“I am 20, white, and last evening I was a table.”
Roxy isn’t kidding. Wearing a tightly knotted golden corset and a glow-in-the-dark hat in a plush Gurgaon farmhouse, she did have to become a piece of furniture for an evening black-tie event. More specifically, a champagne table.
“This was among the better events I have worked at. There have been parties where I had to pose as an inanimate statue for several hours, with drunk men circling me with curious eyes. But the job pays really well. I am a high school dropout, so this is my best option,” she said.
To turn Roxy into a table, a wide plastic disk holding cocktail glasses is attached to her waist. Though this often bruises her skin, she shrugs them off as ‘minor incidents’.
Roxy (which is her stage name) is one among the many foreign models who come to Delhi every year to make a few extra bucks. For an hour of entertaining guests, she gets anything between Rs 8,000 and Rs 20,000.
Today, these artistes are all the rage at big fat Indian weddings across Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. Cities such as Mumbai and Bengaluru are also picking up on the trend.
“These days, weddings are not just about the bride and the groom. It is about providing an awe-inspiring experience that will remain etched in the minds of the guests. Our team consists only of international artistes, and we provide services to places as far as Kerala and Gujarat,” said Rohit Kumar, coordinator at Artist on Call, an artist-aggregator organisation.
Roxy, thought of as an introvert back home in Australia, recently left her $9-an-hour job at a departmental store. She usually comes to India in June and stays till December, earning almost double her combined income at Adelaide.
She says nobody, apart from a few friends, knows what she does in India. “This is a different side of me, which only comes out during my performance,” Roxy says between giggles. “This is minimum work and maximum pay. I just have to stand there. I have heard models complain that after a while, the exercise becomes tiring, mundane and taxing on the body. But I am trying to enjoying the experience while I still can.”
She recalls how, around two years ago, a colleague had to dress up as ‘Uncle Sam’— complete with skimpy shorts and a big hat sporting the American flag – on a freezing December evening. Her job was to escort the groom’s kin to the venue after the traditional aarti.
More often that not, foreigners are hired for these purposes than Indian models. The pay might also depend on which country one is from.
“International models get high fees. Indian models do not even earn half as much for the same assignment. This may be because we are yet to come out of the colonial mindset, but people specifically request foreign models. Even if they are from Iran,” said an event manager on the condition of anonymity.
So, if at one of these events, don’t be surprised to see artistes perform a variety of ‘live’ displays, including fountain shows. Painted to look like clay statues, the artistes spout water from their lips and fingertips for the beholders’ amusement. A spectacle indeed.