Festive season is also marriage season in the city? How does Bangalore’s urban, professional crowd find that perfect match when it comes to an arranged marriage? Citizen Matters checked some trends.
You may expect a 31-year-old man to have his own checklist when it comes to selecting a prospective bride. Yes, Suresh Kumar (name changed) does, but along with conditions like she should be a working woman, well educated and good conversationalist, comes another point added by his mother: the caste and community should match. It’s one of the reasons Suresh, who’s registered on a number of online sites, jokes he’s still unmarried.
Srinath V, 29, general manager with a tech product company in Bangalore, doesn’t mind someone from a different caste or community as long as their wavelengths match. Srinath is originally from Chennai and has lived in many Indian cities. He feels that community, caste or horoscope, even if included, should not be the deciding factor in a marriage. “I would prefer someone who fits into my life,” he adds.
The question is how does Bangalore’s urban, professional crowd find that perfect match when it comes to an arranged marriage? Do they find their matches through online sites, traditional matchmakers or new fangled agencies? And are they looking for liberal, secular matches or do traditional attributes still hold strong?
Suresh has registered at sites like Shaadi.com and Bharat Matrimony while his mother has taken his ‘CV’ to a couple of marriage brokers within their community. “Though I’m open to intercommunity marriage, I also believe that you already share a comfort level with someone who comes from your community and thereby speaks your language and shares certain cultural values and traits,” he honestly admits.
Most men (and even their families) seem prefer a working woman for a life partner. They are not hesitant to admit that with the rising cost of living, having two earning members is a necessity for a financially comfortable family life.
Agrees Lakshmi Balaji, 26, a public relations professional from Koramangala. Married to a Bangalore based IT professional after their profiles were uploaded on a community newspaper as well as a matrimonial site, Lakshmi feels that, “Community is a big factor if the parents have a say in the matchmaking.”
Arranged marriages still work and are far more accepted, says Amita Bala, marriage counsellor at Parivarthan, a counselling, training and research centre in Indiranagar, who also does pre-marital counselling. “With some people, the family values are very strong and they look for a partner who can be comfortable with their family.”
Explains Rajkumari, a counsellor with an online matrimonial portal “we get a lot of requests saying, I want a partner who is a Hindu Brahmin and vegetarian. The majority of our clients are willing to look at profiles of Hindu Brahmins from any state as long as their basic criteria (Hindu, Brahmin, Vegetarian) have been met.”
However, even within a community centric arranged match there are newly added factors at work these days. “Common interests, lifestyle and work habits come into play now even after horoscope matching, etc, Couples do not take these factors for granted anymore and do discuss it beforehand,” Lakshmi adds. Suresh, a complete adventure sports fanatic seconds that. “I love taking off on weekend treks. It’s something I’d expect my future wife to understand, if not participate in.”
Parents too are far more relaxed. Long ‘engagement periods’ where the couple get to know each other by going out together and speaking/emailing to each other regularly are quite common.
Is this a sign of changing times? Are arranged marriages finally breaking out of caste and community confine and becoming somewhat liberal? Graphic designer Tanima Baruah, originally from Assam and now based Ashok Nagar thinks so. “I’d like to marry someone who shares my interests like books, travel, food or movies and for that I need someone like-minded and not necessarily Assamese. Few of us live in joint families now so the fear of adjusting to an unfamiliar culture isn’t really there for me,” the 30-year-old adds with great confidence.
“These days, most people we meet are willing to get out of the caste rut and find someone based on shared mindsets and attitude to life,” says Nandini Chakraborty, ex-HR person and the entrepreneur behind Marrygold, probably India’s only ‘Boutique matchmaking service.’ Nandini, who got into this after bringing some friends together, does not believe in matching people on the basis of caste or community. The idea instead is to make the matches based on personality and shared values, something many young professionals are looking for.
Started in 2005, two things set Kalyan nagar based Marrygold apart from other matchmaking services across the city. Their clients need to be above 25 years of age and they do not match people on the basis of language, religion, community or caste. The 25 year starting point is because Nandini wants her clients to be working and believes that it’s around this age that they “start developing their own personality.”
The meetings between Nandini and her clients are usually held at comfortable places like coffee shops. “We try to find out what they are looking for in a person, the kind of relationship they share with their parents, their longest romantic attachment, lifestyle and expectations,” Naomi, her psychologist colleague adds. They try “not to judge a client” and instead ask questions to figure the person out. Before the meeting takes place, clients also have to fill in a detailed questionnaire when they register, giving the Marrygold team some idea of what to expect. “Our questions are very detailed,” Nandini adds.
Once they have a couple that matches, Nandini usually suggests that they do things together, like attend a play for instance. According to her, one of the “key ingredients” in a successful match is “conversation.” The last is something Suresh would agree with, caste criteria nonetheless.
If the youngsters flock to the web, the parents still prefer good old marriage bureaus. Many a times, this is because the parents are not as net savvy as their offspring but as Alice Vinutha of Vanaja Rao Quick Marriages says, it’s also because there is a certain amount of trust factor in coming and meeting the person who is going to find you a match face to face.
“Many people these days prefer the ‘caste no bar’ concept,” says Alice, adding, “What they are mainly looking for is good family background, education and good jobs.” She says people however prefer to stick to their own religion. “But Kannadigas marrying someone from a different state, as long as the basic criteria (food, job, family) matches, is quite common.”
Chetna Tilak, a Cunningham Road based career consultant says “The intellect mapping that Nandini does ensures I don’t have to invest so much time to do the same,” says Chetna, who’s contacted Marrygold to find a match for her sister. She feels a service like this is required in today’s busy work environment and likens it to a hunt for the right candidate for a job. The fact that caste plays second fiddle here doesn’t matter to her family. “End of the day, what really matters is the union of two people and their families. Marriages have broken down even when based on caste.”
The Right Balance
Nandini admits that sometimes people do request that the language of the prospective match be the same. She feels that today’s generation is largely looking for a partner who balances them out rather than one who grew up sharing the same kind of food or rituals as they had. “In the new age arranged marriage, people are looking for a partner who can provide fulfilment, security and support.”
Like all good things, there are a few glitches when it comes to the caste-no-bar clause. “Most of my friends are not particular about marrying someone within their community,” says Tanima, “but for many of them the biggest worry is their parents would not consent to it.”
Wedding planner Rosemary Ratnam has met and interacted with countless couples in her several years in the business. “Most people we meet are willing to forget caste and find someone based on shared mindsets and attitude to life,” she says. She thinks whatever the community is; young people are realising that not everything can be perfect in a marriage.
“They are looking for basic wavelength matches and stability, not a runaway romance,” says Rosemary. But yes, she adds, people still prlook preferably within their own community, caste and religion.
On the face of such deep rooted conviction, does a ‘no- caste allowed’ service like Marrygold hold ground? Srinath V, who has also contacted Marrygold, feels it does. The main reason, for him, is that they make it easier for you to choose your right partner by already weeding out profiles whose interests and personalities may not match yours. And given the wide variety of mindsets and ideas that make up the New India, you feel every service has its place in the sun. As Nandini puts it, “We are not trying to replace traditional methods of matchmaking but catering to people who wish to try a different approach to matchmaking with different priorities.”