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.
Interspersed 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.”
There 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:
ALLIANCE WANTED FOR UNMARRIED BRAHMIN BOY
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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“.