It was a book launch like no other. First, it was set in an upscale South Delhi mall. Then there was a marigold-design mandap, and people sported zari embroidery, anarkalis, and brocade sherwanis instead of Khadi and Fabindia intellectualism. It was the launch of a book on great Indian weddings – The Great Indian Tamasha – authored by Delhi-based wedding consultant Rasika Bhatia.
For the launch event, Om Books International revamped its DLF Promenade store into a traditional Indian wedding venue — golden and orange tassels and mandalas hanging across the hall, dhol-themed music, placards reading “Humein chahiye luxury car”, bookshelves draped in red and gold netting like an Indian bride’s ghoonghat, and, of course, waiters serving drinks in round thalis beside a snack counter labelled ‘Izzat ka falooda’.
A crowd of 40-odd people — the crème de la crème of Delhi — braved the sweltering May heat to make it to the event.
“I feel like I’m way underdressed,” a fellow invitee sitting next to this reporter said while taking a moment to absorb the grandeur.
When it was time for the “dulhan” to make the entry, music volume was turned up, and hootings amped up. Rasika’s daughter Shailaja, 14, entered carrying the doli (palanquin) — a colourful umbrella decorated with garlands. Yash, Rasika’s husband and co-wedding planner followed, holding a heavy golden orb. Crossing the aisle and mounting the stage, editor-in-chief Shantanu Ray Chaudhari, publisher Ajay Mago, and host Suhail Mathur pulled the ribbon off the orb and lo! The unveiling was done — the book was launched amid a shower of rose petals. “You look lovely,” said Suhail, cupping the precious book in his hands.
Wedding planning: A ‘tamasha’ like no other
In her 22-year career, Rasika, 47, has worked on over 15,000 weddings. “We have to build Rome every day,” she told the audience. Having worked with big names such as M3M, Paras Group, Jindal, and Hero Honda, it was finally Rasika’s moment of epiphany with her book, which talks about the nitty-gritty of the profession.
The Great Indian Tamasha is one of those books you read on a Sunday afternoon. Rasika writes about what happens behind the scenes of a big fat Indian wedding: heeding to unrealistic demands like a bride wanting to descend from the moon, consoling mothers who threaten sons into remaining faithful to the bride or lose viraasat (property) shares, beelining for the door when a politician makes “an offer you can’t resist”, and horses running awry when the groom is still on the chariot!
The inspiration to write the book came after years and years of working as a wedding planner — a highly frustrating, patience-testing job in India according to Rasika. For her, writing The Great Indian Tamasha was like giving a vent to all the anger and rage she felt through the years.
“It takes insane patience. Instead of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, it is like the ‘Wedding Planner Sells His [or Her] Ferrari’! You have to get into Buddha mode,” Rasika told ThePrint lightheartedly.
Despite having dealt with mercurial rishtedaars — and the vagaries of Indian weddings, including the much-heard “Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti!” and “Aap dulhan ko samjhao na please” from chachas and mamas — Rasika has borne no hard feelings against anybody.
“Whenever I dealt with a bad apple, I came home, journaled it in my diary, and stopped feeling bad. I learnt about another face of human beings. [So] I took everything in my stride.”
Glitter, glamour, drama
So why are Indian weddings always so full of drama? “Indians are very territorial about their kids — they’d rather they [kids] sleep with them [parents] unless the children literally stomp out. They feel the same possessiveness [to do everything to the T]. Moreover, Indians celebrate weddings like Diwali. It’s an expression of joy for them,” Rasika adds.
After the wedding is wrapped up and the dust settles, sustainability takes a hit. Rasika agrees, but she told the audience at the book launch that wedding planners can’t really take a call on that. “How can you put a cap on the joy that people feel?” Especially now, more than ever, when families are back to celebrating weddings with a bang after three dry Covid-19 years. “It’s almost like they’re taking revenge on Covid.”
The wedding planner feels strongly against animal cruelty, though —#horsefreeweddings is her next motto, and she hopes the government introduces such a law. After all, many nouveau riche are ditching horse chariots for electric carriages, no price asked.
With invitees enjoying motichoor laddoos, samosas, and taking home sweets and candles, nodding vigorously to attendants who kept asking if they had “eaten the snacks?”, Om Books International ensured it was a warm affair in Delhi’s posh Promenade mall. And in the midst of the crowd was Suhail cracking jokes with the author-wedding planner: “Jab miyan biwi raazi, toh kya karlegi Rasi?”
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)