“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