Friday, May 20, 2011

Vinita & Muqit - Wedding of the Century - Indo-Italian Venetian Billionaire Bash

Vinita & Muqit get Married
(Venice, Italy) Vinita Agarwal, daughter of billionaire Pramod Agarwal, married Muqit Teja on the island of San Clemente on Saturday night, May 14, 2011 in what one man called, "The Wedding of the Century."

Shakira (from Faded Youth blog)
The century is still young, so time will tell, but the Wedding of Vinita and Muqit will certainly rank up there at the top. It was a spectacular evening, blending Indian and Venetian cultures into something vibrant, colorful and unique. Ancient tradition and contemporary pizzazz created an exotic bridge from the past to the future, the East to the West, with dignity, glamour and joy. It was a great honor to attend such a singular event and to write about it on my Venice blog -- which was the culmination of a three-day extravaganza -- it had also featured performances by Shakira herself and the Gotan Project. 

VENICE BLOG Cat Bauer on Boat
Cat Bauer on boat
San Clemente Palace, the majestic hotel and luxury resort where the wedding was held, is on its own private island in the Venetian lagoon. I remember the setting from years ago when the hotel first opened, but I hadn't been there for a long time. It had utterly transformed. It was wonderful to see it again on such a glorious occasion -- perhaps it will become renown as the Wonderful Wedding Island:). Torches lit the long red carpet walkway from the boat dock to the entrance of the garden, which was now a whimsical wonderland with golden elephants, peacocks and lions, flaming torches, and flowers, flowers, flowers, orchids and roses tumbling everywhere. An enormous cascade of yellow orchids formed a blessed chandelier over the heads of the wedding party, as you can see in the top photo. 

The ceremony was a long celebration of life, filled with symbolism and rituals; a sacred fire burned in the center of the temple, specially created for the occasion with candles, pillows, flowers, and fabrics. When Vinita and Muqit looked at each other there was genuine love in their eyes, always with a dash of humor. Guests dressed in silk turbans and saris sat on elegant cushions, surrounding the family with love and support. The ceremony was Hindu with, I was told, a touch of the Koran; I don't know enough about either religion to understand the significance, but my feeling as an observer was that two people were taking sacred vows based on genuine love and mutual respect, not only for themselves, but for those around them.

VENICE BLOG Cat Bauer at Indo-Italian Venetian Billionaire Bash
During the ceremony, people came and went in a casual, respectful fashion, sitting on cushions to observe the vows, or wandering into the garden to sip wine and snack on appetizers -- both Italian and Indian delights, as an orchestra performed on the outdoor stage. I love, love, love Indian food and can never get enough of it, so it was an exceptional treat to be able to indulge to my heart's content. Also, there was an unending supply of one of my favorite wines on earth -- Amarone from the Veneto! Five different kinds! It was sheer bliss, and, in my opinion, complemented the spicy Indian food perfectly. For those who preferred Italian food, the renowned Paduan restaurant Le Calandre, winner of three Michelin stars, had their own luscious spread. That is my idea of paradise -- to enjoy excellent Italian and India food, washed down by vintage Amarone, all in the same space and time.

 After the ceremony, everyone tossed baskets of rose petals on the newlyweds, then wandered into an enormous space decorated with Murano glass chandeliers, overhead baskets tumbling with orchids and roses, faux art, sofas, chairs, and bars brimming with wine and cocktails.


Well-wishers offered congratulations to Vinita and Muqit who were seated up on the stage. Next, there was an other-worldly Venetian performance with dancers, fire, fountains and enormous feathery figures that slinked through the night. It was a smooth segue from the Indian ceremony to the Venetian performance, crossing from one dimension into another, like Alice melting through the mirror into a Looking-Glass world filled with enchanted Venetian characters who have lived there for centuries.

Then, another segue, this time outside into the garden where the sky exploded with fireworks! With music! Classical to pop to and back again, Pavarotti thundering, "Vincerò!" and Katy Perry belting out, "Baby You're a Firework!" punctuated by booms and dazzling bolts of lightning. It was so uplifting and emotional that I had tears streaming down my cheeks; it felt like we were on an island of enlightened beings celebrating the arrival of a vibrant future filled with hope, beauty, color and light. Patricia Carrizo took all the photos you see here (except for Shakira), and if you click over to her BLOGVENECIA, which is in Spanish, you will find some excellent photos of the show. 

Next, the cake! The foundation was a replica of the Rialto Bridge that supported tiers of twenty-four circular cakes. When I saw it, it made me laugh so hard, considering all the battles that have been staged over at the real Rialto Bridge where I have lived on the Grand Canal since 1999. Since that is my "territory," I can assure you that the locals in that zone would much prefer this type of bright, positive, creative energy than the suffocating force we have been subjected to for far too long. 

VENICE BLOG Cat Bauer at Indo-Italian Venetian Billionaire Bash
Friends and family members took the stage and spoke about Vinita and Muqit with humor and warmth; a photo album was projected up on the screen. Finally, the wedding party had a chance to eat their dinner, while the rest of the guests boogied on the dance floor to Bollywood tunes. The women were dancing in an elegant, sensual, sophisticated way, with one hand raised in the air, moving like Angels from the East, as if they were on a cloud. They brought me into their circle and showed me a few moves. Later on in the evening, I had the great honor of dancing with the mother of the bride herself (the gremlins seemed to have snatched that photo:).

When I left the wedding around two or three in the morning, everything was still going strong, a crowd out on the dance floor, and people scattered on the sofas and chairs. I took a red rose and a pink rose and a handful of petals, just like Zuzu's, to remember where I had been, went to the boat stop, got in the taxi, and zoomed across the lagoon, back to my reality... which is Venice. 

VENICE BLOG Cat Bauer at Indo-Italian Venetian Billionaire Bash
Cat Bauer
Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Coda: Vinita and Muqit wrote a letter of thanks that was published in the local paper, Il Gazzettino, which I will share with you here:

"We want to take this opportunity to express our joy. We are excited about this past week in Venice and are deeply touched by the interest shown by the city for our marriage. After visiting a number of occasions in recent years, to marry in Venice has always been our dream, and it was during a trip to the Biennale last year that we visited some of the spaces then chosen for our wedding, including the School Grande della Misericordia, Tese Arsenale and San Clemente Palace. It was a real honor to be able to use these buildings that are so majestic and historically important. The whole city, in all its aspects, has been a great source of inspiration, and it was great fun to bring you here a bit of our India, creating a unique blend of Indo-Italian elements. " 

"We will hold forever in our heart the memories of the days that the special magic and beauty of Venice made even more memorable. We thank the city and all those who contributed to this important moment of our lives with their support and their warm hospitality." 

"In particular, we want to thank the people who made this marriage possible:  Riccardo Lanza and Lanza & Baucina for the organization; the designers Matteo Corvino of the Misericordia e l’Arsenale and Sumant Jayakrishnan of the San Clemente Palace; Seventy EMG; Franco Dragone Entertainment; Guido Cerasuolo and Mestiere Cinema; Le Calandre, Federico Salza, Marut Sikka and Ritu Dalmia for the catering, Eric Chauvin and Munaretto for the flowers; Emanuela Semiani; Antonia Sautter for the costumes and finally Mircosanti and Blue Moon Travels for the critical support."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Papa is Here! Pope Benedict in Venice

(Venice, Italy) Pope Benedict XVI is here in Venice as I write this, and it is something special. Needless to say, security is tight, but you would not really know it; the atmosphere is tranquil and serene. It has been twenty-six years since a pope was here, John Paul II. And, of course, the previous pope, Albino Luciani, the beloved John Paul I, came from Venice; he was the Patriarch of Venice. He was in the Vatican as pope for a mere thirty-three days before he was found dead in bed. (For those interested in reading more about Pope John Paul's mysterious death, David Yallop wrote "the book that shook world" about 'the smiling pope' published in 1984 entitled In God's Name - An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I.) 

In any event, here in Venice the sun is shining and people seem genuinely pleased to see this Pope, who is, thankfully, alive and well. I was in Piazza San Marco last evening when he arrived wearing his bright red shoes. I had an excellent view of the Pope, but not of his arrival, which seemed to be something miraculous. From my limited point of view, it seemed that the waters of the lagoon were making two enormous circular waves, spirals of water that shot high into the sky, churning and spraying, as if the lagoon was parting like the Red Sea. Our faces could feel the mist. I have searched for footage, a photo, anything, but have nothing yet; if I do, I will post it in an update.

Pope Benedict seems quite relaxed, with plenty of vitality -- especially for an 84-year-old man. I feel a special affection for this pope, perhaps because my ancestry is German. The Pope was born in Bavaria, and his mother's family comes from South Tyrol in Bolzano, the region right above the Veneto. (The photo on the right is of Luca Zaia, the Governor of the Veneto, Papa, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, the current Patriarch of Venice.)

As we waited for the Pope to arrive, people from all over the planet chatted with each other and sang songs. A melody of diverse languages filled Piazza San Marco with the music of humanity. I spent most of the wait in a delightful conversation with a family from the Ukraine. The father and I were about the same age. He spoke in Russian and I spoke in English while the daughters translated. We compared notes about our different upbringings, since when we were children Russia and the USA were mortal enemies. I told him about the air raid drills we would have when I was six-years-old in case Russia dropped the bomb on us. We had to troop into the school hallway, line up against the wall, crouch down into a ball, and cover our heads, as if that would protect us against the atom bomb! We both had a good laugh over the absurdity, and it was wonderful to be alive in Piazza San Marco in the present, chatting over what was once a terrifying thing in the past. When Papa finally arrived, the crowd went wild, with the French group behind me shouting, "Viva il Papa!" 

The Pope is always a controversial figure, simply by the nature of his existence. After reading In God's Name, I confirmed what I had already suspected: that there is a difference between what the Vatican says and what the Pope says, and the Vatican will often try to put words in the mouth of the Pope.

For example, according to Wikipedia:

Indigenous American beliefs

Papa performs outdoor Mass in Mestre, Venezia
While visiting Brazil in May 2007, "the pope sparked controversy by saying that native populations had been 'silently longing' for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers." The Pope continued, stating that "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture." President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez demanded an apology, and an indigenous organisation in Ecuador issued a response which stated that "representatives of the Catholic Church of those times, with honourable exceptions, were accomplices, deceivers and beneficiaries of one of the most horrific genocides of all humanity." Later, the pope, speaking Italian, said at a weekly audience that it was:
"not possible to forget the suffering and the injustices inflicted by colonizers against the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled.

Accademia Bridge, not Rialto!
It's not easy being Pope:) At about midday, after the enormous Mass celebrated in Mestre on the mainland that hundreds of thousands of people attended, the Pope whizzed down the Grand Canal, which was lined with spectators all along the way. Over at Rialto, papal banners on the Hotel Rialto and the Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia (Water Authority) flapped in the breeze. A large crowd had gathered to wait, but not on the Rialto Bridge itself, which had been cleared by the police. I was sitting on the dock below my apartment from which I have been illegally evicted on several occasions. The rest of the people in my building were at their windows, with banners supporting the Pope, but my apartment remained closed and shuttered, all my possessions locked inside -- including my United States passport -- and the door changed (even though the gas and electricity are in my name!). 

It was quiet and sunny except for an occasional battle between the seagulls. Then, suddenly, the Pope zoomed by accompanied only by security without a Venetian boat in sight, no gondolas, no pomp, no circumstance. It was over in a flash. I thought, well, that was strange.  It was surprising because the Rialto Bridge is always where everything halts, and the most spectacular show is presented.  . 

However, as I've been writing this blog, searching for photos, I see that over on the other side of town, there was a huge gala that normally happens at Rialto. As you can see by the photos, there were plenty of colorful Venetians surrounding Papa, raising their oars in honor. I can only think they entered the Grand Canal further down, but they were not with Papa at Rialto. To see for yourselves, the Comune of Venice has photos up on their Facebook site which you can find by clicking HERE.
In any event, I am very pleased that I actually saw the Pope here in Venice. It is amazing -- there is little need to travel outside of town to encounter the illustrious and industrious -- sooner or later, everyone seems to come here!

Ciao from Venice,