Why you should care
Because in India, there’s still no Sex and the City. But in the meantime, please enjoy this rousing episode of Marriage and the City.
To get married in India, you will need:
1) A horoscope and birth chart, with which to judge the auspiciousness of your potential mate’s fate against your own
2) A lot of free Saturdays, to vet potential suitors
3) For that matter, a lot of free relatives, to judge potential suitors
4) A budget: You’ll need to place ads in local newspapers and matrimonial sections, buy online dating profiles, and, of course, be ready to offer up a dowry to a husband who wants one
5) And don’t forget your virginity!
This is the recipe as prescribed by 27-year-old Vartika Verma, a highly educated, obscenely-six-figure-salary-successful marketing professional in New Delhi, who is aggressively on the prowl. Age 30 looms, and she’s not yet spoken for. So, she’s gone husband hunting. And what does she have to show for it? No wedding day, yet, but a healthy dossier of potential mates. Almost 50 of them, to be precise. She’s tapping into every resource available to her. Fortnightly ads in the matrimonial section of Sunday newspapers? Check. Online profile on matrimonial site? Check. Spreading the word among her trusty network of well-meaning aunts and uncles that the family is “officially looking”? CHECK!
Vartika is just one of some 40 million Indians using matrimonial websites — call them fast-track, no-bullshit versions of OkCupid or even Match.com. One of the most popular is aptly named Shaadi.com, which means marriage.com. But despite the boom in potential mates online, the odds don’t look good. In 2013, according to an Economic Times report, there were 35 million to 40 million registered profiles on matrimonial websites. And an additional 2.2 million profiles were being uploaded every month. Of these, only 10 percent of people were successful in finding spouses online — pretty depressing odds.
OK. At least on paper (and photographs). Often, in the course of due diligence, family members on either side procure birth charts detailing the date, time and location of birth of the other party to ascertain the likelihood of future marital bliss. To be fair, this is still, for the most part, how things are done: According to a survey by trulymadly.com, about 69 percent of marriages in India are arranged, with only 31 percent love marriages. “That’s just how it is,” Vartika says.
And at least it turns up some good stories. Meet the types of men, in question, straight from Vartika’s mouth.
The “Cultured Boy”
We were told by a family friend that he was a “cultured boy” from a very good family in Delhi. Usually, I prefer meeting the man in question alone, but his family insisted on meeting my family. I spent hours being plucked, scrubbed, waxed, and polished like a New Zealand apple. I forced myself into a bright salwar kameez to please his parents. After half an hour of polite conversation, we were shown to a separate table for an awkward 10-minute meeting to “understand each other.”
I don’t remember the conversation, but I do remember constantly staring at his crotch, wondering how the, ahem, “family jewels,” if you know what I mean (wink wink) were going to survive the death grip of his trousers. I later found out that the restaurant we had gone to offered a special package for such arranged marriage meetings — they’re called the ICUC package! ICUC = I-see-you-see. Get it?
One of my aunts thought that handing out my number like candy to potential grooms would speed up the process. One was particularly creepy. We’d had one conversation on WhatsApp, after which I left my phone on the table to rush out for a meeting. Two hours later, I came back to a phone with 37 messages, a Facebook friend request, a Twitter follow and a testimonial request on LinkedIn.
The Number Cruncher
Most Indian men can’t handle the idea of a wife who outearns them. This potential suitor was from New York. In our very first conversation, he wanted to discuss my salary. When he realized that I made more than he did, he quipped, “Wow. You make so much money, you must eat rupees for breakfast!” and laughed uproariously. If it was a joke, it wasn’t very funny.
The Virgin Worshippers
I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. Legions of men seem perfectly normal and nice until they ask the question that banishes them into the never-never land of modern match-making: “Are you a virgin, madam?”
They don’t want to check if I’m gay, asexual or if I have an STD, but they want to know whether I’ve had sex before. Some priorities! Why can’t there be a normal guy who asks for an AIDS test instead of such a moronic question?
The Gold Diggers
The old-fashioned word “dowry” is hard to come by, these days, but, oh yes, there are those who will drop broad hints about how according to custom, the girl’s family gives gold coins to this sister and gold chains to that aunt and whatnot. They, of course, are shown the door instantly.
Correction: due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Verma as a marketing professor. She is a marketing professional.