Road rage, murders, rapes, suicides, Delhi is acquiring a distraught, Dickensian aura, attracting aggressive young men with few scruples about getting ahead. The city has already had the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of India and now, owing partly to increased migration from rural and semi-rural areas, an accelerated interaction between diverse people sharing shrinking living spaces is impacting city life, often in brutal and meaningless ways.
Then there’s the other side, the ones who made it big some decades ago, are far more sophisticated and well-travelled, and are now spending wildly on vacations and weddings. I attended one wedding last week in a Chhattarpur farm which had a yellow Ferrari parked in the driveway (The Range Rover and Merc had to be relegated to the garage). There can be no expenses spared which means event managers can go wild—fantasy decor, themed evenings, imported flowers, live bands from abroad (this one came from France), and a selection of canapes, wines and food that would get rave reviews anywhere in the world. Dazzling is the description I would use.
There was something for every age, from the teenagers to the hip adults and the more middle-aged, steadier crowd. Narendra Modi would have loved the optimism and affluence. The Great Indian wedding used to be loud, brassy, crass and contrived. No more. It’s now classy, innovative, sophisticated and a lot of fun as well. Here’s a key takeaway. The bride's father had studied at a famous public school, and I discovered that many of the guests were also former students. The Old School Tie has not faded. It’s alive, well and dancing away at flash weddings, quite aware of its class.
Indian wedding are interminable and the number of outfits required to attend each function is ridiculous. Men get by with a mixture of suits and ethnic wear that has been worn before. But women have a problem. Each event needs a new designer outfit (this is for guests, not the bride) that none of the other women there have seen you wearing before; and that’s not counting the matching bag and shoes. Otherwise, women with an uncanny ability to skewer people for the clothes will target you. And heaven help her that dares to show up in fake Gucci or Prada from Sukhumvit. I spotted many women who were obviously in brand new togs bought just for the five days of the wedding—possibly never to be worn again; no doubt the dresses were summoned with the help of some very deep pockets. And at the end of every event, the conversation between guests on reaching home went along these lines: “Did you see what she was wearing? I saw it last year in Sabyasachi’s.”
Summer isn’t quite here and the evenings are still pleasant so it’s possible to sit in an outdoor space to catch up with friends over a tall cold drink and the most popular ones are located in Delhi’s clubs. The Gymkhana’s latest extension, called the Deck, is located behind the main bar. It has become hugely popular with members and offers a view of the Rose Garden which is a nice place to sit under garden umbrellas, even at lunchtime.
The India International Centre, frequented by bureaucrats, academics and journalists, has its outdoor seating next to the bar where pleasant evenings can materialise out of nowhere. Its younger, more upstart rival, the India Habitat Centre, has also opened an outdoor area this winter next to the bar, where food can be ordered from the restaurant menu. The Delhi Golf Club too has a large expanse of lawn located below the bar, where it’s still possible to spend the evenings. Well, there’s a reason they call them the watering holes.
I have noticed that Delhi has most of the prettiest young girls in the country. Just watch the camera panning over the crowds at the Feroze-Shah Kotla stadium and you will get the picture.
Dilip Bobb is executive editor, Outlook
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