Recently finished “Hotel” by Arthur Hailey. This is first book by him that I have read. For those who are not aware, he is a writer credited with writing novels with a particular business in the background and is known to have researched over the related industry for over a year before starting the novel. The effort clearly shows in the book. The details of the operations of a hotel that has been shown is wonderful. But it does not mean that the novel is just a story woven around a business. Starting different threads from there, it covers several other aspects of human life. For example, the childish character of Marsha Preyscott, which makes her “very sincerely” narrate the story of happy married life of her governess to Peter McDermott to pursue him to believe that her decision to marry him is all right. This was when her governess was not married at all. And this was not a mental delusion or anything, it was plain simple lie she had told him to be able to pursue him to marry her!!
And then the issue that came up in a Dentists’ convention when the hotel persisted on not giving accommodation to a black dentist. The principled Chairman of the convention decided to withdraw the convention against this injustice, and the assistant manager was quite uncomfortable. He, personally, was not at all comfortable with the hotel policies, especially in wake of Civil Rights law, but the proprietor of the hotel won’t buzz from his position. So, the manager was helpless. The hotel was in financial trouble and withdrawal of convention would have been a major shock, but proprietor is cool –
“They won’t go. They’ll talk, but that will be the end of it”
“Dr Ingram seems quite serious.”
“Hey may be, but others won’t. You say there’s a meeting this afternoon; I can tell you what will happen. They’ll debate around for a while, then there’ll be a committee formed to draft a resolution. Later- tomorrow probably – the committee will report back to the executive. They may accept the report, they may amend it; either way they’ll talk some more. Later still – perhaps the next day – the resolution will be debated on the convention floor. I ‘ve seen it all before – the great democratic process. They’ll still be talking when the convention’s over.”
“I suppose you could be right,” Peter said. “Though I’d say it’s a pretty sick point of view.”
“I’m practical, that’s all. People will clock about so-called principles till their tongues dry out. But they won’t inconvenience themselves if they can avoid it.”
And why, not surprisingly, he was right. The convention did not pull out certainly, even if details varied a bit!!
Only thing I have to say is – “So true!!” No, I have not witnessed any black-white discrimination for obvious reasons. But somebody once drew a parallel between the situation of girls, when they try to assert their position and that of blacks. And the parallel is correct. I really do not have to witness a situation like above to feel what is going and how it turns out the way it did. Also brings back some really unpleasant memories from the final year at IITK. But we’ll leave it at that.
But not just that, another incident later, also brings back the issue and very realistically, the problems faced by even the “sympathizers”. Towards the end, the hotel ownership changes. The competence of the assistant manager is recognized and he becomes the EVP, essentially responsible for running the operation. In the very beginning he takes the stand that the hotel should be desegregated. This was bold, but he gets on with it and gets it accepted too. Later there is a conversation with a black character of the novel, who has always been skeptical of manager’s intentions when he advocated desegregation…
There was silence, then Royce said, ” heard about the meeting this morning. The stand you took. The way things turned out.”
Peter nodded. “The hotel is desegregated. Entirely. As of now.”
(After that he asks Royce, who was a black lawyer, if he would continue to stay in the hotel and would like to take up some of the hotel’s work)
“I’ll thank you for that,” Royce said. “But the answer is no.”
“We’re in a way, you and me – on opposite sides. It won’t be finished in our time, either. …….. There’ll be trouble for all of us. You’ll have you share here. You’ve desegregated, but that isn’t the end. There’ll be problems – with people who won’t like what you have done, with Negroes who won’t behave nicely, who’ll embarrass you because some are the way they are. What’ll you do with the Negro loudmouth, the Negro smart-aleck, the Negro half-drunk Romeo? We’ve got ’em too. When it’s white people who behave like that, you swallow hard, you try to smile, and most times you excuse it. When they are Negroes – what’ll you do then?’
And once again – all I could say was, “So true!!” When you are one of the mainstream, your faults are “just the way the life is”. When someone else has to be brought into the mainstream, the person must be flawless!! His/her faults are not the way of life… So true… Once again, it brings back some memories. And why only memories? I’m sure there will enough in the life ahead too… It won’t be finished in our time??