By midnight, Priya was dancing with a Bollywood star under the spotlights.
“Let’s bring Vikram, the prince of tonight, up on the stage!” yelled the bandleader as Priya shook her bared, perfectly flat belly for the cameras.
“Vikram? Are you there? Let’s bring him up here! The prince! Vikram?” Vikram finally emerged in a white turban, stepping cautiously on the stage. He slowly spun around once.
The next day, at the pool party in a 1760s fort, Priya was dancing again, this time in a shimmery silver dress adorned with peacocks, the national bird of India, an animal that mates for life. Vikram seemed sedate, until Jeffries took a running dive into the water. Vikram stripped off his shirt and dove in, still in his white linen pants, while Priya and his mother danced on to the relentless house music accompanied by a tribal band. Vikram slipped on a friend’s big black sunglasses and floated on his back, à la the famous scene in The Graduate.
By February 18, a giant sign welcoming William J. Clinton, the guest of honor, had been hung like a bull’s-eye by the entrance to New Delhi’s Sheraton, and a red carpet was rolled out in the lobby.
Downstairs in a hotel conference room, Jeffries was not pleased that the red turbans would clash with his new green Indian jacket. “There are no other colors?” he asked twice, before giving in.
Once the turbans were tied, slightly akimbo, Vikram’s friends and family headed outside to begin the barat. Between the horses, the marching band, and the mob of photographers, guests had to watch out or be stampeded. A bus got trapped in the parade—a captive audience of angry Indians on their way home from work.
Finally, after innumerable cocktails and groggy awakenings and turban-wrappings and flower arrangements, everyone was ready for the actual knot to be tied. Under an off-white tent in New Delhi, the couple performed the traditional Sikh wedding ceremony, walking four circles around a holy book that represents the four major vows of Indian marriage: duty to family and the community, mutual love, the achievement of detachment in the midst of family life, and human love sublimating into the love for God.
“This better work out,” said Deepak Chopra, wearing a pink turban, a blue oxford shirt, and khakis. India’s prime minister showed up. “No one is going to do this kind of party again.”
That night, Vikram asked Bill Clinton to get onstage and take the microphone for a few remarks. “I have one thing to say,” he said. “I was thinking as I read this program, because I was not able to get here until very late last night, that all the people my age who lasted the whole week should receive some sort of medal.
“Whether a wedding lasts a week or 30 minutes or something in between, the really special thing is what we feel for the bride and groom, what they feel for each other. They look very beautiful tonight, and I hope their whole lives will be as they are at this moment.”
Sant beamed. It really couldn’t get any better. “Bill knows women, so I said, ‘You tell me your honest opinion,’ ” Sant said later. “He said, ‘I spent an hour with Priya, and you’re very lucky. Priya is a very amazing girl.’ ”As the last event wound down, Sant was finally ready to relax. “My vision was fulfilled,” he said, bringing a hand to his chest. “I promised Vikram the most amazing wedding, and I did it.”
At that moment, Vikram came out of the hotel bar with some friends. Sant looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. “In my next life,” he said, “I want to come back as Vikram with me as a father.”