Were you a tad mystified by the many column inches and TV segments devoted to the announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate (or Catherine, as we must all learn to call her now) Middleton in India?
As it happened, I was in England when this happy event was announced. And, predictably enough, the British media went berserk. There was wall-to-wall coverage on TV channels, with anchors, bundled up in overcoats and mufflers against the cold, standing outside St James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and sundry other royal locations to bring us the latest updates. The newspapers – both broadsheet and tabloid – went overboard as well, putting out stories about Kate’s school days, her parents’ business, how the happy couple first met, etc. etc. And of course, there were the inevitable stories about Princess Diana and whether anyone could ever fill her shoes.
The traditional post-engagement photo-call and interview were re-run interminably all through the day and night while commentators discussed in all seriousness whether Kate had tensed at the mention of William’s mother and whether he should have given her Diana’s engagement ring (after all, everyone knows how that worked out, right?).
But then, hey, this was England. This was the engagement of the next heir to the throne. This was the future King and Queen of England that they were obsessing about. And seen in that context, it made some sort of sense.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived back in India and discovered that the Indian media had been just as obsessed with the news of the royal engagement. There were stories about Kate’s ring – honestly, will the psychobabble about that particular bauble ever cease? – who would get to design her wedding dress, whether Prince William would get even balder by the time the wedding came along (okay, okay, I made the last one up – but you get the general drift).
Now, I know that as a society we are as celebrity-obsessed as any other. But if you ask me, there’s something more to all this William-Kate coverage: it’s all about how we just love a good wedding, even if it takes place thousands of miles away, even if it features people we don’t know and are never likely to meet.
You could just about say that Prince William and his future Princess and their wedding plans are an international story, so how could the Indian media avoid covering it. Okay, fair enough.But how do you explain the breathless coverage of yet another wedding that was held amidst the wilds of Ranthambore recently. The bride and groom, Russell Brand and Katy Perry, are hardly household names in India. In fact, most Indians would be hard-pressed to recognise them if they came upon them in the street. And yet, the Indian media went on a feeding frenzy from the moment it was announced that Brand (a British comedian, if you must know) and Perry (a singer better known for her proclivity to flash her cleavage at the slightest provocation) were planning to wed in India.
We had breathless reports on how Russell had proposed to Katy at the Rambagh Palace, riding in on an elephant (yes, seriously!). We were given details of the guest list that included such A-list celebrities as P. Diddy and Rihanna (it’s entirely another matter that the A-listers chose to stay away while various obscure British comics came along to masquerade as bona fide celebrities). Hordes of paparazzi staked out the airport to shoot Katy and Russell as they arrived in India. They were chased all the way to Sher Bagh, the resort where the wedding was to be held. And the next day’s papers carried reports of how some of the photographers had been roughed up by Russell’s security within Ranthambore Park.
Then came stories about the wedding itself. Nobody knew very much about what was going on within the heavily-guarded resort, but that didn’t stop anyone from making it up as they went along. There was such giggle-inducing stuff as the snippet that Russell had bought Katy a tiger as a wedding present and that she, in turn, had presented him with an elephant!
All of it was rubbish, of course, but we lapped it up quite happily nevertheless.
Because the truth is that in India, everybody loves a good wedding. Our own wedding jamborees can last up to a week and involve a cast running into hundreds if not thousands. When it comes to an Indian wedding, nothing succeeds like excess. Tables groan under the weight of every cuisine known to man and some made up by enterprising chefs. The women can barely walk for their heavy lehengas and even heavier jewellery. The men are decked out like extras in a Farah Khan item number in a Shah Rukh Khan movie. Glitter and glitz is the theme, and everyone is only too happy to conform.
Given how much we love our own weddings, how could we not love those that feature celebrities, both home-grown and international? Whether it is Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra or Russell Brand and Katy Perry or even Prince William and Kate Middleton, we just can’t help being happy for them all.
So how could we possibly help being obsessed with every little detail about their weddings?
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