Author & muse in Manhattan monsoon wedding

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  • Published 19.04.04

Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi managed a colourful “Monsoon wedding in Manhattan” on Saturday night, at which the bride wore a purple sari with a daring, backless choli and the groom looked fetching in a dark sherwani with a silver-grey dupatta.

The wedding and party were held on the 14th floor of a New York studio and was attended by 275 guests, among them many of Rushdie’s British literary friends who had supported him through his lean fatwa years. Hollywood showbiz and Indian relatives, celebrities and friends came, too.

In some ways, the ceremony was remarkably Hindu. There had been rumours that actress and model Padma would break Indian tradition by wearing a white sari but the Chennai girl dazzled in south Indian purple.

“She looked absolutely fabulous — and very happy,” said the almost-lost-for-words New York-based Indian photographer, Jay Mandal, who was given special access on behalf of The Telegraph by the happy couple.

Had Rushdie won the Nobel Prize, he would not look happier.

It was the fourth wedding for Rushdie and Padma’s first. The age difference appeared not to matter one bit. The 56-year-old bridegroom and the bride, 25 years his junior, garlanded each other under a makeshift mandap constructed with rajanigandha flowers and took vows from the Rig Veda. The bridegroom also arrived hand in hand with a little child — his own son, Milan, from his third marriage to British writer Elizabeth West (with whom he wrote an anthology of Indian writing).

In recognition of Rushdie’s literary connections, the ceremony also included a reading from Shakespeare.

There was an Islamic touch as well, though from the religion’s more mystical end. The well-known Indian vocalist, Marina Alam, a disciple of Pandit Jasraj, gave a rendering of Sufi songs. Not only did Rushdie slide a wedding ring on to his beloved’s finger but he also knelt down to put a shoe on Padma’s feet — the Prince Charming metaphorically finding his Cinderella.

Guests started arriving just before 5 pm at the Peter White Studio at 601 West 26th Street. After the marriage vows were exchanged, Padma slipped down to a huge trailer parked outside and took nearly an hour to change into a white, embroidered Luca Luca outfit with a low-cut top. Rushdie also swapped his dark sherwani for a cream one. There was a touch of Bollywood razzmatazz about the whole affair, which is appropriate because the Indian scene is currently very much in vogue on the back of Bom- bay Dreams in Broadway.

Although security was tight throughout, Mandal said he congratulated Rushdie on his marriage but found the 56-year-old author of Midn- ight’s Children “lost in a haze of happiness”.

Among Indian guests, Mandal spotted film director Ismail Merchant; Sabeer Bhatia, the inventor of Hotmail (who has himself been scouting around for a suitable bride from Bollywood for some years), Anupam Kher’s actor son, Sikandar, and the Mumbai-based film director, Apoorva Lakhia, who worked as an assistant on Boom.

Although Boom, starring Padma, flopped, it is Lakhia’s intention to direct her in a movie version of a 1997 short story by Rushdie, The Firebird’s Nest, for which the author himself will write the script.

Rushdie’s British friends included journalist couple Harold Evans and Tina Brown — Rushdie met Padma in 1999 at a party hosted by Brown at the Statue of Liberty for the now defunct Talk magazine.

Among other Brits were Somali-born model Iman; William Dalrymple, author of White Mughals — he and Rushdie did a joint literary session at Christie’s in London last year — and his wife, Olivia; the human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, QC; columnist Christopher Hitchens and his wife, Carol Blue; and the humourist, Kathy Lette, at whose apartment Rushdie recently held an all-woman Stag Night.

Among Americans, there were actors Steve Martin and Robert Klein, New York A-list socialite Anne Bass and rocker Lou Reed. The Greek royal family was also represented.

There was dancing till late, with food supplied by an Indian restaurant, Bukhara Grill.

Marries Clarissa Luard; divorces her in 1987
Marries Marianne Wiggins; divorces her in 1993
Marries Elizabeth West; divorces her in 2004
Marries Padma Lakshmi