal. There are memories of the different people all around, attendants, of queer stares and the sounds he hears around him — of loud laughter, heart-rending sobs, of love and loss.
“There are times when friends and family ask me about a particular city or hotel. I always show them that hotel’s card key and tell them all about it,” he says. Dalal also calls up those places and strikes a conversation with the hotel managers sometimes.
He explains, “its like these keys have helped me come to terms with my transient state over the years. Each key reminds me of a larger journey. I am now prepared to go anywhere at any time, welcome a short future and greet a new identity each time.”