A female friend of mine in her mid-thirties once told me that she felt that the Western scheme for finding mates had failed her; she thought that she would have much preferred that her parents had arranged a partner for her instead. And, I believe, some statistics have shown that arranged marriages are just as likely to last as “love marriages.” In India, of course, arranged marriages are still extremely common, but, India being a modern country at least in some respects, arranged marriages are not so much about matching up infants among family friends, but about using modern tools, including mass media, to find an ideal spouse.
The Times of India, India’s premier English language daily, regularly runs matrimonial ads. How are they different from, say, personals ads in the United States? First, they are placed from the perspective of the parents rather than the individual, since it is the parents who have the ultimate responsibility for arranging a young person’s marriage. Second, and more importantly, since the ads are focused on finding the right marriage partner, rather than a romantic date, they dwell more on material compatibility than points of physical or emotional love. In fact, one might even say that they are horribly shallow and materialistic–but perhaps those are the kinds of factors that make marriages work (in India and elsewhere).
In this post, some typical and slightly funny (more so to the non-Indian?) matrimonial ads from one edition of the Sunday Times of India.
GIRL v.b’ful smart 28/5’2″ conv MBA CFA wkg MNC Bombay 13 Lack Anum Parents Doctor reputed f’mly. Cont: 09935134932 firstname.lastname@example.org
MNC means multinational corporation, and a Lack (usually spelled lakh) means 100,000 (meaning that the woman makes 1.3 million rupees, or about USD 26,000). I’ve heard that men in the U.S. sometimes include their salaries in online personals profiles, but it’s fairly common for both men and women in India. This may seem rather materialistic, but in a country where class divisions are so great, perhaps a coupling bridging a large income disparity would be unlikely to be successful, in terms of lifestyle compatibility. This ad appeared under “Vaish,” an Indian caste designation. The headings for Indian matrimonial ads are highly specialized, and range from geographic region and caste and religion to some odd categories indeed, such as “Doctors” and “Business.”
Suitable match Punjabi, Hindu or clean shaven Sikh of high status family background, for 1984 born Sikh girl, Class 1 Officer, posted at Mumbai. Father Senior Class 1 officer in Railways. Central Govt./PSU well settled at Mumbai, age 26-29 years will be preferred. Contact: email@example.com
This ad appeared under “Punjabi,” and indeed the familiy is open to varying religious backgrounds from that region (as long as not a hairy Sikh).
NRI North Indian father is looking for professionally qualified boys settled/willing to settle in USA for fair, beautiful girls. Elder 24, 5’1″ completing post graduation in 2011 in Pharmacy. Younger 22, 5’3″ working in Biotech firm at L.A. Father in India till March 3. Caste no bar. Response invited with Biodata & photo: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was under the NRI/Green Card category. NRI means “non-resident Indian,” or an overseas Indian. The NRI/Green Card category is used not only to find partners from India for children overseas (i.e., a green card opportunity for the suitor and perhaps a way to get a step up in marriage partner for the advert placer), but also for NRIs to find other NRIs, such that parents will post an ad, in the Times of India, looking for Indian boys living in Michigan for their daughter based in Michigan. Three more things of note in this ad. First, the efficiency in posting an ad for two girls at once. An Indian-American friend we know, who grew up in New York State, traveled to India on a trip that was partially intended for finding a husband for her older sister, when suddenly the tables were turned on her and it was suggested that she too try to find a mate in India (which started with a trip to the fortune teller). The father here is in India on a temporary basis, and wants to kill two birds with one stone. Second, the reference to (“fair”) skin color. Finally, the “caste no bar” line. The Times of India actually provides a 25% discount for “caste/religion no bar” or “no dowry” ads, in the spirit of social progress.
South Delhi based Very Affluent Socially Very Well Connected and Sophisticated Punjabi Family of High Repute involved into Exports Business Seeks Suitable Alliance for their Very Handsome Dynamic and Sober Son 33/5’10″/Schooling from MODERN/Done B.E. from U.S./Engaged into the Flourishing Family Business. We are Looking for a Smart, Tall, Convent Educated Extremely Beautiful Family Oriented Girl hailing from a Cultured Respectable Broadminded Similar Status Family. Caste no bar. Respond with Bio-Data and Recent Photogaphs at email@example.com
This was under “Business,” which I assume to mean that the marriage is intended as much as a family business alliance as a domestic partnership. The level of socioeconomic puffery in this ad is fairly astonishing, and would certainly be a huge turn-off or no-no in most other countries. It kind of makes you wonder why they need to place a newspaper ad, if they are so very well connected. None of the ads that I selected listed a street address, but we have also been told that people seeking marriage partners will sometimes stay at and use the home of a relative or friend instead of their own in order to have a more prestigious address for the search.
In reading the matrimonial ads, we were puzzled by the relatively frequent appearance of the word “manglik.” Ads would say that a girl or boy was “manglik” or “slightly manglik,” as if it were some sort of disclaimer, while some ads would seek out “manglik” spouses. Before doing a bit of research we thought that it might refer to being overweight or dark-skinned (often an undesired trait), but learned that it was actually an astrological condition related to a person’s birth. People born manglik, it is said, are likely to have disastrous (perhaps even fatal) marriages, unless there are certain mitigating factors or they marry another manglik person. Manglik-ness is a big enough factor for some that “manglik” even has its own category heading.