So, you had the (in)famous case of Ayesha, a minor who had been married off to a 50-plus years old Sheikh. To put it bluntly, she was sold to the Arab to alleviate the impoverished state of Ayesha’s family. It was one of the numerous such incidents that were rife during the eighties and the nineties. And now you have the phenomenon taken a bit higher up the social ladder, as many educated families seek to get their wards married off to the dollar-rich NRIs.
The Arab connection has ceased to be as strong as it once was and the idle youth have been looking to get on to the next flight to the ‘Promised Land’ that is the United States of America, rather than to the sand dunes of Dubai. Then when they’ve earned their share of the bounty, they long for home. Coming back would be impractical, so they look to build a home away from home and for that home to be complete they need their other halves to be Indian, too. Not to worry, ‘cos the parents of the typical Indian lass are more than eager that their girl fills the void. The ‘more-than-eager’ bit suggests proper endeavours to get an NRI match and that’s a bit appalling.
Forget what the Hindi films tell you! There is neither time for, nor sense in living on stolen moments and kisses and material is practical. So, you’ll find your national newspapers’ matrimonials filled with lines like ‘only NRIs may revert’, ‘must be willing to send abroad’ and so on. The haste is obvious. Although most may take care of the prospective bride’s or groom’s credentials, some just look to get it over with. The result is that most of the alliances simple turn out to be matters of convenience.
However, there are some who, while conceding that such alliances are a touch opportunistic, still defend such actions. “Arranged marriages have mostly been between individuals who’ve hardly known each other and money matters become paramount, too. So what’s so different in parents looking for such matches for their children that will open new doors of opportunities for them,” counters Pallavi, a post-graduate student from the city. This view holds water if you believe in marriage the traditional way – a contract to be brokered for the young ones by their elders. Anyway, the issue here is risk involved in tagging your girl to any Ram, Shyam or Ghanshyam who’s been in the vicinity of the Silicon Valley.
A national weekly has recently exposed the concept of ‘holiday wives’ in the state of Punjab. NRIs on a vacation in their home land, find it worthwhile to dally with the local girls, even marry them, and then when it’s time to go they don’t ever look back. Prakash Rao runs a marriage bureau in Ameerpet and he candidly admits that the boy later on dumping the girl is not an infrequent occurrence. It’s ironic that something similar happened to his near relations.
Then there are cases wherein the Green Card is all the consideration required to seal the ‘deal’. On getting to the States, the grounds are cleared for a convenient divorce that leaves both parties satisfied. One is left to carry with his/her life, while the other is free to use his/her talents in the land of infinite opportunities. In describing the situation, I would like to use a dialogue from some soap opera: “yeh shaadi nahi samjhauta hai”.
Dial M For Marriage
So you wanna get married! Well, to begin with, write down what kind of a spouse you want – his/her religion, caste, family background, nationality, statehood, height, colour, body type (?!), educational qualifications, annual income, hobbies and any thing else you can think of. And it’s usually in that order. Next you can go the neighbourhood marriage bureau, which would be in the nearest apartments. You can also send it to the local daily and even put it on the World Wide Web for better and varied results. You may also drop in at the occasional marriage mela and bid for the perfect bride or groom, or see if someone will bid for you.
Hundreds of marriage bureaux and dozens of websites, not to mention every newspaper, are quite eager to get you the perfect mate. No more is marriage cherished as a formal seal on the love and understanding between two people. It’s, well... business.
Venkat Reddy runs ‘Sweet Home’, a matrimonial service that has its office on the hectic road leading to the Secunderabad railway station. The staircase leading to this first-floor office is so narrow as to straight away crush the aspirations of anyone weighing on the wrong side of seventy. The office itself is as stuffy as stuffy could be. Reddy talks about the ‘demand’ for an individual and how he is willing to reduce the registration fee for a pretty prospect. He charges anywhere between Rs. 750 - 1,000.
Then there are sites like Indianmarriages.com that offer services like the contact basket. It proudly affirms that it works ‘just like a shopping cart’. This service allows you to write a single letter to all your preferred choices. You can also get profiles matching your wish list mailed to your inbox. So go ahead and take your chances, the marriage market is wide open. Remember, though, it’s just business!
(This article is a part of the ‘Best of 9 years’ series, and is reproduced from the original which appeared in the April 2001 issue of Primetime Prism. All facts and figures are as on the original date of publication.)
Some Interesting facts
1. There are at least a dozen portals facilitating alliances for Indian brides and grooms.
2. Almost all these portals have a column marked for the desired profile of the spouse.
3. Most often one can see the following statements:
In case of brides wanting bridegrooms -
“Looking out for a person settled in US, UK or anywhere abroad.”
“Willing to send abroad.”
“Only software professionals working abroad may revert.”
“Wanted engineers, doctors, software professionals, MCA/MBA working in States.”
In case of bridegrooms wanting brides -
“Looking out for someone who can get married immediately.”
“Wanted bride who is interested to settle abroad.”
“Will be in India between 15th June and 14th July, immediate marriage, only those with passports may contact.”
These were some typical examples on the technological front. Now coming to the conventional methods, the twins cities alone plays host to atleast 75-100 so called marriage bureaus - most of these have a membership fee ranging anywhere between Rs.100 and Rs.1000 which is valid from 6 months to 1 year. All these bureaus, more or less give you the same data with photographs and what more you get to see segregated files consisting different bio-datas and photographs.
Each of these files is segmented most often into these categories:
1. PGDCA / MCA / Software Professional
4. Bsc/ BCom
Not to forget the most important category i.e.
7. USA/UK/ abroad
Few of these bureaus wanting to be a little different from the others are these days arranging for marriage melas - sounds interesting! These are exhibition cum sale of brides and bridegrooms wherein parents from both parties almost bid for their share.
Where are we heading to? The relationship called marriage, which once was given the top most priority in a life, is now a mere deal, a business proposition, an agreement or a compromise. More often than not, in our state, after the IT revolution, it has become a fancy for most girls and their parents too to get their off springs married to someone abroad, not realising their future and not sticking on to a more pragmatic approach.
Cover Feature: April 2001