Silk Stalk­ings

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature - Reshmi Das­gupta

“Less is more” as an adage has never found much trac­tion in In­dia. Not even when we have be­come more “glob­alised” and sup­pos­edly more cos­mopoli­tan. And nowhere is this more ev­i­dent than in fash­ion and per­sonal style. The just con­cluded visit of the Duke of Cam­bridge and his fash­ion-for­ward Duchess brought this dif­fer­ence in at­ti­tude to the fore most vividly.

Ar­guably, wed­dings are the one oc­ca­sion in In­dia where noth­ing is too much - the ex­penses on the decor, ceremonies and food, the bri­dal trousseau and jewellery and the en­sem­bles of the guests. But that in­cli­na­tion to be over the top all­too-of­ten spills over into other events and oc­ca­sions.

The in­con­gruity of Mum­bai’s A-lis­ters turn­ing out dressed to the nines for an event that was to be a fundraiser for three char­i­ties goes with­out say­ing. Maybe they had also do­nated many times the worth of what they wore on their necks, ears, arms and hands, but then who were they try­ing to im­press with the bling? Surely not the Duchess of Cam­bridge, whose pair of Am­ra­pali lapis-and-diamond ear­rings, even at ₹ 1.25 lakh was noth­ing com­pared to what some Mum­bai di­vas had on dis­play that evening. Daz­zling a princess - who started off as a wealthy com­moner (like the di­vas) any­way, seems a rather point­less ef­fort.

Try­ing to do so with this cou­ple - who will even­tu­ally be­come King and Queen of Bri­tain (al­beit largely for cer­e­mo­nial value) -harks back to a his­tor­i­cal odd­ity. The Raj, it may be re­called, re­duced In­dian ma­hara­jas to mere cer­e­mo­nial heads too, with the Bri­tish ‘res­i­dent’ in each state wield­ing the real power.

Para­dox­i­cally, this dra­matic re­duc­tion in their ac­tual sovereignty co­in­cided with a rise in the Ma­hara­jas’ per­sonal glit­ter quo­tient, much to the de­light of jewellers like Cartier and Van Cleef & Ar­pels. They ea­gerly com­mis­sioned the most out­ra­geously ex­trav­a­gant pieces, fea­tur­ing out­sized spec­i­mens of the rarest gem­stones,

The Bri­tish played along by rank­ing the “princes” - the English de­mo­tion was not

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