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Indian pomp wedding as a Bollywood fair

Mumbai (dpa) - Everything is festively decorated with flower garlands at the Jio World Center exhibition center in Mumbai - even the metal detectors at the entrance.

Little by little, the who's who of Bollywood and India's business world goes through this, clad in colorful saris and sherwanis made of the finest material. They are coming to celebrate the wedding of a child of the richest Indian, Mukesh Ambani. Again.

Only in December had his daughter Isha married the son of another billionaire in Antilia, the family's private high-rise in Mumbai. At the time, there was speculation about spending of up to 100 million US dollars (about 88 million euros). US singer Beyoncé performed at a pre-wedding party in an Indian palace. Two ex-US foreign ministers, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, danced to Indian movie hits with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, as can be seen on a video on social networks.

Now it is Ambani's older son Akash's turn. The 27-year-old married his former classmate Shloka Mehta, daughter of the diamond dealer Russell Mehta. This time, too, the celebrations started weeks beforehand - in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Under the identifier #winterwonderland, photos of the Ambanis and their around 300 guests are circulating on social media at a private fairground with a Ferris wheel. Akash obviously has a different taste in music than his sister, because Chris Martin, frontman of the band Coldplay, is hired for his celebration.

Mukesh Ambani, the proud father, is the boss and main shareholder of the energy, textiles and mobile communications conglomerate Reliance Industries. In the most recent list of the richest people in the world by Forbes magazine, he landed in 19th place. His fortune is estimated at well over 40 billion dollars. There are now more than 100 billionaires in India. According to the Oxfam organization, the richest percent of the population owns more than half of the wealth.

Antilia alone, the 27-story house of the Ambani family in the south of the film and finance metropolis formerly known as Bombay, is said to be worth a billion dollars. There are reportedly several helipads, a five-story garage and a room to let it snow in there. From their luxury tower, the five residents not only have a view of the Arabian Sea, but also of the country's largest slum settlement: Dharavi, known from the film “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Dharavi is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The countless rickety houses are so close together that their corrugated iron roofs almost touch over the narrow streets. Around a million people live here. One of them is Mayur Parmar. The 24-year-old comes from Dharavi and works for Reality Tours and Travel, which offers guided tours through the district and uses the income to support the local population.

"If they invested all that money in people who really need it, that would make a real difference in people's lives," says Parmar about the Ambanis' pompous weddings. On the other hand, he says, it is their well-earned money and their business what they do with it.

“All Indians, rich or poor, want to celebrate their weddings one step more than they can actually afford. It's a cultural thing, ”explains Parmar's boss Asim Shaikh, who also comes from the area and lives here. It's about portraying the family well. Shaikh says his father got into debt for his brother's wedding three months ago. “I told him we could have used the money for other things. But he said: what would people think then? "

The residents of Dharavi saw videos of the previous Ambani wedding on YouTube, Facebook or WhatsApp, says Shaikh. Some would have gossiped about the wealth on display. For most of them, however, the following applies: «They were neither happy nor sad about it. It was just entertainment. "

At the beginning of the day-long celebrations on Friday evening, videos are also produced again, which spread quickly. About how the greatest Indian film stars danced to the rhythm of drums with extremely wealthy business people. Or how the bride and groom entered the large, brand-new exhibition hall - in front of guests such as Google boss Sundar Pichai, ex-UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The bosses of Coca-Cola and Netflix are also reportedly there.

According to Hindu tradition, the bride wears a nose ring with a chain and walks into the hall under a canopy, as can be seen on a video. The groom and his family are lined with men in white suits, each holding a small palm tree. Folk music with a Bollywood touch can be heard from a musical fountain. Everything is full of flowers and shining lights. Once again a particularly splendid entertainment - probably also for the residents of the slum Dharavi.