Tag Archives: matrimonial ads

Matrimonial Marvels: Part Two

I investigate more matrimonial mysteries like fasting and cleanliness, divorce and detectives, north and south, the minute of birth and the height of Mars.

After getting over the codes of caste and colour and class (see my first matrimonials post here), I was drawn into higher mysteries of the ads in my New Delhi Hindustan Times.  Heights are supplied in feet and inches (The Hindu daily in Bangalore used metric) but the critical stat for many ads is your birth, both date and time, to the minute.  These ads mostly end with “send BHP”: biodata, horoscope, photo.  The moment of birth is critical for astronomical calculations of compatibility, most of all, I discovered, if you are born as a Manglik.  These are individuals who chanced to emerge into the world when the fiery planet of Mars was in certain ascendant positions.  Mars was the Roman god of war and has similar pugnacious tendencies in Hindu thought.  So Mangliks are marked by tension and disharmony in relationships, making them a poor prospect for marriage.

Five columns were dedicated to Mangliks and numerous entries specified M or NM – Manglik or not.  The curse may be reduced by certain religious sacrifices, mantras, gemstones and charities, or annulled in two ingenious ways.  You can hold a ceremony to first marry a gold idol of Vishnu, or a banana or peepal tree – I’ve seen many trees with withered flower garlands hanging from their branches, as if around a spouse’s neck.  Or a Manglik can marry another Manglik so the bad effects cancel out.

matrimonials-advertsInterspersed with the individual matrimonials are ads for jewellers, sari suppliers, wedding cards and marriage banquet halls.  There are matrimonial services dedicated to Sikhs, Jains and certain castes, and exclusive matchmaking for “Distinguished/Top Shot Industrialists”, or “only for elite/high status proposals”.  And of course there are astrologers: it’s been said that an Indian without a horoscope is like an American without a credit card.  If astrology isn’t enough, for a triple barrelled prediction contact “India’s Famous Astro-Numero-Palmist Sri GKD Divyadasan”.

“Call us now” shout the star-gazers’ ads to know “auspicious time to fix your marriage”, check “compatibility levels with your prospective partners”, or find “astrological remedies for avoiding delay in marriage”.  A sidebar of horoscopes has the usual vague predictions for each star sign, as well as Hindu specifics.  To bring auspicious marital results, Pisces should fast on Monday, Leo on Tuesday, Aries on Thursday; for a long lasting relationship Gemini should worship the god Ganesh, Libra the goddess Parvati, and Taurus the goddess Durga.

Perhaps the saddest entries specify “I’less Div. mrg. non-consummated”.  Divorcees with offspring are pretty much doomed to a life alone, although if “issueless” they may stand a chance and there are matchmaking websites just for the divorced.  I’m bemused by the number of “unconsummated” divorces – women who’d fled an arranged child marriage?  In this society, such women have few options and their ads may simply say “seek any suitable boy” – they can’t be picky about caste or class.  “Earlier Marriage Broke on Day One As Boy Secretly Married.  Legally DIV.  Caste Region No Bar.”

the-hindu-matrimonialThere were only three pages of matrimonials in The Hindu, Bangalore edition, Sunday May 20, 2012.  There seem to be fewer horoscopes than in Delhi ads but the same income consciousness: “earning good sumptuous amount every month”.  I found signs of Bangalore’s international IT status, one candidate a “MBA working in IBM Bangalore”, and several “Alliance invited for US settled GC holder”, who may be visiting India next month to meet girls who are willing to emigrate to America.

South Indians are darker skinned so there are more ads with “wheatish” complexions.  Several Sunni Muslim girls want a “groom with clean habits”.  There are also more Christians down here.  A few ads requested a “god fearing” partner, and my New Delhi paper had nothing resembling this:

BORNAGAIN BAPTISED non Pentecostal SC 30/150 fair slim doing Ph.D. in Agriculture with SRF fellowship, seeks suitable non-Pentecostal believer groom.

One Delhi ad was placed by a family “having perfect blend of modern and traditional values”.  Even for Bangalorean expat professionals, who you’d think would major on the modern, the old ways still hold strong (including lack of proof reading), although some now downplay the dowry, as in this ailing lad’s proposal:

Looking for unmarried Brahmin (Iyer/Iyengar/others) bride, for a well-settled Unmarried Groom, PhD, aged 30 years, owner of multinational company and financially well-to-do family settled in Los Angeles, California USA.
Boy born in India and brought up in Indian tradition, fair and has clean habits (Non-smoker and non-smoker), pure vegetarian.  Boy is handsome, Ails from respectable and affluent business family.
Expectations from Girl: can speak Tamil, Fair, Good looking, height 4’12’’ to 5’3’’, non-drinker, non-smoker, vegetarian, homely girl, cultured family background, age group 22 to 27 years, not to work after marriage.  Girl should be willing to relocate to USA.
No financial expectations from the boy side.
Email mysonmarriage@…

Many Indians now find their partners online or in such classified ads.  Prospective families are often unknown, unlike in the past when marriages were arranged through extended family or village connections.  As a result, the pre-matrimonial detective business in India is booming to verify the rosy claims of glossy matrimonials.  Office investigators verify bank accounts, property ownership, and university degrees, while chatty detectives in disguise gossip with neighbours and servants.  They hope to uncover any undeclared relationships, and assess the character of the potential mother-in-law, who will likely dominate the young bride’s life as it’s still common to live with your husband’s family.

It may be that among my readers is a slim, fair, beautiful, professionally qualified and pleasantly homely lady, holding perhaps a Ph.D. in literature or art history or another of the humanities, speaking several languages, gifted at painting or music, earning, shall we say, at least $100,000 PA, of Judaeo-Christian persuasion though preferably non-Pentecostal, with a character like Christ and Gandhi and Mother Teresa in one, birthdate and horoscope and caste no bar – I’m not a fussy bloke – and even height not overly important, as long as able to carry a pack and tramp at about my pace.  If that’s you, dear fair reader, please feel completely free to contact me at highhopes@hotmale.com.  Don’t worry if you subsequently encounter inquisitive strangers – they will merely be my private eyes verifying the above stipulations.  And, I almost forgot, I want a clean-shaven lass: no girls with whiskers need apply.

For more edutainment, see articles from Indian papers “The madness in matrimonials“, “Netrimony: The new mating game“, or the BBC’s “Netrimony: how to find love online“.  Sleuth out “Wedding Detectives In India: Investigating Future Mothers-In-Law“ or “India’s wedding detectives enjoy booming trade“.


Wedding Socks and Matrimonial Codes

I attend an Indian wedding and account for a marrying vendor of socks; I crack the code of matrimonial ads to reveal the eligibility of Ph.D.’s, pigments, and beards.

Weddings are big in India.  I’ve heard several processions with banging crackers, pounding drums, tubas and trumpets and loud raucous horns.  I’ve stumbled across two in the street.  Retainers carried lanterns that lit up the night and sparkled off saris and suits.  Just along the lane is a wedding hall where I’ve seen workers hanging chains of fairy lights on trees and lining the entrance steps with pot plants – I’d sometimes hear the wind and percussion players at night.  During the first week of the English course in Bangalore, I actually attended my first Indian wedding, for the daughter of a friend who lectures here.

delhi-wedding-processionRavi’s daughter’s do was less flamboyant than those I had glimpsed, in a Methodist church decorated with flowers and yellow ribbons in a fairly Western style.  At the end the bells rang ten times, rings were exchanged, and the groom placed a floral wreath around his bride’s neck.  It drew her white veil in like a Muslim headscarf – I thought the mixing of East and West in this case seemed a little inelegant.  At the outdoor reception in the cool of evening, church songs played softly, lights lined tree trunks and cascaded from branches.  Red-white striped curtains muffled Bangalore’s traffic and you almost forgot it was India.  Speeches were short and plates piled high.  We had to eat in shifts as there were 1000 guests.

That’s not excessive.  One day a man at the wedding hall down the road told me they were celebrating his cousin’s marriage and expected 2000-2500 guests.  Not for nothing is it said, “a wedding costs one thousand harvests”; guests expect to leave stuffed with food.  Marrying off your daughters can be crippling.  Rural girls are still burnt to death in “kitchen fires” because in-laws find their dowry inadequate.

Last Friday night on Bangalore’s Brigade Road – lined with McDonalds, KFC, Nokia and Levi’s – I met Abdul, who illustrated the nuptial challenge.  He was a middle-class looking bloke with neatly trimmed hair, tidy jeans and sneakers, and a bulky backpack.  His father’s death had left him responsible for his two sisters.  He was still paying off one sister’s wedding; the second was in eight months.  He needed cash.

By day Abdul is an event manager; from 8pm till midnight, every night, he sells socks on the street.  He charges 100 Rs for a packet of three pairs, making 30 Rs profit and about 15,000 Rs per month – his day job nets 20,000 Rs.  By my calculation, that’s about 17 packets per night.  Sometimes, he said, his backpack empties in an hour.  That day was slow and at 10pm he’d only sold eight packets.

As we talked, I gave a few coins to a barefoot kid pointing to swellings on his neck and ankles, after Abdul assured me he really was poor and police don’t allow begging gangs (see my change of heart about giving to beggars here).  Around the corner, Abdul’s friends in white Muslim gowns were laboriously slipping hundreds of sunglasses from a display rack into individual covers.  They said around 8 pairs get scratched every day, slashing their income.

It’s a hard life and saving up for the wedding is not the only challenge to getting hitched.  I have before me the matrimonial section of the Hindustan Times, New Delhi edition, Sunday April 1, 2012.  Each page has 10 columns of small print proposals: five sides for “Grooms Wanted”, then three sides for brides.  It’s a rich source of social data and I perused the entries for several hours one evening.matrimonials

The first hurdle is to crack the code: “PQ SM 4NM 3-2-1983, 10.23PM / 5’5” Gori”.  After comparing adverts with varying degrees of abbreviation, guessing and googling around, I’ve deciphered much but not all of the entries.  Many read like a chemical formula.  The author of “SM 4 Pb Sr Br NM B’ful Girl” is seeking a match for (SM4) a beautiful girl, who, for a chemistry grad like myself, is clearly marked by lead, strontium and bromine.  I’m unclear why these particular elements should be so alluring.  I’d have gone for Ag, Au, or perhaps Pt (for non-chemists: silver, gold, or platinum).

Matrimonial ads are surging in popularity, and in 2006 the organised marriage industry in India made US $180 million.  India has over 100 matchmaking websites and I read that a few years ago the top two alone had 20 million users.  www.shaadi.com (in Feb 2015 it claimed to be “trusted by over 30 million for Matrimony” and it has arranged over 1.3 million marriages) and www.bharatmatrimony.com both franchise off-line centres, often staffed by older women who resemble traditional matchmakers, reassuring prospective parents who feel less comfortable than their offspring online.

In a country still divided by caste (see my post here), I’m encouraged to learn that the younger generation is starting not to care.  A few years ago one survey found that 64% of Delhi men thought inter-caste marriage was okay, though only 24% did from Chennai in the south.  I was pleased to see ads that say “caste no bar”, though unsure how enlightened “upper caste no bar” is supposed to be.  Entries grouped by region fill many columns in my paper, but there are still sections for specific castes.  The longest is for Brahmin, the uppermost caste who are traditionally priests and have the most exclusive purity regulations.  Some wanted a specific sub caste like “gaur Brahmins only”.  The four major castes have thousands of subdivisions and even untouchables often despise lower ranking outcastes.

life-partnershipsMy overwhelming impression from the paper is that, even if caste consciousness is thankfully decreasing, it is being replaced by class snobbery based on physical appearance, professional status, and wealth.  Many entries seek a PQM or professionally qualified match, often working in a MNC (multinational company), although some blokes prefer a “homely” girl (a euphemism for barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?)  Many specify their own salary in LPA or lakhs per annum (1 lakh =100,000) or modestly demand a match with “salary in six figures pa”, if not seven.  Entries read like mini CVs, listing qualifications for “convented” girls who attended good Catholic schools, to MBA, MPhil. and studied in England, or “completing Ph.D. Ivy League University”.

There are sections for Doctor, Engineer, MBA/Professional, and parental professions are also flaunted: daughter of bank manager, colonel or business mogul.  Candidates are frequently “hailing from a respectable high status family” and seek a “decent marriage” with a “stld” or settled family.  Sikhs seem to pull out the most stops, purchasing the pricey ads with bigger print, standout shading and floral borders.  The following filled half the column height:

South Delhi based renowned, sophisticated, sikh family having various multifaceted business interests seeks alliance for their very pretty and enterprising only daughter… We wish to hear from an educated very smart and enterprising boy from a similar status business/industrialist/highly placed professional open minded family with refined taste in life.

A 2009 Nielsen survey of 1000 Indians found that 70% of women are more likely to marry a clean-shaven man.  For a bearded bloke, Sikh adverts had a further delightful twist.  Conservative Sikhs wear turbans and trim neither hair nor whiskers, unlike some of more liberal persuasion.  The divide is evidently of matrimonial moment.  One prospective groom comes “from Non-Trimming Non-Drinking family”.  One girl’s family “seeks turbaned Sikh boy”, while another “seeks shaven Sikh”.  And I loved this modest special:

An Affluent Sophisticated Cultured clean shaven Sikh business family living in a posh area of S. Delhi seeks alliance for their slim, fair, beautiful, highly qualified and homely daughter.

Girls in their late 20s, shockingly late to be single, mostly “look much younger”, and many girls have a “wheatish” complexion, which I understand means midway in shade between despised dark and desirable fair (see details at www.wheatishcomplexion.com).  A few ads mentioned the pigmentation disorder of leucoderma which I’ve seen and brings social stigma: “smart girl having white spots” or “has 2% white patches”.

On one page of my matrimonials is a Hindu advert with two swastikas.  It was a religious symbol from millennia before Hitler, but Mein Kampf was prominently displayed at the airport bookshop (and is applauded by some Hindu fundamentalists). Caste racism extends to skin colour here and whitening products are widely advertised: Aryans reign supreme.  Bollywood stars are generally pale-skinned and some endorse whitening treatments; feminist and social rights groups have accused them of racism and demoralising women by promoting lighter skin as superior and dark as despicable.  There are more recent male treatments like Fair and Handsome, but the most prominent is for women.  Its website www.fairandlovely.in says:

Fair & Lovely was launched in 1975 and Indian women finally found hope in a tube. In a very short time, Fair & Lovely would become women’s accomplice that would provide her with the natural fairness that she always longed for.

fair-and-lovely-whitening-creamTypical advertising videos (watch some here) show a girl with a dark face who once slouched around in depression, unwanted by boys and bosses alike.  Then Fair & Lovely “gave her the confidence to achieve her dreams” by bleaching her face.  Now she dances in ecstasy with white streamers, trailing handsome men and earning mega-rupees.  In other ads, a prospective dusky-skinned bride had feared rejection because the boy’s family wanted a fair bride, or the horoscope wasn’t quite right.  Then the magic of Fair & Lovely “changed the stars of her destiny” and gave her nuptial bliss.

See articles “India’s hue and cry over paler skin”, “Criticism in India over skin-whitening trend” and “The Color Complex: Is the Fixation Really Fair?”.