Phil Hawkes, in The Australian, 19 April 2017, with the title “Galle Face Hotel gracious reminder of foregone era”
It’s 1982 and I’m in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at a travel conference. We rock up at the portico of the legendary Galle Face Hotel in a decrepit 10-seat minibus that the organisers managed to provide for 12 delegates. Hardly the coolest of ways to arrive at this heritage-listed reminder of British colonial days. Where’s the fleet of vintage Rollers? But there’s Kuttan the doorman, splendid in his unique white uniform and sporting his trademark handlebar moustache, welcoming us as if we’re royalty. He is used to greeting guests such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Princess Elizabeth, Jawaharlal Nehru and other famous people, but his welcome to us is just the same. Feeling like celebrities, we forget about the minibus. Kuttan was a recognisable character at the Galle Face Hotel for 72 years, surely a world record. He died in 2014 at age 94, much honoured by colleagues and those guests whose lives he touched. Now his tradition is carried on by PB Rathnayaka, whose tenure is a mere 51 years with another “rich and famous” list to recall, including Fidel Castro and Indira Gandhi, and more than a few Australian cricketers.