Regal lesson for Delhi's Mughals

Ananya Sengupta

New Delhi, Oct. 18: The guests greeted each other with "adaabs". Two-century-old candle stands cast a nostalgic light in the hall and diyas glimmered over the entrance.

Sure enough, Bollywood glitterati and the political who's who had turned out in numbers, yet this was far from your average filmy bash or a typical power gathering.

Rather, a piece of old Awadh with all its subtle nawabi elegance seemed to have been recreated at 31 Aurangzeb Road as Saif Ali Khan and wife Kareena Kapoor held their wedding reception in the capital this evening.

Union ministers, chief ministers and other political bigwigs did not hog centre stage. While the family ' the bride and groom, their sisters Karisma Kapoor, Soha and Saba Ali Khan, and Soha's boyfriend Kunal Khemu ' drove in through the VIP entrance, the power guests ' including the Prime Minister's wife and the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family ' walked in through the "public entrance" without fanfare or overbearing security. It was a rare sight in the country's seat of political might.

The theme for the evening was black sherwani and Aligarhi churidars, which Saif too wore. Kareena looked stunning in her Manish Malhotra attire, a pink sharara, departing guests said. But in case anyone got too dazzled over it all, Saif's mother was at hand to put things in perspective.

"I am wearing a sari that's my brand," said Sharmila Tagore, resplendent in a gold tissue sari and a heavy kundan set embedded with rubies and pearls, as she received the guests with Soha and Kunal standing by her.

"What brand of sari I am wearing, what the d�cor is, what the food is, isn't important; what is important is the fact that these two are happy," she told the waiting reporters.

"Please wish the couple good luck and hope they have a happy life."

Among the first to arrive were Union ministers Farooq Abdullah and Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Test cricketer Abbas Ali Baig, CPM member of Parliament Sitaram Yechury and BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee were invited but couldn't make it. Rahul Gandhi stood in for his mother and Gursharan Kaur, the Prime Minister's wife, arrived quietly with Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his wife Isher Judge Ahluwalia, and stayed half an hour.

Many of the guests could not have dinner, though. While the Congress's Digvijaya Singh said he had a vrat, the food was yet to be served as Kapil Dev ' who had arrived to loud applause ' left around 10 with his daughter.

"It was just lovely. I didn't have any food as it was yet to open, but the snacks were very tasty. It was a great occasion and I wish the couple a very happy wedded life," Kapil said. Bishan Bedi was the third former cricketer who showed up.

The snacks ' chicken and fish kebabs, prawns and mushroom ' represented the best of Awadhi cuisine. Waiters served excellent wine. A guest said: "The bar is flowing".

Sonam Kalra rendered beautiful Sufi songs, including popular Bollywood numbers. Kalra is the granddaughter of Lieutenant General J.S. Arora, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command during the 1971 war.

Asked what the family was planning next, Sharmila, in her true blue style, said: "I have had enough of parties. There is no celebration in Pataudi, not now at least. Abhi sab thak gaye hain. Abhi daal-chawal ka time aa gaya hain (we are all very tired and want to keep things simple)."