The great Indian Marriage, as we all know it, through popular media is one grand affair. In a country obsessed with matrimony and tradition and yet experimenting with matrimonial websites and dating apps, this becomes an eclectic mix of seeking life partners who conform to “family expectations” and somehow, like expert gymnasts, do the personal aspirations somersault as and when expected.
Matrimonial ads are not an idea unique to India. Printed matrimonial adverts in newspapers were initiated in the late 1600s in England. H.G. Cocks in his famous book Classified: The Secret History of the Personal Column suggests that the earliest advertisements were personal in nature where people (read aristocracy) looked for suitable for companionship or they were from women who offered “special services” to clients.
In India traditionally, there was the famous “Swayamvar” practice for the ruling class where a tough challenge was put forth to royal men and the one completing it “won” the princess. For commoners it was match-making by service people like barbers, potters who suggested ‘suitable’ matches to respective families as per socio-economic status.
Now with the popularity of newspapers and their wide reach, matrimonial ads have became a mainstay of their revenue on weekends. Classified ads make fortunes for newspapers and magazines and also seem to provide options for transformation of the fortunes of their “singles looking to mingle” readers. The multi-page segment titled MATRIMONIALS seems like a sea of eligible bride and grooms carefully “categorised” according to “caste” and “religion”.
These then get further segregated into minor segments like sub-castes, remarriage, profession, language and very typical Indian one like Manglik (a supposedly special/inauspicious horoscope configuration) or Veg/Non-Veg ( in India everything is about food too).
These doctors marrying only doctors, heaps of “innocent divorcee” (read don’t worry, he/she is safe to remarry), mixed with bad grammar (Girl must be long in height), bad spelling ( aligibl mails may soon apply) and dozens of funny shortened words- I’less/ issueless (doesn’t mean no issues with anything, but means mostly married before but no progeny in toe.), LPA /lakh per annum(income of the groom often, sometimes bride),BHP /bio-data, horoscope, picture, PQM /professionally qualified match , makes this a heady jigsaw for any sane person’s vocabulary and patience.
Though now with social media that demands disclosure not discretion. I think with popular matrimonial sites on one hand claiming we bring people together while love unites them and on the other categorising ads still by mother tongue, religion, community only reflect our social hypocrisy.
Time to make matrimony more equal, contemporary, sans conventional hegemony and beyond holy!