Back at Grand Chola, the opulence is understated but unravels, like the skin of an onion, layer upon scintillating layer, exposing discreetly but handsomely executed carvings over which 4,000 artisans have toiled, and which consist of motifs taken from the eponymous Dravidian temples and Karaikudi Chettinad houses that have inspired the overall design and consist of circular medallions, garlands of marigolds, chakras, twin tuskers, clover leafs and winding trails of vines.
While that may be very well for the potential leisure traveller with time he can call his own, the business traveller is altogether more likely to respond to ITC executive director Nakul Anand's philosophy of the hotel being in the business of sleep. As part of ITC's considerable research on sleep (or its lack), there is a pillow menu, and aromas to ensure sound sleep (or relieve stress while you snooze), and even, should you want to visit the toilet in the middle of the night, stumble lights on the floor that come on and guide you there and back.
"With each new hotel we're setting new benchmarks, but in size, quality and luxury the Grand Chola is the most ambitious we've undertaken," says Haksar. Prakash hints that the noble architecture and sense of belonging it is arousing in Chennai makes it emotionally akin to the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. And even as Chennai gears up to gain from its and the other new hotels, Haksar adds, "The hotel is a landmark not just for the country but for Asia."
It'll only be a short while before we know whether the guests, jaded travellers for the most part, agree.