A journalist from a news weekly called the other day to gather information on embassy parties, one of the most tedious events that the capital can boast of. Unless the ambassador concerned is a friend, and invites you to have dinner with a group of people from diverse disciplines, and the food served includes cuisines from different parts of the world, these jamborees tend to be dull and predictable affairs. In recent times, a strange new phenomenon has emerged in the enclave of diplomats — security. One high commission demands a photo identity for an invited guest to be let into its hallowed premises, something that even the president of India does not enforce on those who visit him. It is better not to invite Indians who are suspect than to humiliate them on home soil. Leading journalists, businessmen and women, painters of repute et al are not likely to carry hand bombs into garden parties.
The other odd development is when embassies hold auctions and jumble sales, described as charity events. Overseas representatives are taking on the role of do-gooders in this land that is seen as one which is aspiring to rise and shine. It is all so condescending, particularly the manner in which these events are organized. Since a photo identity is essential to enter these portals, why not rent an auditorium and ease the insult' Why not use other cultural spaces' Good luck to them who need to live in isolated, sterile cocoons. It is a bizarre way to protect themselves from possible terrorist intrusions. It has all become rather pedestrian as the so-called crème de la crème of Delhi race off to such parties that are nothing but page three events. More often than not, the drinks and the snacks leave much to be desired. There are only a handful of caterers who are hired and the food is the same wherever you go when there are more than 24 people invited.
The joy and graciousness of privacy have nearly passed into oblivion. There was a time in the not so distant past when weddings, however large, were private affairs with the list of invitees including only immediate and extended family and friends, regardless of their position in life. Prime ministers came as friends and not as VIPs as did other politicians, business people and celebrities. The defining reason to attend weddings was to share the joy, eat, drink and have fun. For a week before the wedding, friends would bring dinner and lunch for all to reduce the pressure on the shaadi ka ghar. Great clothes would emerge from family trunks to be aired and put away for the next wedding in the series.
But, alas, all the best of our traditions are being lost in this new, strange and sterile world, a world that is aping something it does not understand, something it is unfamiliar with, lending the entire exercise a false and cosmetic touch. Most weddings are therefore a crushing bore with hosts waiting for few VIPs.
The local administration too goes into a tizzy trying to intrude happy spaces with large, ugly signages heralding the VIP. One such unpleasant and ugly sign is the “VIP Alighting Point”. Surely, every single person invited to a marriage should be treated as a VIP by the hosts. Why then are ordinary, decent and law abiding mortals driven away from this easy point of entry' Why are chauffeur-driven cars given a pride of place, while those who drive their own vehicles are treated with contempt' Is this not uncivilized, uncouth behaviour, devoid of any semblance of sophistication and grace'
Ironically, those who genuinely require protection are the least obtrusive and most dignified. The VIPs come flashing horrible red lights with gun-toting cops, destroying the fun of attending a private and personal occasion such as a wedding.