If Hotel Mandovi in Panjim is the icon of brand Goa, Satish Prabhu, its longest-serving employee, is the icon of hospitality. Unfortunately, two months after Satish quit Hotel Mandovi at the end of September 2019, the hotel shut its doors to its guests.
Ever since it stopped functioning, all that is left of this city icon are vivid memories that refuse to die down in the hearts of Panjimites and all those who have witnessed its unbridled hospitality. Mandovi was the only starred hotel in Goa that carried style Goa on the banks of river Mandovi.
Satish joined Bookfair, the book shop in Hotel Mandovi, in 1977 as he saw it as a good platform to earn some money whilst he completed his law. “I wanted to play basketball for Bombay University and it was the first time that Law College won the state Inter college basketball championship,” recollects Satish with his glowing smile.
What happened thereafter is not just a story of love of a man for a hotel, but love of a hotel for guests that stepped into Hotel Mandovi. Satish Prabhu was the symbol of service associated with Hotel Mandovi, probably the first starred hotel in Goa to have had the license to serve imported alcohol that was savoured with food made in Goa.
Satish's journey in Hotel Mandovi is as piquant as the life of the hotel. He left the hotel in 1997 after twenty years, as there were differences of opinion. Satish joined the hotel in 2003 as general manager after having established himself as a brand in catering.
“I had gone to invite Ramnath (Babu) Quenim to be the guest of honour for the inauguration of my new enterprise. Instead, after meeting babu, I decided to join Hotel Mandovi again with the charge of running the place,” says Satish who still wears the demeanour of the hotel.
“As I was closing Bookfair one night, I was called by then manager Yeshwant Kamat and asked to handle the wedding reception of one Lima Leitao family, as the F&B manager was sacked. I was nervous but the event was a grand success, thanks to the efforts of the experienced staff and that is how I shifted from the book store to F&B and therein began my life journey in hospitality,” explains Satish.
Hotel Mandovi was a home kitchen to Goans; a home library to readers; a tavern with the finest imported liquor; a bakery with the best confectionery; and a place that could royally sit over two hundred people for gatherings. It stood out for its cleanliness and hygiene.
“The high point of my career was when the hotel was earmarked to cater to Pope John Paul II during his visit to Goa. We had to serve tea to the Pope at 3.30 am because he started his prayer from 4 am to 6.30 am. The Pope was served breakfast at 7 am; lunch at 12.30 pm and super at 7 pm. We worked from 2 am till 12 am during those four days,” remembers Satish.
“We were a group of 18 from the hotel who were given security passes to be in close proximity to the Pope,” adds Satish who was amongst one of the five from Goa to have received a gold medallion from the Pope.
“It is rumoured that Hotel Mandovi is being purchased by one of the offshore casinos. However, this is highly improbable considering that it is owned by two cousins Ramnath Quenim and Prashant Quenim and both have divergent views regarding the same. However, the dispute has led to the closure of the hotel,” believes Satish.
“That the dispute between the family would lead to the hotel closing down became evident in 2019. After waiting patiently, hoping for the best, the tension on me began to mount and so I gave my notice and quit on September 30. The doors of the hotel closed to the public on November 30,” concluded Satish.
Hotel Mandovi is no more open to the public but the smile of 66-year-old Satish still throws back flashbacks of the grand times at Hotel Mandovi.