He was a very slight little fellow with a huge beaming smile that made you feel warm and very welcome. I remember just feeling like I'd travelled back to another era where tradition and respect held strong. He looked so full of character and charm. This was my first visit to the Galle Face Hotel in 2005 and I shall never forget the image of him standing there at the grand old sea front entrance in Colombo with this huge smile, curly white moustache, badges from around the world proudly displayed on his chest and his hands pressed together in the traditional greeting position.
This was no ordinary doorman, this was Kuttan, or to give him his full name Kottarappu Chattu Kuttan. He worked at the famous Galle Face Hotel for an incredible 72 years and didn’t even retire. He made history as being one of the oldest hotel employees in the world. It's with much sadness that I received news this morning from my friend Rukshan Kuru-Utumpala that Kuttan has sadly passed away on 18th November 2014 at the grand old age of 94.
He came over to Sri Lanka by boat, which was then known by the name Ceylon, aged just 17 in 1938 from his native village Trichur in Kerala, India following the death of his parents. He had just 25 rupees in hand and literally just the clothes on his back. He reached Colombo and his initial work in the capital was as a domestic worker before he began a job in 1942 as a waiter at the most famous hotel in Colombo, the Galle Face Hotel's. In the 80’s he changed roles within the hotel and began working as the doorman and would greet all the guests on their arrival to the hotel. He was a true icon of the hotel, a symbol of the hospitality business and he seemed to personify what the unique hotel was all about.
When living in Colombo I absolutely adored the Galle Face Hotel and still do. I would visit almost every weekend for 3 years and each time would love crossing paths with this character from the colonial era. I love it when our company makes bookings for our guests into this hotel, as I want everyone to experience the feeling and character of this charming hotel and love it like I do. Forever more when I visit the 150 year old hotel I shall think of Kuttan and remember him with great fondness and a big smile. Rest in peace Kuttan.