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From the internationally bestselling author of The Windfall. . . . What could go wrong at a lavish Indian wedding with your best friend and your entire family?
“A witty and romantic novel perfect for all readers.”—Terry McMillan, author of It’s Not All Downhill From Here
When Tina Das finds herself at a crossroads both professionally and personally, she wonders if a weeklong trip to Delhi for her cousin’s lavish wedding might be just the right kind of escape. Maybe a little time away from New York will help get her mind straight about her stalled career, her recent breakup, and her nagging suspicion that she’ll never feel as at home in America as she does in India. Tina hopes this destination wedding, taking place at Delhi’s poshest country club, Colebrookes, will be the perfect way to reflect and unwind.
But with the entire Das family in attendance, a relaxing vacation is decidedly not in the cards. Her amicably divorced parents are each using the occasion to explore new love interests—for her mother, a white American boyfriend, for her father, an Indian widow arranged by an online matchmaker—and Tina’s squarely in the middle. A former fling is unexpectedly on the guest list, a work opportunity is blurring the lines of propriety on several fronts, and her best friend Marianne’s terrible penchant for international playboys is poised to cause all sorts of chaos back home. The accommodations are swanky, the alcohol is top-shelf, but this family wedding may be more drama than Tina can bear and could finally force her to make the choices she’s spent much of her life avoiding.
Infused with warmth and charm, Destination Wedding grapples with the nuances of family, careers, belonging, and how we find the people who make a place feel like home.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Destination Wedding
Sunday Night, 11 p.m.
JFK Airport: Their Flight Is Delayed Due to Technical Reasons and Everyone Is Secretly Wishing Airlines Didn’t Announce That and Make All the Passengers Nervous
“I cannot believe my mother is here with her boyfriend and I’m here alone,” Tina Das said to her best friend, Marianne Laing, in the British Airways business-class lounge at JFK. Tina, in the hope that she would be able to sleep through the first leg of the flight to Heathrow, had rimless glasses on instead of her usual contacts. She never needed much makeup thanks to her thick eyebrows, which had been a liability when she was younger but were very fashionable now and gave her face all the drama it needed. She was wearing black North Face sweatpants that cinched at the ankle, a gray, long-sleeved T-shirt, and black-and-white Adidas sneakers. It was hot in the lounge so her Guess fur vest was hanging off the chair behind her.
A bowl full of nuts was on the table in between them. Tina picked up a handful while staring out of the window and tossed them all into her mouth and started chewing before she realized she had eaten several whole pistachios, with shells. The hard, cracked pieces pierced her mouth and she spat them out. A grumpy old man appeared out of nowhere with a broom and shook his head at her as he swept up the pistachio shells.
“I didn’t know they had shells,” Tina said apologetically.
The man said nothing but kept looking at her as he swept, his broom knocking her foot aside.
“It isn’t my fault,” Tina said to him again but he didn’t respond.
The man walked away and Tina turned to Marianne and said, “At the price of these tickets, the nuts really shouldn’t have shells.”
Marianne was applying lip balm and laughing. She was so good at putting on makeup that it was hard to say whether or not she had any on, but the smattering of brown freckles across her nose was visible and, despite the fact that it was November, still had a velvety brownness they usually acquired over the summer because she had recently been to San Francisco for Tom’s college roommate’s wedding. Marianne was wearing similar sweatpants and a plain black long-sleeved T-shirt, and a red shawl was draped over the back of her chair.
“We’re like world-weary businesswomen who travel internationally twice a month and are just so over it,” Marianne said. “I feel like I should be impatiently clacking away on a laptop but I have no work to do this week and I bet Tom’s fast asleep.”
Marianne looked down at her phone and the itinerary that had been sent by the wedding planner.
“It feels like we’re going to have a lot of free time,” Marianne said. “There aren’t that many events listed here. I thought Indian weddings had days and days of events.”
“I think these days most people just pick and choose what parts they want to do. Shefali wanted to walk down the aisle in a white dress but my aunt put her foot down and said she could pick and choose what she wanted but she couldn’t change religions,” Tina said. “We’ll have time to explore the city, though.”
Marianne nodded as she cracked open a pistachio and ate it and played with the shells in one hand.
Their flight was two hours late so they were on glass number three of champagne and plate number two of mini sandwiches. Even on Tina’s decent income, these business-class tickets were prohibitively expensive. She had managed to book an economy flight using her own money and then used her miles to upgrade herself. Tina was the vice president of development for Pixl, a streaming network for which she sought video content, a term she hated but a job that paid her enough to live alone in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her work was frustrating—ideas forever on the brink of becoming television shows but nothing concrete yet, nothing complete, nothing finished. Her enthusiasm for projects always waned as more people got involved and ideas gradually got altered and then shut down altogether.
At Pixl, Tina was in charge of finding content from India so she had been back a few times over the past five years. But it was always to either Delhi or Bombay, where she stayed at a Taj Hotel, took a car and driver everywhere, and partied with producers from all over in rooftop bars and seaside clubs that could have been anywhere in the world. And then she returned to New York City without having seen much of actual India.
Tina Das was conceived in India but born, nine months later, in Columbus, Ohio. Three months later, like her father, she held a coveted American passport. Her mother stubbornly held on to her Indian passport and Green Card. For the first eight years of her life, her parents took her to India every summer and they stayed with her aunt and uncle, the parents of Shefali, the bride, in New Delhi. In the eighth summer, her father got malaria and spent two weeks in Holy Family Hospital and decided, on the flight back, that he didn’t want to return to India next year.
“Let’s go to London next summer instead,” Tina remembered him saying on the flight back that year. He had lost weight and his belt was looped tightly around, his pants bunching at the waist. Back in Ohio, he bought new pants, without pleats, Tina had noticed, and the following summer they went to London, then they went to Ubud, then Stockholm, then Buenos Aires, then Tokyo, and even Colombo the year before Tina left for Yale, but never back to India. Her mother went once when her mother died in Calcutta, but that was all before the divorce.
Last year, Tina had come tantalizingly close to green lighting a reality show that would have featured the best musical talent from around Asia and put them together with a Bollywood music producer to create a band. She had found a K-pop singer from Seoul, a dancer from Ho Chi Minh City, two beatboxing brothers from Sri Lanka, a drummer from Dharavi, the Bombay slum, and a female spoken-word artist from Lahore, but the project fizzled, and Tina had gone home frustrated and depressed and worried about her career. She was still upset that it hadn’t moved forward and now all except Sid, the drummer, were committed to other projects. The K-pop singer had joined a reality television show in Singapore as a judge, the two beatboxing brothers had moved to Berlin, the spoken word artist was seven months pregnant and focusing on fashion design, and the dancer from Vietnam was performing with a cruise line in Halong Bay.
Tina felt bad about having let Sid down. Sid, with his easy confidence and priceless bright smile. Sid, who was tall and slim and had a rough beard and laughed easily during the audition and wore his pants baggy and who, back in New York, Tina thought about often—what his life was like in India, who his friends were, who his family was. He was immensely attractive—his confidence, his swagger, his inaccessibility—and he often crossed her mind. After his audition, he had lifted his shirt to wipe the sweat off his face and revealed a perfect set of abs and dark hair trailing into his boxers. Tina had shaken her head, laughed, and called a lunch break.
He had stayed in touch with her and checked in often to see if the show might get back on track and she never had any good news to give him. He had started working part-time as a personal trainer to make money while working on his music. But Tina knew that personal training was just enough money to survive, whereas the show would have allowed him to move his mother out of their slum and into a concrete apartment, and she felt awful that she had let him down. Honestly, he’d said “slum,” but she wasn’t quite sure what he’d meant. Was it one room in a slum? Was a slum by definition a room? A shack? She had marveled at the sheer size of the blue-tarp-covered expanses of Dharavi she had flown over while landing in Bombay, but she couldn’t actually visualize the homes within it. She didn’t know how to ask and she didn’t want to show up at his doorstep with a camera, even though that would obviously make for good television. Maybe this was why she was struggling to get her projects off the ground—reality television often felt too invasive for her.
When she told Sid she was going to be in Delhi for a week, he had immediately said he would come from Bombay to see her “just to touch base.” Tina was dreading seeing him on this trip, dreading looking into his handsome, eager eyes and telling him that there was still no show and no other talent. It was easy to feed Sid fake hope over email but she knew she would have to tell him the truth this week. She would put him in touch with everyone she knew in Bombay in case they wanted to hire a personal trainer, she decided; it was the least she could do for him.
Since she was meeting Sid, Tina could have tried to expense this trip as well but her boss, Rachel Sanders, knew the bride and knew Tina would not be doing any work. But maybe it was time to talk to Rachel about booking her business class for all her future work trips. Sheryl Sandberg said she should lean in, after all. Not that Tina had read the book but really the title told her everything she needed to know. Was Sheryl Sandberg still an appropriate role model or was that over now, Tina wondered. It was hard to keep up sometimes.