DUBAI // After months of speculation about their relationship, Shashi Tharoor, India's former junior foreign minister, and Sunanda Pushkar of Dubai tied the knot at a modest, traditional ceremony in Kerala yesterday.
Wedding celebrations will continue until the end of the month with ceremonies, receptions and dinner parties planned in India and the UAE. A three-day Dubai stay is packed with scheduled functions and parties, after which the couple will fly to Spain for their honeymoon. Mr Tharoor's short career as junior foreign minister was marred by allegations that Ms Pushkar received a free stake in an Indian Premier League cricket franchise. The controversy eventually led to his resignation.
The wedding is seen as a respite for both, who have been hounded by the media regarding their intentions. Mr Tharoor and Ms Pushkar are both twice divorced. Mr Tharoor ended his most recent marriage this year after meeting Ms Pushkar. Mr Tharoor, 54, completed the wedding ritual yesterday by tying the thali, a sacred gold chain, around Ms Pushkar's neck. The traditional Malayali ceremony was performed at the groom's 200-year-old ancestral home in Palakkad in front of a group of close friends and family members.
He was dressed in the traditional white mundu, kurta and a shawl while the bride wore a white sari. Mr Tharoor's 94-year-old mother, his sisters and other relatives were present at the wedding, while the bride's father and other relatives from her home town near Sopore in Kashmir were also in attendance. Television crews and photographers gathered outside the wedding area to capture images of the couple exchanging garlands. The two appeared calm and happy as they mingled with guests after the ceremony.
A busy schedule awaits the couple in the coming days: as many as five further events are planned. To start things off, a grand reception was held at the minister's electoral constituency in Thiruvananthapuram last night in the presence of senior ministers, socialites and others. The newlyweds will now travel to New Delhi, where another party is scheduled. Dubai is the final party stop, where they are expected to stay for three days.
Ms Pushkar will hold a traditional Kashmiri wedding ceremony at an undisclosed location in Dubai. Many of her friends and relatives are expected to be present for this function, which will be followed by another reception and a few more dinner parties. "It's going to be a grand affair in Dubai, as Sunanda has many friends here," said a source close to the couple. "They have not disclosed the location of the wedding yet, but we are looking forward to seeing them together."
Ms Pushkar, who has been a Dubai resident for more than a decade, was employed in sales for Dubai's Tecom development. The couple met through mutual friends in Dubai and spent a great deal of time together in the emirate. People invited to the wedding in Dubai said they were given only the date of the wedding, but the venue was yet to be announced. "I was invited to the wedding in Palakkad but could not attend," said R Naushad, the former president of the Thiruvananthapuram Expatriates Association in the UAE. "Our representatives will attend the function in Thiruvananthapuram tonight."
Mr Naushad said details of their stay in Dubai were not clear, but they hope to see the couple. "Once we communicate with Mr Tharoor, we would love to organise an event for them," he said. Ms Pushkar's clothes for the wedding reception were designed by the Dubai-based Indian designer Anjali Chandiramani of A&H Creations and Vastra Creations. "We have been associated for over eight months now and she approached me to design her wedding clothes," Ms Chandiramani said. "We have been exclusively manufacturing and customising clothes for our clients for the last eight years. Sunanda is our client and we are happy to design for her wedding."
She created the wedding outfit as well as a trousseau for the bride. "We designed one of her main outfits for the wedding, a sari." "The trousseau will also be done at my store and we have kept in mind the functions she will attend," Ms Chandiramani said. She said the sari design was suited towards a traditional wedding ceremony while the other outfits have been prepared for dinners and parties. "We have designed something modern and contemporary, keeping in mind that she will be attending many functions here," she said.
Mr Tharoor, who has written several books, missed out on the position of UN secretary general, beaten to it by Ban Ki-moon. However, he successfully contested the elections in 2009 from Kerala, shocking many of his critics. But the minister's popularity took a knock after Ms Pushkar's free stake in the Kochi cricket team was revealed by the IPL chairman, Lalit Modi. The chairman questioned the ethics of Mr Tharoor's involvement in the sale of the franchise to a group of businessmen based in the UAE.
Mr Modi's allegations sparked further investigations into the IPL teams, which ultimately resulted in the suspension of Mr Modi himself, who was found to have a stake in some of the teams.