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Saturday, November 27, 2010

American Life 7

The Media Wedding

N 42° 19.241 W 071° 03.438.

Those are the GPS co-ordinates of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Church in Boston’s historic Dorchester district, a working class neighborhood which the locals call “Dot.” Thing about Dot is that is this is the district where Boston Police have paid special attention with a view to combating crime. Among other initiatives, they have implemented a project called CAT, combating auto theft. Dot is not exactly on the tourist map but the church is lovely, well worth a visit. It has the first sculpture I’ve ever seen of Mother Theresa.

We were at the church on November 6 to celebrate the wedding of my favorite guy, my nephew Nikhil, a member of the Pereira family into which I married many years ago. The reason why the ceremony was held there, I think, is because Mother Theresa visited the Pereira home in Ahmedabad, India in 1983, when I was a mere child of a few…never mind! Just let’s say I was younger then than the groom, in his wedding regalia in 2010.

At that hallowed venue, Nikhil pledged his troth to Jillian, whose Sherlock family is like the Pereiras, large and fun loving. Slightly hung over from the party the previous evening, we filed into the church and took our appointed places. As the ceremony proceeded, I couldn’t help but marvel at the idea of a Goan-Irish wedding. Nikhil is Goan and Jillian comes from strong Irish stock. And it clicked as it did naturally; Goa stands in the same relationship to India as Ireland does to mainland Britain: similar culture, different lifestyles.

India usurped Goa from the Portuguese in 1961 without much fuss; Britain could only hold the northern part of Ireland and still faces problems. But the Sherlocks are from the Jersey shore; they’re as American as apple pie. Our family, which includes my wife, the sister of Nikhil’s dad, and our daughters, well-known fun lovers, certainly understands how to melt into the American pot. We lived in Chicago, where the Irish have held sway for decades; we even dye our river green, drink green beer and march in an embarassing parade on St Paddy’s Day.

So there we were at the church, absorbed in the solemn ceremony that affirmed the Nik and Jill union. There was no choir but a priest, who sang in the voice divine. (Didn’t get your name, reverend, but if you ever give up your day job, you could be on the opera circuit.) It was all too beautiful, as the anthem to getting high sang in the sixties. Mind you, nobody, as far I could tell, had done spliffs; but then what do I know!

Not to digress …so the ceremony came to an end and I walked out the church door, there to be confronted by a battery of television crews, still photographers, reporters, cops and a general array of bystanders.

“Huh!” I said to myself. “I never notified the media. But how cool is this!” For the record, I run a public relations business and write columns for newspapers and magazines and Res Gestae, my blog, from whence this comes to you.

Anyway, so there I was, confronted by all the television cameras and what have you. My first instinct, honed from years in the media business, was to go up to them and say, “At this time, we have no comment.”

Actually, I didn’t say that because I had no idea what was going on until someone told me that a crazed psycho, brandishing a gun, had hijacked the bridesmaids’ limo. (So much for the Boston Police’s anti-auto theft program CAT.) For all my training as a journalist and my standing as veteran public relations professional, all I could say was: “Say what? Really, really, really?” So much for smooth articulation!

Crisis communications is for what I charge clients substantial sums of money; I train them to respond with gravitas and assuredness. And “Say what? Really, really, really?” is not among the responses I recommend. Also not “Jeez!” Or “What the **ck!” (That’s “heck.” Don’t want this piece to be “Banned in Boston.”)

The wedding made all the channels on the evening news and featured in all the major newspapers in Boston the next day; it even made the Daily Mail in London and, I’m told, the Guatemala media. I googled it to see if my smooth and suave response was quoted; mercifully the media had not picked up on my insightful comments.


Copyright Rajiv Desai 2010