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By AMIT ROY ATTENDS A HIGH PROFILE MIX-AND-MATCH LONDON SOCIETY MARRIAGE
  • Published 29.08.11
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Tej Lalvani and Tara Ruby make a grand entrance for their
pre-wedding reception at the Natural History Museum
The couple during a romantic boat ride party with the Houses of Parliament in the background
Tara with Sushma Reddy; (below) Tej and Tara at the Central Gurdwara for their wedding

The marriage has taken place in London of Tej Lalvani, 37, and his fiancée, Tara Ruby, 31, in what is likely to prove one of the highlights of the Asian social calendar in Britain.

Tej is the younger son of the well known (and respected) businessman Dr Kartar Lalvani, president of the UK’s second largest branded multivitamin manufacturer, Vitabiotics, which he founded in 1971.

For those who don’t know Kartar Lalvani, it’s probably enough to say he is what my late father would have called “one of nature’s own gentlemen”, his highest term of praise.

He does not show off — Kartar, that is, not my father, who liked dabbing his silk hanky with Evening in Paris — which he could considering the “Asian Rich List” this year estimated his net worth at £150m, placing him at No. 23. He exports to well over 100 countries and has a significant operation in India. (In marked contrast, my father raided my piggy bank for his Charminar.)

But this is not about business but a society wedding — and Indian weddings in the UK remain quintessentially Indian but have integrated some mix-and-match elements such as night clubbing before the wedding, a solemn religious ceremony as in India, cutting of an elaborate cake at the formal reception, dancing to western music and a honeymoon in the kind of resort much favoured by the European elite (such as the Maldives or the Bahamas).

What I know about the social scene is even less than most Indian Test cricketers know about batting. For example, I had no idea Bina Ramani, the Delhi socialite, was Kartar’s sister until she got up on stage at the elegant wedding reception held at the exclusive Hurlingham Club in Putney, south London, and announced: “Tej, you have several aunties and I am one of them!”

She then proceeded to tell several aunty anecdotes about when Tej was four years old.

The new person I enjoyed meeting best of all was Sushma Reddy, sister of the Bollywood actress Sameera Reddy.

“I don’t look like Sameera at all,” said Sushma, looking very much like Sameera. “I look more like my other sister Meghna.”

Anyway, these weighty matters can be the subject of intellectual debate in the new Presidency University but despite belonging to the Bombay world of show biz, Sushma came across as a woman with perfect manners. I would cast her in Pride and Prejudice.

There was a gathering of friends, too. The London social scene hasn’t been quite the same since Ramola Bachchan, whom I had official anointed “Queen Bee”, departed her home in Hampstead, north London, six years ago to return permanently to India. She had come from Delhi to grace the occasion.

It’s been a while since I have been to a Sikh wedding — the last was that of Vikram Chatwal, son of the New York hotelier and Bill Clinton’s bosom buddy, Sant Singh Chatwal, in Bombay, Jaipur, Udaipur and Delhi in February 2006.

Kartar’s elder son, Ajit, one of the world’s leading experts on tackling TB, is a former Oxford don who currently holds the chair in infectious diseases at Imperial College, London.

Kartar’s younger brother, Gulu Lalvani, who appears to be more of an extrovert character, set up an electronics group called Binatone. Newspaper cuttings will reveal he once briefly went out with Princess Diana.

Gulu’s daughter, Divia, is married to Joel Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate family — they must have got used to people saying “how sweet”.

The bridegroom, Tej, is known to be the very active vice president of global operations at Vitabiotics, but his talents as an accomplished singer took most guests by surprise. At the Hurlingham Club reception last week, Tej walked up to the stage, took a guitar and sang a romantic ballad in a perfect American accent to his new bride.

After a relaxed mehndi ceremony at Kartar’s Baker Street restaurant, Indali (this is a health food eaterie which does butter chicken without the butter), there was a lavish reception the same evening at the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road. Those responsible for valet parking at the latter venue had to look after a sea of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Mercedes and Ferraris.

There were several high-profile personalities among the guests at the various functions. They included Lord Paul Boateng, former British High Commissioner in South Africa; Monika Mohta, who has taken charge as India’s ambassador in Poland after four years as director of the Nehru Centre in London; filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and her husband, Paul Berges; Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs select committee; tycoons Gopi Hinduja and Anil Agarwal; actress Ayesha Dharker and her poetess mother, Imtiaz Dharker; London girl-turned-Bollywood starlet Sophie Choudry; music producer Biddu; and Baroness Usha Prashar, who is busy writing up the Iraq war report as a member of the Chilcot inquiry.

After a registry office marriage in Marylebone, Tej and Tara’s relatively simple religious wedding took place at the Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) in Shepherd’s Bush, said to be “the oldest established Sikh place of worship in Europe”. The gurdwara moved its location in its early years but its origins date back to 1908. In 1911, the formal opening ceremony was performed by Maharajah Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.

The ceremony was presided over by Dya Singh, who is much sought after the world over for such occasions and had come to London from his base in Melbourne in Australia at Kartar’s behest.

The vegetarian “Langar”, the tradition of free food available to all who come to Sikh places of worship, was considered just as delicious by those who came to the gurdwara.

Guests found the location in the dinosaur room of the Natural History Museum to be “stunning” while the reception at the Hurlingham Club had a touch of Regency England with ushers in red coats, painted faces and white wigs. Indian food was served at the former and a western menu at the latter.

There was a nice touch as guests left the Hurlingham Club — a note from Tej and Tara containing a warm “thank you for all your wonderful blessings”.

The couple urged guests not to trouble with wedding gifts. “Your blessings and love are the only gifts we aim to cherish.” But the charitable minded were invited to “join our modest effort to enrich the lives of orphans and homeless children in Bangalore”.