Benhur Samson is a business entrepreneur, who started a surrogacy company that supported all couples; the company being LGBT friendly. He tells Prerna Shah in this interview the motivation behind his business and what he has learnt about arranged marriages in the process.
From providing surrogacy services for same sex couples to a marriage agency that brings them together. How did that happen and did you face any prejudices or criticism?
I was inspired by an Oprah Winfrey episode in which they were talking about international surrogacy options and featured the ones in India. That gave me an idea and direction – why shouldn’t I provide that service to same sex couples as well? I knew of so many such couples who wanted to start a family.
Of course, my family was aghast. I come from a strong, Christian upbringing and they felt I was interfering with God’s business. I was convinced I was doing something fabulous. Twenty or thirty happy babies born to loving parents were the best PR I could have asked for. They were the reason why my critics had a change of heart!
With this company, I met a lot of same sex couples. And when they came to India, they would stay there for month or more till the adoption process was complete. They wanted places to hang out and there were few places where they could meet like-minded couples.
That set me thinking. And then, when President Obama brought in the marriage equality law, I thought the time was perfect to introduce the world to something very unique and very Indian.
And that is a marriage bureau?
Actually, it’s the arranged marriage but the modern version of it. We are known across the globe for our concept of arranged marriages. We knew that a lot of men and women were keen to find their same sex partners from India. A lot of them believed and for good reason, that Indians were educated, hardworking, and family oriented. It was like introducing them to superstars!
Our clientele has about 70 percent Caucasians and 20 per cent NRIs and the rest are the resident Indians.
So what happens when someone registers at your bureau?
With each person, we try to meet their families, understand what they want out of their life partner. Two similar people asking for similar things is a match!
We do provide custom made solutions to finding love. Have you seen The Millionaire Matchmaker? We are a bit like that, but we don’t do mixers, we do one on one, and we make sure we have got our research right.
And people find love?
Yes, they do. This is the millennial generation. They are uninhibited about what they want and how they want it. You have apps for dating, and then you have apps that tell you which out of those hundred odd apps is better for you!
This bubble – this world that doesn’t legitimise or fully accept same sex couples is going to burst. It is said that about 10 per cent of India’s population identifies itself with the LGBT spectrum. Now, isn’t that a massive number of people? And this is just one country.
So are the challenges any different when it comes to relationships within the LGBT community?
I think relationships are the same across the world. I sometimes find it incredible that I am even pitching my business on the same sex card. All of them have the same concerns, the same needs. Sometimes, they ask me – do you think our marriage will be divorce proof? And I tell them, no marriage is. I have been to so many family dinners with my clients, who are now married or dating or having babies. Can’t tell you a single difference between those families and the heterosexual ones!
The only thing that may stand out in some cases is, when a person approaches us and says, I am married or about to get married but I am gay. In that case, we connect them to a doctor and a counsellor and them tell, this is who you should consult.
Is it very difficult for Indians to find potential same sex partners because of the laws here?
See, love always finds a way. Also, like I said, we have a lot of same sex couples here – from the business fraternity, expats, the army, just about everywhere.
Some of them find partners overseas and follow them to start a new life there because the law is on their side. Indians are very sought after as life partners. Those who live in India and find their match locally also pursue their relationships. It’s just that they don’t have the legal framework supporting them.
But the time is ripe for a change and sooner or later, same sex couples will find the laws to turn in their favour in India as well.
(You can find out about this unique marriage bureau here: http://www.arrangedgaymarriage.com/)