Standing out in his crisp Gieves and Hawkes military uniform with gloves and a gold belt buckle, he is a familiar sight on the hotel’s gravel driveway.
Narajan Singh and two others are the Sikh doormen of Raffles Hotel and have become the brand ambassadors of the grand old institution.
Becoming a celebrity
Singh has been the doorman of Raffles Hotel for the past 26 years.
It started in 1991 when he responded to a recruitment advertisement in a newspaper calling for someone who was “at least 1.9m” and “Sikh”.
Since then, he has become an icon for the hotel — his likeness can be found on plushies and stamps to T-shirts and aprons.
He is so popular that some even return every year to take a picture with him:
“There are some guests who stay with us every year and take a picture with me each time they come. Earlier this year, one of them showed me a collage of pictures he had prepared which had pictures taken with me over the last 10 years!”
Meeting with celebrities
Since Raffles Hotel opened it doors in 1887, it has been no stranger to illustrious guests. It has seen famed authors like Rudyard Kipling, celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and several other heads of state.
During the time that Singh served as a doorman, he has encountered several famous people.
In 1993, he met Michael Jackson. He did not interact with him directly but described how he had a tangible aura:
“Our entire driveway was filled with fans and the atmosphere was electric. We had to whisk him in through a concealed entrance. Though I didn’t have direct interaction with him on arrival, as he walked out through the driveway upon departure, his aura was tangible and I could understand completely why he was such a huge sensation.”
Singh also met Queen Elizabeth, Prince William and Kate Middleton. He even had a photo taken with Prince William, and described them as “graceful and charming:”
“I have a beautiful picture with Prince William welcoming him as he arrives at the hotel and it’s a memory I really treasure. They were as graceful and charming as you can imagine and made sure to greet and acknowledge any colleague serving them.”
He also shared that the Queen of Spain also delivered him a gift through her personal butler: “It was a lovely tie with the Spanish royal emblem embroidered on it.”
Not just a doorman
Beyond just opening doors for people and carrying their luggage, Singh’s role involves building relationships with guests and also picking up on specific habits or requests that could help in anticipating the guests’ needs.
For instance, he once helped an elderly man surprise his wife for their 40th wedding anniversary:
“He had previously arranged with me to pretend that I would show one of our suites to his wife for a casual tour. In reality he had already booked that suite for their stay and I worked with our florist to have the suite decorated with flowers and champagne to surprise his wife. I must say the sheer joy and absolute disbelief on her face when she saw the surprise, brought tears to my own eyes!”
It is experiences like these and heartfelt comments from guests that keep him going.
Top photo composite image from Raffles Hotel Gifts and Accor Hotel.
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