Jewelry designer Hanut Singh, meanwhile, objected to the changing mores of his native city on aesthetic grounds. The day I met him, he was wearing a zebra-print scarf and Adidas track pants, as well as a 17th- century Golconda diamond ring that Cartier had designed for his grandfather the Raj Kumar. Delhi, said Singh, had always been a chivalric place, where well brought-up young people treated their elders like idols and where calligraphers and dancers and speakers of classical languages enjoyed a superbly cultivated audience. “There’s a whole new world out there, a lot of people you haven’t seen before,” he said. “It can be a bit Paris Hilton–ish, if you know what I mean.”
Kalyani Saha is vice president of marketing and communications for Dior in India. She is one of the new set of prominently photographed Delhi women about whom local gossips can sometimes be heard sniping. On the night of Priya Paul’s party, a guard greeted me at the entrance to her estate. Filigreed white gates opened to reveal a sprawling farmhouse. In her living room Saha took a bottle of Moët from a bucket of ice and popped the cork. “Cheers, my dear!” she said. Saha, swathed in a cocoon of gray cashmere, had planned to go to Priya Paul’s party, but she was feeling run-down. “Why socialize if you’re killing yourself?” she asked. Born and raised in Calcutta, she survived a public and contentious divorce with a native son of Delhi, and said her status as a social single woman made her “a bit of a freak case” in town. Her salve is travel. “I joke that the only way to be in Delhi is to be out of it!” she said.
Back at Priya Paul’s party, it was midnight. Waiters set out a buffet: paneers, curries, biryanis with chicken and mutton. In Delhi endless rounds of drinks and conversation are the point of a party, not its prelude. The appearance of dinner often signals that it’s time to go home. Still, guests lingered, balancing champagne flutes and plates full of food. Ira Trivedi, the author, was standing near the door in a long-sleeve black lace minidress. “We’re going to another party,” she yelled to me. “Wanna come?” We jumped into an idling Porsche.
The after-party was on the grounds of a house in Friends Colony, a fancy, shaded neighborhood in South Delhi. A “youngsters party”—one in a series of events that lead up to an Indian wedding—it was supposed to be a relaxed affair for the twentysomething friends of the bride and groom. Outside a white stucco villa, liveried valets directed a throng of chauffeured cars. Inside, garlands of marigolds hung like chandeliers from trees lit by pastel spotlights and pendant globes. The customary late-night buffet was an endless highway of cheesesteaks, stir-fry, Cointreau tiramisu, and seven kinds of Indian bread baked to order in a tandoori oven. Couples smoked strawberry-flavored tobacco from hookahs strewn about on low tables. It was nearly 2 a.m., but the music—bhangra, hip hop, Bollywood tunes—was pumping. The DJ put on Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me.” A man in jeans and a blazer jumped astride his friend piggyback-style. Silhouetted against the pink glow of the bar, they looked like paper dolls.