Photograph: Jay Mandal/On Assignment.
"We must love this man to drive for 14 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Kerala's notoriously hazardous roads during the monsoon, spend a restless night in a resort ten kilometres deep in the paddy fields, get up before daybreak and drive for another hour on winding, narrow country roads to attend a wedding, which lasted all of fifteen minutes!" my daughter-in-law Sharavati said as we drove back from Shashi Tharoor's wedding to Sunanda Pushkar in his ancestral home.
Indeed, we did all that, because we did not want to miss the wedding of the year to which we were invited among only a few close relatives and friends. In fact, this was the most intimate of the five events, which were planned to celebrate the nuptials. No effort was too great to share the personal joy of a friend of many years.
The wedding took place in Elavanchery village near Kollangode in Palakkad district on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The sprawling 200-year-old building is the home of Shashi's 93-year-old grandmother who lives there, whose children and grandchildren have made homes in different corners of the globe.
On Onam day, many of them make their way to this isolated village to bring news of their accomplishments and acquisitions to the matriarch. She rejoices in their happiness, shares their sorrows, welcomes new additions and wishes them well.
Another event is already on the cards; Shashi's only niece is scheduled to get engaged there within a matter of months.
This year Shashi Tharoor decided to give his grandmother a gift, Sunanda Pushkar, whom he married in the traditional Nair style in her presence. Nair weddings are purely secular affairs with no priests and no fire.
As an elder in the family directs, the bridegroom ties the traditional 'mangalsutra' on his bride, exchanges garlands and rings and most important of all, hands her a piece of cloth, pledging to take care of her for the rest of his life.
Only a traditional lamp and a coconut bloom in a bushel of paddy bear witness to the ceremony. The bride and groom go around the lamp three times before they are declared man and wife.
Since the ceremony is short, cameramen and videographers are desperate to record the events and the guests see only their backs and nothing else as they crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the bride and the groom.
In the case of Shashi, the official media was kept in a separate enclosure, but the amateur photographers among relatives and friends blocked the view and we simply savoured the moment, knowing well that we were sure to watch the ceremony on television.
As seasoned marriage goers, we could guess the progress of the ceremony by the crescendo of the music and applause.
The festive atmosphere of Onam and the traditional music and dances combined to make the occasion memorable. The Nadaswaram, the traditional wind instrument, was played live and a performance of Panchavadyam, a combination of percussion and wind instruments, was played by a lively groupof men, much to the enjoyment of not only the assembled guests, but also the whole village, though no amplifiers were used.
Conspicuousby their absence were politicians of all hues except Mani Shankar Aiyar and a couple of Congress functionaries. But the media was present in full force, with OB vans parked in every little lane of the village, even though Tharoor had tweeted requesting privacy from the media.
Theceremony was telecast live not only by Malayalam channels, but also by national networks. Shashi Tharoor today is just a Member of Parliament, but he is still a favourite of the media and a crowd puller.
Thewedding was a private ceremony, but the events of the last one year gave great news value to the wedding. Everyone who watched the wedding or read about it had something to say or remember.
Tharoorhimself recalled those events and expressed the hope that the wedding would strengthen him in facing the challenges of public service, the purpose for which he returned to India, entered politics and won an impressive election.
Hehas made it clear that he has no intention to withdraw from political life. He hopes to clear his name to build back his image as a politician with a difference, someone with a global view and modern outlook and not prone to the pitfalls of political life in India.
Somesee in Tharoor the shades of Edward VIII, who abdicated the crown to marry the woman he loved. They say that a lesser man would have refrained from a wedding at this time to allow public memory of the allegations to fade.
Therewere even rumours that political leaders had advised him to go slow on the wedding plans. But what he has done is to demonstrate that the public and private lives of politicians should remain separate and that his personal happiness should take precedence over the exigencies of politics.
AsI stood listening to the loud Panchavadyam performance after the ceremony and a good traditional breakfast, someone, whose face was vaguely familiar, greeted me and started a conversation. I had to move with him to a corner of the compound as he seemed to have something important to say.
Hesaid that his guru, an astrologer, has predicted that, with the marriage to Sunanda, Shashi Tharoor's fortunes will be on the rise.
Heexplained that the stars were not propitious for Shashi in the last few months, but now that they are in conjunction with Sunanda's, he would rise very fast and reach the pinnacle in a few months.
Iprobed him further as to what this meant in specific terms and I was told that his achievements will be in the international arena and not in India.
Iasked him whether his guru had predicted Shashi's election, elevation as a minister and resignation, he said that the guru had occasion to study Shashi's stars only after those events. I do not know why he shared the prophesy with me. Perhaps, he said this to everyone, who was willing to listen!
As we drove back in sunny weather and lighter traffic, Shakespeare's famous lines rang in my ears:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Image: Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor with his bride Sunanda Pushkar.
Also See: Exclusive Images: The Tharoor Wedding