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The Windfall

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Humankind is so clever and accomplished - until it’s time to distinguish between wealth and contentment. This momentous distinction is comedically tackled in “The Windfall” a debut novel set in the status-obsessed wealth colonies of India. Sat Bal

 

There’s even an official name for the kind of psychological turmoil that overnight wealth of this sort brings: Sudden Wealth Syndrome. “The Windfall” mirrors this turn in fortunes for middling entrepreneur Anil Jha whose SWS moment comes when he manages to sell his website for $20 million.  

While this sum doesn’t quite put Jha in the 1% of India’s Bollygarchs, it’s enough to catapult his family from a respectable housing complex to the luxurious Delhi suburb of Gurgaon where status is all.

Author Diksha Basu tells a jaunty, witty story that bristles with the psychopathologies of handling both new and established wealth. In doing so she artfully weaves a cast that vacillates between the former and future lives of the Jha family.

Their future features Mr Chopra, a beefy burgher of Gurgaon and the scion of inherited money. In other words, he knows his way around wealth and is accustomed to the lifestyle it affords. The Jhas are not. Yet Chopra’s dynastic wealth does little to calm his psyche. We’re told that he’s not afraid of much “but the thing that frightened him most was poverty.”

His status fears are heightened when his neighbours sell their house to the Jhas in order to upgrade to London’s Kensington, prompting Mrs Chopra’s insecurities. “What if everyone else in Delhi becomes rich and the people who are poor now move in next door and suddenly we are one of the poor. What then?”

One imagines the same anxieties being played out in Shanghai, Brasilia and other new money hot spots around the globe. The realisation that happiness is not automatically on the fixtures and fittings list of a luxurious house is a sobering thought for anyone who expects contentment to flow as an emotional corollary of wealth. As Charles Spurgeon put it: “It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

The constant catch-up attempts of the Jhas set the tragicomic scenes ahead as new wealth conflates with old times. Witness the embarrassment felt by Mr Jha when his new Mercedes, which arrived early, was delivered to his old home where it was “nearly impossible to navigate past the cows in the narrow lanes.” Jha’s shame is palpable: the delivery driver seeing his old abode and the neighbours seeing his new luxury car.  

Mrs Jha has parallel issues when her husband decides that they can’t employ a kitchen maid lest guests fail to notice that they have a new automatic dishwasher in the kitchen. The husband even sees trophy value in the aspiration that their son, Rupak, will have a blonde American girlfriend in the US, where he’s studying for an MBA.

Yet the fact that Rupak’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, is indeed a US blonde causes the boy untold grief. The non-disclosure of Elizabeth to his parents, whose objection he anticipates, sets the scene for endless conflict. Rupak is decidedly the weakest character in the book and Elizabeth makes this point with the warning: “Figure out who you are and just be that person,” as the relationship teeters.

The author brings an engaging set of characters to the fray. There’s the widowed romantic, Mrs Ray, who assures herself that lust is a curiosity rather than a reality. Mr Chopra’s son Johnny likes Lexus cars and girls but seems unable to earn a living - a fact welcomed by his dad whose money shields the boy from the unsavoury pursuit of working. And then there’s Serena - Elizabeth’s Indian counterpart. Predictably, Rupak’s affections for Serena just induce more hand-wringing and their druggy encounters stay right there.

Yet despite the promising cast, credible scene-setting and Diksha Basu’s nimble storytelling the novel ends at a plateau rather than the expected crescendo. That said, this debut novel puts Basu on the literary watch list - and the summer reading list.

 

The Windfall

£7.99 Paperback/Ebook

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Hola, Cancun! Part 2: Secrets Maroma Beach

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MEXICO: After a week of Hard Rock hotel hedonism the Secrets Maroma Beach resort offered a luxurious and private escape just 45 minutes away in Riviera Cancun. Sat Bal

 

Theme

Much more compact than the sprawling Hard Rock complex the award-winning Maroma Beach is an adults-only enclave of refinement. Its powdery beach is private and well-serviced by staff who cheerily ferry along trays of Mudslides and Mimosas along with food favourites. Just as well since the February sun nudged 30 degrees!

The beach provision falls under the all-inclusive service. Where things do cost, such as spa treatments, complimentary resort credits will offer discounts.

 

Rooms

Presidential suite balcony view  (Pic- Sat Bal) 

 

Rooms start from the Junior Suites (circa $230 pp, pn) and progress to the Preferred Club suites (circa $270 pp,pn) stepping up to the Preferred Club Honeymoon Suite (around $440 pp,pn). They variously feature ocean views or swim , on the ground-floor suites, which allow you to fling open the doors and step inside the cut-down pool adjoined to suite.

 

Presidential dining space (Pic- Sat Bal)

 

The Presidential Suite comes in at a spacious 1,873 sq ft cost around $1,100 pp,pn. For this you get a separate living area with a large sofa and TV and a dining area that accommodates eight. The spacious bedroom also includes a break-out lounge area and a king bed. The views are magnificent, offering a panoramic view of sand and sea.

All rooms are well-appointed with hydro spa tubs, a private balcony/terrace with hammocks and complimentary wi-fi throughout.

 

Out and About

As expected, water-bound activities abound: kayaks, sailing, scuba diving and plenty more. Golfers get complimentary greens fees at the Grand Coral Riviera Maya which skirts the Caribbean Sea. The 18-hole, 7,000-plus yards course was designed by PGA champion Nick Price.

Archery, dance lessons and an outdoor theatre featuring live shows gives a small idea of the big variety at Secrets.

 

Beaches & Pools

The private beach at Secrets is powdery and expansive at least in length (rather than width) at this time of year. Not that losing the sand to the tide led to loss of privacy; there was still plenty to go around. If the beach is your priority then we’d suggest spending more time at Secrets Maroma Beach than HRH.

 

Restaurants & Bars

 

An array of restaurants includes French dining at Bordeaux, Asian cuisine at Himitsu and Italian at Portofino. All are lavishly presented and exude their unique cultural themes in decor and dishes. Additional venues include sea food and munches at the 24-hour cafe. Informal grab-and-go food comes courtesy of the Barefoot Grill.

Bars are omnipresent with top-shelf, all-inclusive drinks. Try the plush lobby Rendezvous bar for a bubbly start to the day and swim up to Bar Manatees in the afternoon sun for cocktails and shorts.  Elsewhere, the on-site Desires music lounge club keeps up the tempo until 1am.

 

Cautionary note…

Secrets rather let down its image with a surge of salesmen intent on selling customers long-term, six-figure packages to the Secrets global network of destinations. We spoke to holidaymakers who were holed up with the high-pressure sales team for over three hours for meetings that were supposed to last an hour.

Although a ‘romantic meal on the beach’ for two was granted for those who stayed the course, such blatant and sustained money-grabbing is not something we’ve ever experienced in other luxury resorts.  Management: rein it in!

A blot on the otherwise flawless service and staff energy that made the place special.  

 

 Check out our review week at Hard Rock Hotel, Cancun:

 

 

 

 

Hola, Cancun!

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MEXICO: February-March means it’s time to escape the British freeze and cast out for warm climes. But where in the world would blend white-beach luxury in blue-sea tropical surrounds and syncopate hard play with a soft chill? Cancun met our party-relaxation brief with ease. Sat Bal

 

The Brief

Week one of our geographic was to be filled with solar-powered parties in a playful but luxury setting. The Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya answered the call like a natural, living up to its rock credentials.

Week two in Cancun required a change in tempo: privacy, peace and a reclaiming of the soul. Where better than the AAA Five Diamond awarded Secrets Maroma Beach in Riviera Cancun? A blissful recovery on a gold platter - around 45 minutes from the Hard Rock.

 

Hard Rock Hotel (HRH)

A 45-50 minute transfer from Cancun International airport, HRH played to our strengths with its ‘resort within a resort’ concept. The family-friendly Hacienda setting offered a hard-play edge of live music shows and beach frolics while the Heaven complex embraced a more refined adults-only isolation. Combined, the 1,264-room hotel feels vast as evidenced by the scurrying of transfer buggys across the lush palm-lined site.

Adult guests at either resort can wander across to use facilities at either Heaven or Hacienda. Stop press: HRH has announced that from the end of March 2018 Heaven will be managed as a family hotel so it’ll no longer be kids-free.

 

Themes

 

 

The HRH mantra is ‘undeniable excess at every turn’ and the pioneers of excess loom large here. Jimi Hendrix, Bowie, Prince and other legends added a supernatural tinge to the stay, looking down from huge monochrome portraits. Jim Morrison (above) held court in the Hacienda’s Sun Bar, his hair a montage of vinyl records. Elsewhere, Aerosmith’s drum kit and all manner of artist personal effects in display cabinets, persistent  reminders of why this place is called Hard Rock.

 

All-inclusive

It really is - even down to ordering room service. So enjoy the indulgence of ordering up tea and coffee first thing, despite having a perfectly good coffee machine in your suite. The array of restaurants form part of the package too. Neither will you need to pack your favourite duty-free tipple; all top shelf drinks are complimentary as is the mini bar. Where things do cost, such as spa treatments, your complimentary resort credits will offer discounts.

 

Rooms

 

The Bret Michael's Rock Star Suite

 

All rooms are well-appointed with hydro spa tubs, a private balcony/terrace with hammocks and complimentary wi-fi throughout. Views range from garden to the panorama of the Caribbean sea with first-quarter prices starting from circa $300 a night to $2,000 a night for the apex experience.

Upgrade to Rock Royalty status and the fun really starts with VIP pool area and your own personal assistant.

The two-bedroom Rock Star Suite (4991 sq ft) and the Rock Suite Platinum Rooftop Lounge (5,166 sq ft) raise the pinnacles of luxury to levels that bona fide A-listers would surely approve of.

Service is willing and warm, on a par with Asian service, across the board.

 

Beaches & Pools

HRH claims a private white sand beach and invites snorkel and kayak fans alike.

If the beach is your priority we’d suggest spending more time at Secrets Maroma Beach which was more expansive and less busy. At HRH we just missed the 'Spring Break' when hordes of N. Americans fly over to boost the fun.

For adults only, the Central Pool at Heaven is just the ticket for sun, lounge, or cool off with an abundance of cocktails. There’s also a semi Olympic pool, cross current rhythm pool - and, of course, the crystalline Caribbean!

  

Restaurants & Bars

 

 

Hacienda offers seven restaurants including à la carte Asian dishes at Zen, Brazil’s best at Ipanema and hot Mexican at Frida. Caffeto is great for an early pastry breakfast or a late baguette grab. Over at Heaven head to Toro for a rich steak, Le Petit Cochon for French à la carte and Ciao for Italian among the five dining areas.   

For drinks, settle down at Heaven’s Martini Bar or the Sun Bar at Hacienda while Float bar invites the pool. At nightclub Club Heaven, live DJs starts the party around 11pm and take it into the early hours.   

 

Rock Spa

 

 

HRH boasts the largest spa in the Caribbean with 75 treatment rooms. On offer is everything from steam rooms to hydrotherapy current pools. The surroundings are among the most lavish we’ve seen and the view from the pools is inspirational. There’s even a yoga temple!

 

Weather

What's to say? The odd peppering of rainfall in the early hours but every day blazing with sun and skirting 30 degrees. Autumn tends to see the rain.

 

Out and about

Popular excursions range from the Mayan history site of Chichén Itzá to water park fun at Xcaret. Nightclubbers, make  your way to Coco Bongo though the in-house club at Heaven got full and fun too.  Amstar is the local excursion agency of choice but bookings can also be made via the hotel concierge. 

Flying out

UK operators British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook will get you out there in around 11 hours non-stop.

 

See our next week at Secrets Maroma Beach…

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