When Calcutta’s very own Andy Varma, renowned chef and founder member of the award-winning Vama and Chakra restaurants in central London, came to the city the 26th of February, he was armed with heavy baggage. Heavy, being the operative word, for it was the launch of a magnificent coffee table book weighing almost four kilos, titled Timeless Treasures. A tome dealing with the material culture of regal Indian weddings.

The launch itself was as classy and sophisticated as the book itself, where the publishers of Rutland Hall, Andy Varma and Ungelie Patel, in conversation with Rita Bhimani took the audience meticulously through the lavishly illustrated pages to show the exploration of the rituals and traditions of royal Indian marriages through the centuries. It ended with a fashion showcase with leading models of Calcutta designer Shantanu Goenka’s creations. This was followed by an elegant after-party in the premises of Oxford Bookstore with Chilean wines teamed with canapés specially created by Andy.  A personal touch: when Director of Oxford Bookstore announced the birthday of Andy’s mother Neena Varma, with a cake and floral offerings and he paid tribute to the fact that she had had faith in his early calling of chefdom.

The first part of this grand tome takes the reader through a historical background with a striking collection of archival photographs, many published for the first time, alongside iconic objects from our glorious past. To quote from the preface “The Maharaja of Kapurthala skillfully introduces key elements of regal wedding history in his Foreword, Deepika Ahlawat’s (the author) in depth reveals in each chapter a fascinating glimpse  of life in the royal houses and the complexities of wedding etiquette and rituals.”

In the second half, it is the contemporary luxe scenario that comes in, showcasing designers, jewelry houses, and every aspect required for the new-age bountiful, fat Indian weddings in exotic locales. It is meant to inspire the continuance of traditions in today’s discerning elite, and its Delhi launch saw 100 copies picked up in no time, priced at Rs. 10,000.  The Calcutta audience were seen acquiring their copies too.