SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka's oldest hotel doorman, a legend at Galle Face Hotel, dies at 94

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 4:10am
AFP

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Sri Lanka's oldest hotel doorman, Kottarapattu Chattu Kuttan of the venerable Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, has died after a brief illness. He was 94.

Kuttan worked at the hotel for 72 years, from the colonial era through Sri Lanka's independence and the dark decades of ethnic conflict.

He was a fixture of the 150-year-old Galle Face Hotel, where he was first employed as a waiter in 1942 before becoming a doorman 50 years later.

In an interview in 2010 when he turned 90, Kuttan recalled many of the famous faces he had welcomed during his long tenure at the hotel's door, including the likes of Emperor Hirohito, Richard Nixon, Laurence Olivier and George Bernard Shaw.

Kuttan had also served figures such as Lord Mountbatten, Princess Elizabeth, Jawarharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

Galle Face Hotel employees observed a moment's silence in honour of Kuttan.

The doorman was known for his wide smile and remarkable ability to recognise repeat guests to the hotel, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka.

His distinctive white-cropped hair, handlebar moustache, white-brass buttoned coat, sarong and ever-expanding collection of colourful souvenir badges from dozens of countries made him a popular photo opportunity for guests.

"He was an essential part of the Galle Face Hotel's culture and value system," Galle Face chairman Sanjeev Gardiner said.