Features Achieve >> Articles
are constantly on the lookout for articles of interest to
feature on GaramChai.com. 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.
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.
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.
DIAMOND STORY Part I
From rough cut to smooth touch //
Forging rock-solid family ties //
Golconda: The Indian El Dorado
[Printed from timesofindia.indiatimes.com ]