Jain Temple

Hot Spots

India Links
Call Home


Art & Culture
Book Shelf


Chat and Blog

About Us

Contact Us
About Us

Articles, features and write-up's on NRI life in the US, Canada and North America >> Features Achieve >> Articles

We are constantly on the lookout for articles of interest to feature on Please mail us articles you would like to see featured and we will be glad to oblige.

Rolling Stones: Gujarat to Belgium  By- CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA

The Indian diamond industry processes nearly 90 per cent of the world’s rough diamonds. After software, diamonds are India’s best friend.

Gems and jewellery are the country second highest foreign exchange earner. To find out more about this mystery trade and how it is sparkling for India, TOI Foreign Editor Chidanand Rajghatta spent a week in Antwerp, the centre of the world’s diamond trade.

This is part II in an in-depth look at the glittering industry, which will appear over the next two weeks:

Antwerp's main diamond street is called Hoveniersstraat, and Hovenier in Flemish means gardener. From all accounts Indians have not only reaped a rich harvest in Antwerp, but are also continuing to tend the business well.

They are respected, envied and feared. They are also model citizens and pay their taxes. There are only about 400 Indian families in Antwerp -- almost all in the diamond business - but they are an important part of the city's multi-cultural make-up. They have their own temple, cinema and cricket field.

Lately, they have also become ethnic elites -- local glitterati whose ceremonies, customs and capers are starting to be chronicled in the European media.

Few events showcased Antwerp's diamond desis -- and brought the spotlight on them -- better than what came to be dubbed the "Wedding of the Century".

In September 2002, Vijay Shah of Vijay Dimon, one of the biggest dealers in Antwerp, celebrated the double wedding of his son Vishal and daughter Priya.

Vijay Shah is probably better known in India as the brother of Bharat Shah, the Bollywood badshah who was sent to the clink for alleged dealings with the underworld.

The wedding is reported to have cost anywhere from $15 million to $20 million (Vijay Shah waved the figure away when I asked him), not counting the Rs 70 crore bail that Bharat Shah had to post before a Mumbai court to make the journey to Antwerp.

To say the wedding was opulent would be an understatement. It involved transforming an exhibition building, Nekkerhal, into a spectacularly lit Rajasthani palace incorporating elements from the Laxmi Vilas Palace in Bikaner, Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, the bathing ghats in Varanasi and the Ajanta and Ellora caves.

Shah commissioned Nitin Desai, India's most sought after film set designer (Devdas, Lagaan among other credits) to set the stage.

The fibreglass mouldings took 250 workers six weeks to make at Film City in Mumbai. They were transported to Antwerp in 47 large containers on two ships and assembled over 23 days by 100 craftsmen imported from India.

The wood and silk mock-up featured thousands of meters of red, gold, yellow, blue and pink silk flown in from Bangkok. Hundreds of guests who came from all over the world were met at the airport, assigned personal limos and valets, and checked into the best hotels in Antwerp.

Two well-known designers, Rohit Baal and Manish Malhotra made special outfits for the most intimate guests, while Sandeep Khosla and Abu Jani designed the wedding dresses. The food was strictly vegetarian but there was a choice of Chinese, Italian, Lebanese, South Indian, and of course, kosher.

There were plenty of heavyweight guests, from Hinduja brothers to steely Mittals and sparkling Oppenheimers, the first family of the diamond industry. There was featherweight fluff too.

The Shahs had invited -- or rather commissioned -- top Bollywood stars to perform at the wedding. So there was Aishwarya Rai doing her number from Devdas and action-hero Akshay Kumar roaring on to the stage on a motorbike.

At the end of the wedding, in true filmi style, the wedded couple sped away in a yellow Ferrari even as each guest was given a custom made Chopard bedside-clock.

Nearly two years later, by the time I visited Antwerp, the wedding was still the talk of the town (the entire celebration was consecrated in a 12-DVD set; I was presented with an edited version on a single DVD).

In a 3000-word story on the event, a Belgian magazine noted, "In de tentjes aan de achterzijde van de Nekkerhal roerden wat sjofel geklede Indische hulpkoks onophoudelijk in potten op gasvuurtjes om aan de vraag van de massa genodigden tegemoet te kunnen komen."

I have no idea what that means, but you get the drift. Quiet and understated, the diamond desis had arrived.

 INDIA'S DIAMOND STORY  Part I From rough cut to smooth touch  // Part III Forging rock-solid family ties // Part IV Golconda: The Indian El Dorado

[Printed from ]






Buy Visitor's Travel Insurance

NRI Services

Ho Jayega


GaramChai © 1999-2007 || Terms of Use