Undercover at the wedding of the century

"First, you will marshall the train of 350 elephants!" (Reuters)

"First, you will marshall the train of 350 elephants!" (Reuters)


I flew into Antalya at dawn. I was deep undercover, going as a humble under-assistant associate wedding planner, called in to help out with some details at a vast Indian family wedding at one of Turkey’s most fashionable and expensive seaside resorts. (The info pack from HQ says Miley Cyrus has been there, so it’s truly on the map.)

The real, actual under-assistant associate wedding planner whose identity I have assumed – one Prodrick Flystaff – is a Brit, flown in from London via Ercan, Cyprus, on an emergency basis.

Last night, in a manoeuvre taught only in the most advanced schools of investigative journalism, I injected Prodrick Flystaff liberally with a mix of LSD and amnesia serum and left him in a hashish-bar-cum-brothel in Ercan, in the care of a middle-aged dominatrix originally, I believe, from Smyrna.
Flystaff was smiling broadly but unable to move. He will remain so for 48 hours.

In Antalya, I soon found the hotel. It was a complex the size of a small European city, apparently with rooms for about 5 000 people and an interior garden with a life-size replica of the Ziggurat of Ur as a water feature. That’s the giveaway – the water feature.

Barely was I through the inner doors, trying not to look at anyone suspiciously, than I was hailed: “Ah! Flagstaff! There you are!”

A gigantic Indian man wearing a turban resembling the Taj Mahal and a kurta pajama made of pure wasp silk barrelled over to me and shouted in my ear: “Now, listen up, Flagbeam, this is no ordinary wedding. They’ve booked the whole place, plus a security perimeter of 5km, overflow at the place next door – they’re throwing millions around, my dear fellow!”

There were people hurrying hither and yon, all about us, looks of determined concentration on their faces. I thought I recognised some from South Africa. Surely that’s the minister of incomprehensible fluctuations – can’t be! No, it is! And that person there in the Diana Ross wig …

Before I could get a real look around, though, the large Indian gentleman dragged me into a nearby nook, between a Corinthian pillar and a decorative hanging net filled with shiny fish of many colours.

“This Mr Gobble, something like that, is determined to give his son the best wedding ever. The last family wedding caused a bit of a scandal somewhere – hush, not a word. Now, we’re running late already, so you’d better get going, Fluffjoy.”

“Right,” I said, in a very convincing Received Pronunciation British accent. “What is it, exactly, that you want me to do?”

“Ah, to do!” he cried, stepping violently from the nook, scattering multicoloured fish in all directions. A hitherto invisible minion sprang forward with a large piece of paper. My investigative journalism training allowed me to see at once that it was covered with writing in many different languages and scripts.

I thought: “If only I could get hold of that document …”

But the gigantic man was shouting: “Move it, Flypool! First, you will marshall the train of 350 elephants!”

(To be continued)

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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