Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Marriage Market

A beautiful young lady I know is getting married in December. She was a topper throughout her school life, attended one of the best colleges in Delhi and I definitely thought she would make it through CAT.

But after 2 unsuccessful attempts and a couple of timepass BPO jobs she has - much to the relief of the parents - agreed to 'settle down'. "The boy is from a very renowned family in Amritsar", her mother beamed, genuinely happy, when I met her at a family wedding last week. He is also, I am told, tall, fair and good looking -"aur hamein kya chahiye".

"Frankly, I am happy uska MBA nahin hua,"the mom confides. "It's very difficult to manage a career and family you know." I wonder whether the girl feels the same way. "Abhi to woh job kar rahi hai... but just for a few months. Baad mein woh thodi job karwayenge."

Hmm. To kya karwayenge I want to ask. Renowned families in Amritsar don't expect bahus to cook and clean. So the girl can hope to 'live like a queen'. Visit the parlour twice a week, socialise, shop and sit pretty. Waiting to brighten up the husband's evening when he gets home. Perhaps go to the club, or on long drives and weekends to Kasauli.

A year or two of this mauj masti and then she will be in the 'family way'. Husband will get busy with his factory and she with the kids. Nothing wrong in all this, of course. But is it really a choice she is making - or a life she is accepting because it's what the parents want? The path of least resistance, a comfortable existance.

Preserving the status quo...

Conditioning Counts
I am not writing this from a rabid feminist point of view which says all women must be highly ambitious and aspire to be CEOS. I am simply making an observation: that no doubt women have come far... but.

But there are enough women out there who are still brought up to believe 'marriage is everything'. Go ahead, do an MBA but you know, you don't have to work. In fact some parents go so far as to forbid their bschooled daughters from working.

One such girl - a niece - is currently cooling her heels in her hometown in U.P. It took a lot of convincing but her parents let her go and do an MBA from Pune. When her father asked me what I thought of XYZ small time institute I was about to say, "She can do better than that. Let her try for CAT again next year..."

But the girl called and begged,"Aap please aisa mat kehna. Nahin to isi saal meri shaadi ho jaayegi!". So she went ahead, but on the understanding that she was going to study for knowledge sake - and would not take up a job.

I think what tipped the scales in favour of further education was this: "Aajkal sab padhi likhi ladki chahte hain.. MBA ladke MBA ladki chahte hain".

Now, over a year after graduating my niece is twiddling her thumbs, waiting for her parents to find a suitable guy. Horror of horrors, she is a 'manglik' and it seems matching horoscopes is a must on the arranged marriage circuit.

Is she unhappy? Desperately. She could walk out and lead her own life - but she isn't that type. So she waits, and hopes that destiny will be kind. That she will get an undertanding guy who will 'let' her work. Or if not work, at least give space in other ways.

Friends who got married while she was away have but one thing to say. It's luck, pure and simple.

The 'happy' ones are those whose mother in laws don't nag them about waking up early. They get to roam around at home in their 'nighty', watch serials with the saas, go out shopping and for kitty parties. Their husbands are jolly souls who like to go our for dinners and movies. And again - importantly - mother in law does not mind.

The unlucky ones have the mother in laws you see in soap operas. There's one who insists the bahu wear only saris. She monitors how many telephone calls are made and encourages her own daughter to use bhabhi's make up and jewellery. The girl is an MBA but of course, working is out of the question. The husband is caught between mom and wife and prefers to stay on mataji's side.

"It's true, I'm not making all this up!" insists my niece.

Classified evidence
A quick scan of the matrimonial ads is revealing. I check out this morning's Hindustan Times which is a good reflection the Delhi/ UP/ Punjab mindset. Here are some samples under 'Agarwals' ...

A 25 year old under 'grooms wanted' is described as : "fair, beautiful, exceptionally talented, convent educated, interior Architect from best college in India." Whatever an 'interior architect' is! "Presently working only for her passion in Arts and Architecture".

Yaane ki worry not, hamaari ladki shaadi ke baad job nahin karegi.

All girls are of course described as slim and fair but this particular ad really takes the cake!

"Medico match for Garg girl 5'5" Oct 1981, very fair, smart, sharp featured, slim, extra beautiful (rare in Aggarwals) MBBS, DNS entrance cleared..."

However it's interesting to note that a number of the ads do mention girls with their qualifications (down to specific institutes eg MBA - Symbiosis), and a few even mention salaries. Which seems to indicate the girl intends to continue working after marriage.

But whereas 7 out of 10 boys I picked as a random sample mention salary, only 3 out of 20 girls had advertised theirs. Another 5 out of the 20 mentioned 'working girl' or 'with top company/ MNC'. 5 of the 20 ads mentioned a qualification like MBA or MCA but did not elaborate whether the girl was working at all.

One specifically mentioned 'smart fair homely MBA'.

Da Matri Code
In the world of matrimonial advertising I think these are distinct segments and codewords:

a) Girl with qualification + salary/ company working for: "Career oriented"
Will insist on working after marriage, will not play the traditional bahu role. "Bach ke rehna". Only for the strong at heart and those willing to help change the diapers. Dowry ka to naam bhi mat lena!

b) Girl who is qualified and 'working', but no salary mentioned: "Flexible"
Will work if the boy's family is ok with it, open to leaving it if required. In other words someone who will adjust and always accord the husband and his job the first priority. But she's not a pushover - dowry for her is a dirty word. So the Ford Ikon the boy's family is expecting needs to be packaged as a 'gift' that is being given to beti out of pure love.

c) Girl who is qualified/ from a reputed college but no detail about whether she is working: "Housewife material"
But will make a more presentable and interesting companion than the BA pass of yore. Will make a good mother, as you see educated mothers are very important today. Of course, may not be as 'homely' as mummyji might want, and this may create conflict in time to come.

d) The rest: "Born to be Mrs"
Girls who never aspired to do anything more than marry and settle down. The fairness and beauty of the girl are her prime assets. Family background and how much the parents are willing to spend, a close second.

Of course nothing 'works out' as we plan in life. There's a good chance that 5 years from now "Career oriented" will have a baby, mellow down and altogether give up her job.

It might be "flexible" who actually becomes a career woman - because her husband is supportive. Or, the family needs two incomes to afford a swanky 3 bedroom house in Guragaon.

And "housewife" or "born to be Mrs" may well put their interior decoration/ fashion designing/ dietician course to good use. And become entrepreneurs in their own right!

But the matrimonial ad reflects the present - aagey ki guarantee kaun le sakta hai...

A reflection of social trends
Actually, someone could easily do a PhD based on matrimonial advertising - how it's changed over the years and what that says about Indian society.

Even how the advertising in Hindustan Times published from Delhi and The Times of India (Mumbai edition) shows two distinctly different cultures.

The HT ads clearly reflect the 'north Indian mindset'. First of all, there are 8 whole broadsheet pages devoted to matrimonials. Poor TOI has just 4 (that too interrupted by inane 'articles' like "Who wants to marry Himesh Reshammiya'?)

Well I think there are 2-3 possible reasons for that quantitative difference
a) More people in the north have arranged marriages

b) It could also be that more young people up north rely on their families to find a match - and the families still prefer to advertise in newspapers. Whereas in say, Mumbai, more young people might be registering on portals like and looking for a girl/ guy themselves.

In fact Times themselves have a portal which might be cannibalising some of their print advertising!

But the difference between HT and TOI goes far beyond mere 'quantity'.

The HT ads - in true Punjabi style - are loud, garish and designed to attract attention. The richer the family, the bigger and more violently coloured the display ad. Choose from hot pink, green, lemon yellow, ochre and even violet!

The HT ads use different wordings. "High status" and "reputed family" appear in every 3rd or 4th ad. There are several references to "decent marriage", some specify "very decent marriage".

I'm guessing 'decent' means shaadi in 3 star + Santro car, while 'very decent' means 5 star + Skoda. Indecent, as it might seem to the likes of me!

Several ads mention the term 'NM'. At first I was surprised that so many Narsee Monjee graduates would be advertising but then I realised it actually stands for 'Non Manglik'. Words like 'convented' and gori/ v gori also appear far more often in HT.

TOI by contrast has many more ads referring to 'cultured' family. You're also more likely to see words like affluent and cosmopolitan. In fact TOI ads starts its listings with a section called 'Cosmopolitan' whereas HT starts with the caste based A for Agarwal.

Interestingly, many more ads in TOI than HT mention 'caste no bar'. However in reality what that means is say we are Agarwals, we will also consider Brahmins and Punjabis if the boy/ girl is really well qualified/ attractive...

None of the ads in TOI mention terms like 'decent marriage', I think that is due to a Times of India policy many years ago - if I remember correctly - to take a stand against dowry. Of course just because it is not said, does not mean it is... not in the picture. And TOI does have its share of ads for 'convented, fair, slim' (think: Aishwarya Rai) types.

Still, I find the TOI matrimonial ads more progressive and varied in nature -of course reflecting the composition of Mumbai city itself.

Admittedly my 'research' is unscientific but so is this whole marriage business. Where minds may never get a chance to meet - unless horoscopes and degrees first match.


  1. You omitted a very important aspect: the East/West mix factor. I won't elaborate on it, here is an interesting post about it:

  2. You are right that your research is unscientific... Unfortunately there is high element of generalization of Everyone-wants-dowry mentality... You seem to have seen whole marriage business from Media journalist point of view ignoring plight of parents and girls involved...

    I talk specifically in terms of northen india, and as a brother...

    There are a huge number of arranged marriages where guy & girl know each other beforehand... Horoscopes are thrown to dustbin if girl and guy are liked by each-other's families... If girl doesn't have relationship then parents will spread around a word in their relatives, friends "koi acha ladka mile to batana"... After that phase comes for advertisements... And at this point of time parents as well as girls become a bit desperate especially if a few years have passed by and girl is getting older...

    So parents will choose whatever they think will attract a suitable guy... I need not elaborate that 'reputed family, decent family, cultured, gori, beautiful etc.' are pre-planned words given by TOI or HT staff, also parents learn quickly from other ads...

    Talking of dowry there still exists pathetic mentalities like IAS is for 20 lakhs, MBA for 10 lakhs etc... Fortunately I have witnessed more than 20 marriages (brothers & sisters) with in my joint family & friend, yet never saw a question of dowry... I'm ignoring gifts like fruits, sweets, some ornaments etc. we gave away or were given... Because it is custom as well as gives self-confidence to girl's family that this girl is dear to us and we also did something for her. In my life I have come across only one person (My physics teacher for higher secondary) who wanted dowry from his wife before marriage and he gave dowry for his sister...

    "But is it really a choice she is making - or a life she is accepting because it's what the parents want? The path of least resistance, a comfortable existance. Preserving the status quo..."

    You think preserving status quo is easy...???
    I think you have mixed up 2 ideas, 'marriage is everything' and 'Responsibility of being married'...
    Let me tell you my experience of girls I repeatedly overheard at our boutique "chod naa exam, pad likh kar naukri thodi naa karni hai", "yaar shaadi kar, ash kar"... Yes marriage is end to them, but certainly not a responsibility...

  3. "The 'happy' ones are those ...
    "The unlucky ones have ..."

    Seriously, is it the real picture of what potential bahu wants? Then, as a guy, it is scary to me in that it suggets that their happiness revolves around having all the fun, not following rules and rituals, and derelicting all duties of bahu - and not in the traditional sense.

    While I am more than 100% okay with my would be wife working, I believe that there are times when someone has to make sacrifices in the career for family sake. I believe that that one should be the one who is earning less and not expected to provide forever. If my wife earns more than I do, and is willing to continue to be main provider in case I make sacrifices for family and suffer setback in career, I will be more than happy. But I wonder if it is possible. Somehow our society, including my wife, expects guy to be main provider.

    Another potential reason for fearing career ambitious girls is that they have very high probability of being rabid feminist of the type you ducked in the article. I am sure there are ones who are ambitious yet not man-hating - the typical "modern with traditional ethos".

    I hope I don't come about as anti-feminism but I should let you know the "concerns" that guy face at such juncture. Without exception though, I don't understand why would some not want their wives to work in this day and age!


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  5. "Medico match for Garg girl 5'5" Oct 1981, very fair, smart, sharp featured, slim, extra beautiful (rare in Aggarwals) MBBS, DNS entrance cleared..."

    >>I think you will agree with what they said about Agarwals/Baniyas being ugly. I read that in one of your articles sometimes back.
    And Divya i am sure your parents didnt put a gun on your head. Sometimes you gotta take the responsibility of your own actions.

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  7. hi

    very interesting article.

    I read / analyzed matrimonial ads for several years - from 1996 to 2004.

    I read the Hindu / telegraph / HT / TOI / Deccan Herald and the Indian Express.

    In fact this was a major hobby. I even listed it during the CAT interviews. Obviously I got grilled but was easily able to stand my ground.

    The ad I remember the most " A divorced woman aged 40 and with two daughters asking for a man who lives on a mountain"

    In fact the first time I learnt of hotmail was in a matrimonial ad in the Hindu in late 1996.

    I wonder if someone has done any research on this topic.

    My biggest regret is that I did not cut some "intresting ads" and paste it in a scrap book.


  8. Yeah i always found Matrimonial adverts intersting.

    Rashmi on a slightly different topic , i find websites of indian universities and colleges affliated to the universities really lacking in information.

    It is frustrating the amount of secrecy and control over vital information such as syllabus for the courses like MMS [ Mumbai Uni.

    What are your thoughts about university websites of indian vs US,UK or other parts of the world

  9. Indeed the matrimonials reflect the mindset of society!!

    But neverthless Times R changing...

    Families r becoming open-minded, guys r persuading their mothers for working wives....

    I hope this Dowry thing just Vanishes....

    Nice post!!

  10. I wish there was a similar analysis or research done on ads and bahu-saas dynamics in south India too. Down south MBA's would probably be substituted for Engineering graduates and the "ideal-age" to get married is actually much lower than 25. but apart from that I guess everything else holds.

    The best compliment a girl can get is "tumhari shaadi karne main tumhare parents ko koi bhi problem nahi hogi" (the girl is so good-looking that any guy who sees her photo will lap her up). I actually have friends who are happy with the rishta they get coz the guy does not drink, does not smoke, respects his mother, and has a job. what else does a girl want anyways? the fact that he wants a dowry is ofcourse best left unsaid.

    that an educated girl is willing to get into a marriage where her parents have to pay dowry is probably more cringe-worthy than an educated guy who lets his side take dowry in the name of "traditional values".

    Lastly, about girls whose only aim is to get married into a decent khandan, did u watch Monalisa Smile? A large part of India is still where US was in the 1950's.

  11. for all those living in dream world of "dowry is a thing of past" and likes... the bad news is that it still exists and doesn't look like going anywhere soon...
    well, i have been against this practice ever since i remember, and was expecting my educated friends to hold similar views... but to my shock people have accepted this as a matter of right...
    for instance we have had discussions like
    "arre yaar main car lene ki soch raha hoon"
    "abbe kya karega, ek aadh saal ruk jaa, shaadi main toh aa hi jaayegi"

    things like this from people working in infosys and tcs...

    once in a while, when we discuss such issues (when we're really drunk), we get arguments for which i have no answer, things like

    "in india people don't expect girls to inherit anything from the parents, once they are gone everything passes on to the males in the family as the girl is thought of as belonging to some other family after marriage, so in a way dowry is like passing to her the share that rightfully belongs to her"

    have you got any counter argument???

  12. Very true what Shikari Shambhu said.

    Even in my office(I work in an IT company too), I have had friends who have discussed which car to take (Ford Ikon). Things like a refrigerator, washing machine, TV will be obviously given and taken!


  13. When my husband's brother was in the process of finding a bride through the newspaper advt. route, my Father-in-law actually rejected one of the responses that we got only because the mother of the girl had responded and not the father! "This means the family is very modern and forward "

  14. First of all it is really unfair to target just aggarwals and I am surprised since the author herself is bansal i.e. belonging to baniya community of guptas, bansals, aggarwals etc. In fact this problem belongs to a much larger section of society consisting mainly of businessmen either from north or gujarati or andhra rather than based on caste.
    Secondly although the author tries to give her fair view ( as it seems by the article ) one can't help noticing that its her more cynical view or maybe her scope of research is too limited.
    The article is too immature and is really not reflecting anything related to present day society. The issues seem blown out of proportion.
    The various kinds of advertisements just show that people are becoming much more particular and specific mainly because of nuclear family concept. One should not forget that its not only girls who sometimes suffer, its also the groom's family who are taking great amount of risk. The biggest problem in india I think is that till now there is no concept of remarriage here which cuts down all future options. Marriage is a kind of gamble and so a lot is based on luck.

  15. The article really makes a lot of sense to someone like me, who is at that age where all relatives are pestering u to 'settle down'... luckily my parents are broad-minded and are in no hurry to get me married.. with a good job in a big company with a very good salary, they think i am already settled!
    But I have noticed that sometimes we spend most of our lives fighting against certain concepts, but under certain circumstances, we have to accept things the way they are..
    I agree with above comments that dowry is still in.. I was brought up sheltered and thinking that there is no such thing amongst 'modern' families anymore - till reality struck and i watched many friends and colleagues give in.. i was once admiring my colleague's new cellphone and asked how much he got it for and he replied "pata nahin, dahej mein mila hai" - i was shell-schocked to say the least! Firstly its freaking out-dated concept, and then you tout it around to proudly?!! Goodness, I'd rather not marry than marry someone like that..

  16. Nice one Rashmi. Though unscientific, some of the generalizations you have made are bang on the mark.

    Horoscope has been my bane too. Once I proposed to a gal I befriended at my cousins wedding, horoscopes were exchanged, and things stopped..

    And when I saw the advert my parents got printed in TOI, I freaked out.. heck, I am one of them now.. LOL.. Needless to say, I am still single. And neither do I have the time, nor the inclination to go out looking for someone. The ones I have met till now, be it college or workplace, were not to my liking.. Life goes on.

  17. Ohh forgot to add this. Its not just the guys who go for looks. The same old slim, fair stuff.

    For all those things feminist mags, authors and articles say - Gals too want guys to be good looking. Though the matri ads wont really reflect that.

  18. Shikari, Nilesh,

    Many a times its just a joke or a comment on a colleague, or something to deflect the topic.

    I have indulged in such talk too :D but I know I am not going to be involved in dowry.

  19. The trend has been quite the opposite here - Check out for brides in the US. Guys insist the girl work, even if the fella himself is a HBS graduate or something...Works out beautifully for the girls...unless of course she is the kitty-party kind!

  20. Uh,Just out of curiosity,What's a manglik??

  21. I agree with a lot of things you have to say. For one thing, around 4 years back I actually found myself going through this same process (I call this my insane phase- I needed some sense kicked into me and I was one of the lucky ones). I almost got married and two weeks before the wedding, called off the wedding for a number of reasons.
    I am sick and tired of the whole 'slim, fair, decent family' bullshit and the blatant sexism that goes on in this marriage 'market' and it really is a meat market in every sense of the term.
    True I am biased because of my own bad experience but at the same time I truly feel I was lucky to have 'escaped' when I did. Keep writing. I find your blog interesting and well written.

  22. Loved the post..pretty uncannily on the mark for an unsceintific research..

  23. "i was once admiring my colleague's new cellphone and asked how much he got it for and he replied "pata nahin, dahej mein mila hai" - i was shell-schocked to say the least!"

    Ruchika ji, first find out whether the guys asked for dowry or was given out of choice by girl's family, before you make any value judgement. You will be surprised that among the well to do familities brides families too want to give gift/dowry to groom's family. Half backed stories sometimes give wrong pictures.

  24. Most Interesting thoughts. Speaking clears mind and sharing thoughts help make opinion.
    keep it up.

  25. Related Links:

  26. There was an article in Times fo India sometime back, regarding marriages in India, arranged marriages specifically,

    the author summed it up perfectly in the statement

    "what a lot of fuss made, and what a lot of money spent, just that two people can sleep together"

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  28. Ashish, actually it makes no difference whether the guy asked for it, or the girl gave it voluntarily.. in 'my world', dahej is forbidden, to be either given or taken! Also, I am more opposed to the idea that the colleague seemed deservedly proud of the fact that it was 'dahej' and he didn't have to spend a dime on it! Even if it was 'voluntary' (which hardly justifies the act), was this guy trying to show off his wife's money?! Out-dated concept being disguised as 'gifts' - no, I don't agree.. and unfortunately its a reality that most of us will have to face anyways!

  29. the blatant sexism that goes on in this marriage 'market' and it really is a meat market in every sense of the term.

    A very strong statement you make, dont you :) Its not always that way. Really.

    So what do you think is on the guys mind when he gets into a love marriage, or even into a love affair before that. Are you sure its not meat? Ok, Whats on a gals mind then when it comes to love marriage or love affair(sic) ??

    Hey what will happen to ugly guys like me ;-) if arranged marriages did not exist. :P The gals I proposed to have still not recovered from the shock and some of them are still visiting psychiatrists :))

  30. In the Shadows, I wasnt talking of sex when I used the term 'meat market'. I was referring more to the fact that marriages, today more than ever, seem to be purely economic transactions based entirely on the 'fair, slim, good looks' of the female and the 'earning capacity' of the male.
    There is much more to a marriage than that. Also I think many women who have been through the arranged marriage system will agree that they did indeed feel like they were 'pieces of meat/flesh' on display especially with ceremonies like 'Mooh Dikhai' or even the stereotyped 'Tea Tray' ceremony.
    I have problems with the 'Kanya daan' as well but that is for a post on my own blog.........

  31. Ruchika,
    So true, I am sure you will discourage your parents from giving ANY kind of gifts to your hubby. But really what should that guy have done? Told them no i dont accept any gifts? Which would make him 'Rude' person. And BTW when i pitched my idea of not accpeting any dowry. My folks said, prospective girls parents going to think that there are some defects in you. And they are proven right, i am still single :)).

  32. hey rashmi i have been great fan of ur articles in rediff,especially the ones abt CAT and Bschools. kinda reflect my thots abt them. and now i read this article and I am enthralled once again. U have painted the hypocrisy of arranged marriages just perfectly and the sarcasm is totally there.

  33. Okay, one final thought vis-a-vis Ruchika's comment and response. I guess it is our perception that matters. I do not find any problem with pure volunteer "dowry". Or otherwise, why does the bride accepts all the clothes and jwellery? Sure, that can be called bride money too. Removing ALL kind of gifts (where do we draw line otherwise?) will make marriage purely a dry idea devoid of all rituals and fun associated with it, which I don't quite like.

    And seriously, when bride can be happy to show his husband car, then why can't husband be happy to show his wife's mobile phone? Sometime, you claim yours what belongs to your loved one(s), and don't even bother to thank. That is love too.

  34. Hey Ashish,

    I am just wondering if some parents voluntarily, completely free of the pressure this social dowry custom puts on them, feel like 'setting up the house'(ghar basa ke dete hain) of their daughter in her marriage.

    Yes true, its difficult to draw a line as to what is a gift and what is dowry. But isn't that a similar problem to deciding what is a gift and what is a bribe? Is giving and taking a voluntary bribe right? One can argue that dowry works very akin to a bribe, especially when you consider the consequences of NOT giving it, which many brides face.

    And, please note that, in your example, the car still belongs to the husband. The wife, through a custom, has not received it as a gift and does not now own it, as opposed to the mobile phone.


  35. I don't see what the problem is with dowry espescially if the wife is not working and there are no kids to take care of. And todays women are least bound by any constraints imposed on them by parents considering the number of love marriages that abound espescially in the cities. Depending on the NPV of what the woman brings to the marriage and what the guy brings to the marriage, a fair amount of dowry would be the difference of the two.
    And most women marry for the sole purpose of having a cool life since providing for the marriage in most cases is the primary responsibility of the husband. If women are so concerned about dowry, they can just remain single or marry guys who are younger and earn less so that they dont pay dowry - but that comes with the catch of paying maintenance to the guy in the case of a divorce which is pretty fair considering the extent to which men lose money in the case of a divorce and the extent to which they lose their lives because of false dowry harassment cases which is more than the number of real dowry harassment cases.

  36. Also I think many women who have been through the arranged marriage system will agree that they did indeed feel like they were 'pieces of meat/flesh' on display especially with ceremonies like 'Mooh Dikhai' or even the stereotyped 'Tea Tray' ceremony.

    Albizia, believe me, it works the same way for guys. My elder cousin just got engaged, and he told me he was bored of all that visiting peoples homes and meeting parents etc.

    And to tell you frankly, what would you look for when you meet a stranger ?? When you dont know about the other person at all ? Well, for guys its physical attributes, and for gals, they look for "providing" capability. Thats it.

    Of course, Now, in a love marriage, these things do not matter much.

    And yeah, unless I find someone soon, I too might go the arranged marriage way. So, I cannot say which one of these is better, love or arranged. That debate is for some other day.

  37. A lot of people have justified dowry, with people even saying:
    redrajesh: "Depending on the NPV of what the woman brings to the marriage and what the guy brings to the marriage, a fair amount of dowry would be the difference of the two."

    Can we really quantify what a person brings to the marriage? External factors such as looks and money aside, there are so many other hidden factors. Why isn't anyone talking about compatibility, personality traits, etc. ? And, if you are saying that well, if the wife is not working, taking dowry is okay, then you are in effect judging a person's entire worth by looking at how much moolah the person is bringing into the family. Even non-working women contribute in a big way. My mom was a housewife but what she did for the family cannot ever be paid for. As the MasterCard ad goes, there are some things money can't buy .

    In the Shadows:
    "And to tell you frankly, what would you look for when you meet a stranger ?? "
    Well, arranged marriages these days have come a long way from the boy-seeing-the-girl-just-once-jhat-mangni-pat-byaah days. Even in traditional families, the girl and the boy at least talk over the phone or even chat on the net months before the wedding and before/after the engagement, get to know at least a little bit about the person's likes and dislikes, etc. I have seen such cases even in small towns. There is room for such negotiation with your parents and prospective in-laws if you are diplomatic and make the effort to locate a family that understands what is at stake. It is perfectly alright to look for a good-looking, well-settled partner (human nature and practicality) for both guys and gals, but if those assets are just converted to a bargaining chip, it is plain wrong.
    As for your comment about physical attraction in love and arranged matrriages, it is natural for people to gravitate towards good-looking, smart, well-earning individuals. But in many love marriages, that is not the only factor. Of course, I am not saying that all love relationships are based on inner beauty only.

    Rashmi, you have raised a very important point. Unfortunately, a lot of parents look at education and career for girls as an asset for marriage, not something for the girl's own independence in life. As you have said, girls must at least have a say in these matters. I know of people whose parents prevented them from working or going abroad. It is high time that this mindset changed. Girls also have to be more proactive in standing up to their parents on things they don't believe in (Now that does not mean a rabid female chauvinist view of not valuing family and responsibilities, please!) It's funny people spend years and money on planning careers, but when it comes to their personal life, it is all luck???
    Guys here have raised valid points, too. On the other hand, there many girls who themselves do not want to work and just enjoy at their husband's expense, maybe because of the social conditioning.
    I am linking to your post as I would like to say a lot more.

  38. great article rashmi

    captures the true spirit in which the marriage market functions. the newspaper matrimonial columns and websites like and have taken place of old age punditjis with a biodata and photograph file in their hands.the sort of disgusting questions like these "brokers" ask like aapke paas gaadi kaunsi hai ? kitna lagayenge? etc are reflected in a new light in these matrimonials in words like "decent marriage" and "high status family"

  39. Great article... surely there is a method in madness... whose flavour you have been able to rightly capture (who cares whether its scientific/unscientific) ;-)


  40. ha ha rashmi, this post is hilarious!

  41. Hi there...I'm Rahul and work as an Account Director in Delhi...was in bit of a dilemma and would appreciate some advice from you all ... was placing a matrimonial ad and the choice is between having 3 ad placements in TOI Delhi, Chandigarh and Kanpur, as against having 1 ad in the TOI national edition. The choice is between multiple week exposure in 3 cities as against 1 exposure in 9 cities.

    I live in Delhi and am not sure how open girls are to relocation, cos if that doesnt really work, I dont need to place the ad in Mumbai, Bangalore etc.... Look forward to your feedback..Cheers!...Rahul

  42. Yaar, you are completely misrepresenting the situation. Each and every girl who can work/pass competitive exams is ENCOURAGED both by parents and society. It is time to stop blaming the system: The SYSTEM HAS CHANGED, at least as far as small towns go. Girls who offer themselves as "housewife material" in matrimonial ads ARE NOT VICTIMS OF REPRESSIVE SOCIETY, they are actually LAZY PEOPLE who are gaming the system in a sinister way:
    1) They are CHOOSING A non working comfortable life.
    2) They had modest-lower mediocre careers to lose in the process, they can project themselves as "victims" and actually escape the reality that they are plain dumb.

  43. agree with bemusedgeek !

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