Riding In H.O.G. Heaven

Arvind Gangadharan, Manager of Alila Bangalore, talks about Sundays spent on his cherished Harley-Davidson 1200 Nightster, and his passion for wildlife, hospitality and food.

Showing a good time and having a good time is the soul of hospitality. Alila Bangalore’s Hotel Manager, Arvind Gangadharan, manages both with ease. During the week, he is busy coming up with ideas to position his new business hotel in Whitefield as an ideal neighbourhood leisure destination. Come Sunday, he takes off on his black Harley-Davidson 1200 Nightster with the H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) in Bangalore.

“We contact each other and make plans on BlackBerry and Facebook. We ride and go somewhere for breakfast or lunch. Recently, we rode to Coorg. I love riding and cycling. In the last many months, I’ve been to Chennai, Mysore and Nilgiris, and on my Bullet, I rode to Madhya Pradesh,” says Gangadharan.

The best part about the H.O.G. from Tusker Harley-Davidson dealership, he says, is that there is no talking shop. “We’re like-minded people with a passion for owning a Harley. We also love music. There is light partying, and no heavy drinking. It is all about peaceful happy riding.” The rest of the H.O.G. comprises people from different industries –venture capitalists, software personnel, businessmen and restaurateurs: restaurateur Jean Michele Jasserand; Niladri Mazumdar, VP Marketing of SEIKO Watches; Srinivas Reddy, the Tusker Harley-Davidson distributor for Bangalore, Elias Abraham, Venkatesh Rammohan, Badari Garani, Praveen and Rajan.

Contrary to what people think, Gangadharan points out, Harley-Davidson owners are not the type to break laws and drive rashly. “We are not wannabes. We don’t do what yuppies do on roads. We usually clock 120-150 km/h while these kids ride at 200 and more. The bike already stirs respect and I don’t need to speed. It’s been a cult since 1903; it’s more about the brand image and the passion of owners – The body language is different. Riding a Harley-Davidson is about the great brotherhood.” This month, to celebrate the anniversary of Tusker Harley-Davidson, 45 Harley-Davidson bikers including Gangadharan from H.O.G. chapters in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi will be riding to Goa.

For Gangadharan, the obsession began with a collection of Harley-Davidson merchandise in 1987, when he was 21 and living in Canada. “I couldn’t afford the bike then. When the first lot of 200 came to India, I was one among the first to buy it.” These days, when he goes on rides, he always carries a camera. “I am an amateur photographer. I invested in an expensive camera when I was working at Taj Safaris.” The wildlife and luxury setup of the Taj Jungle Resort is where Gangadharan’s passion for nature and wildlife grew.

“I study snakes and crocodiles. I also take part in conservation camps and in work to save tigers and other mammals.” This social consciousness is not new to Gangadharan. As an NCC cadet, he had travelled to a village in Bihar, cleaned and painted the whole place and even helped build a library. In Bangalore, he also tries his bit to rescue animals.

During the free time he has when he is not on his bike or spending time amidst nature, Gangadharan is in the kitchen, experimenting with fusion of Indian and European dishes. His culinary skills perhaps stems from the fact that his hospitality career began when he joined the Taj as a chef in 1990. In that capacity, he used to specialise in Chinese and Continental cuisines. “I then went on to ITC Dakshin, Sterling and Club Mahindra and Taj Jungle Resort before joining Alila. I have been here for 18 to 19 months now.”

The USP of the hotel, says Gangadharan, is that it exudes a sense of calm even while providing all amenities of a business hotel. “It is casual yet luxurious. The décor and people are warm and acceptable. All rooms have balconies – open spaces that are warm and underplayed. It’s interactive. We also have great food by a New Zealander chef, who’s a rockstar.” The latest project that the Hotel Manager is busy with is the launch of Spa Alila, which is a signature spa that uses products specially created by a NGO with ingredients sourced from Bali.

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