It all started with a plague.
In 1922, 24-year-old Mohan Singh Oberoi fled his hometown of Bhaun, India, in the Punjab province, now a region of Pakistan. He was penniless, but his mother, who raised him alone, urged him to escape the virulent outbreak overtaking their village and find work in Shimla, India, a nearby city. He spent the summer rambling around the countryside, desperately trying to land a job. One day, he walked into the Hotel Cecil and asked if there were any openings. To Oberoi’s surprise, the manager hired him as a front desk clerk.