I will die, a thousand times over, just for you.

Re-living the journeys of victims of the arranged marriage market.

So, you want Amitabh Bachchan or what?

In the late 70s and early 80s, when women started pursuing careers in south indian families, they sometimes didn’t want to get married to the first man they met in the market. Our patriarchal society necessitates that a woman marries a man of higher means, hence, it wasn’t as easy anymore to get women married. So, the pseudo liberal fathers of the brides preferred that their well educated daughters didn’t reject offers that had been scouted with great difficulty. “So, you want Amitabh Bachchan or what?” they’d say, as if women didn’t deserve a choice.

Fast forward another generation, it was more common for women to have careers and men to prefer women with jobs. These careers weren’t necessarily in their hometowns, which meant that looking for brides and grooms within your hometown was neither straight-forward nor sensible.

… But, thank god for the internet.

The internet sharply increased liquidity in the market. You no longer had to rely on having relatives in the same city as yourself, to help find you a spouse. You could just go onto a dating/ matrimonial website, set your preferences and end up with 100s of matches. But it mostly only worked for NRI boys in the US trying to find domestic help from India. It wasn’t too common for resident Indians to find each other on these sites in the 90s.

Why son, you don’t have the balls to lovvaa?

Fast forward another decade, there were cafe coffee days all over the place warning us that “a lot can happen over coffee”. Next thing you know, people had started loving left and right and our society had also caught up with technology to the extent that it was borderline uncool to ask relatives for help in finding brides/ grooms for your children. These parents would be judged for not being tech savvy enough or even worse, for not raising cool enough children who could love off.

So, the same parents who’d play shady tricks to keep their kids away from the opposite gender through college started asking, “why son, you don’t have the balls to lovvaa?” and started washing off their responsibilities even before getting their children married.

Empowering the sons and daughters of our soil

Given that we are a Hindu majority nation, we still can’t come to terms with dating or atleast openly acknowledging “that type of friendship”, which means that these dating apps are only for the sons and daughters of our soil to blow some steam off. Yeah, that’s allowed in our culture, it’s all behind the scenes no.

Then came the market for lemons

The ones who manage to find love through the steam are saved, but the ones who miss that boat for whatever reason have to get onto one of the many matrimonial sites. They’re the types who’ll be too shy to tell you they met their partner on one of these sites as if it was an admission of failure. They’ll pretend like they “dated” for a while and got married, but truly, there’s no way to know who they really dated - the spouse, the parents or the random relative who created the profile on these sites.

Replacing human networks and filters has meant that the output has gone up several folds creating a market for lemons. These sites and apps churn out 1000s of matches for you to weed through every day. If you are remotely serious about finding a long-term gene-propagating partner through one of these apps, you will feel like a cancer patient going through chemo. You might manage to get rid of the cancerous singledom, but you’ll have very little energy to get through the rest of your life.

So much for liquidity

I recently volunteered to help a friend by saving her from the agony of weeding the market herself. I created a profile on Bharatmatrimony on her behalf, and as soon as I’d set my preferences, I ended up with 2150 matches. Bring it on, I thought. I spent three hours straight playing around with filters, reading through tonnes of ‘about me’s, stalking these boys simultaneously on social media and “sending interest” to a handful of boys. Some even responded giving me their numbers to contact them directly on WhatsApp. Although supremely exhausted, I was very excited to have found a few boys I’d be introducing to my friend over the weekend.

Next morning when I logged in again, I saw that I’d got 20+ new interests, wohoo! I clicked on my inbox to see who these dudes were, and suddenly it felt like I was standing in the middle of Majestic bus stand in Kalasipalya holding a placard saying “Anyone interested”? Why do I have to deal with profiles that have nothing to do with my preferences? What energy will I have left to go through the 2000 new profiles today? And then I wondered what it would have felt like to actually have been in the market myself having attracted so many shady fucks.

It wasn’t until I switched to Jeevansathi that I realised the problem wasn’t with my friend or her community, but it had to do with the product itself. Although these are all national websites, each one caters best to the region it is based out of. So much for liquidity.

So, what is this new deadly epidemic called decision fatigue?

The matrimonial search has been such a harrowing experience I tell you, I feel so bad for everyone in the market. You have to read and re-read 100s of profiles everyday, decline another 100 proposals from super weird people and then attempt to have an interesting conversion with the 1 or 2 who finally match with you through mutual interest. Now doing this exercise once takes about an hour or so (if you are an expert like me), imagine doing this everyday till you are married - You might as well be single!

The choice is overwhelming, not because there are 100 great profiles and you don’t know which ones to choose. After reading three profiles, a part of you usually just dies never to be re-born again. You have very little energy left to make sound decisions and in the process you could miss the 4th profile that’s actually worth exploring further. The products are so badly designed that the filters don’t work well, so you have no choice but to take a 3-month or a 6-month membership to go through as many profiles as you can slowly, without filtering, to make sure you can pick the best, from the worst. In case you thought these companies didn’t care enough about you getting married

… There’s also intervention.

One morning, I get a call from one of these websites. They asked me how my search was going and whether I’d be interested to sign up for their paid membership (very prompt!) which would allow me to contact the profiles I matched with. Before I could appreciate the kind gesture, the lady on the other end of the line decided to make the call a bit more personalised by saying “You have matched with this boy, who has done M.S. from U.S.A, I think that’s a good match right, why don’t you upgrade to the 3 month package and take it forward with him”.

My thoughts:

  1. Why? He’s already given me his number without asking me to upgrade.

  2. What do you mean this is what I am looking for? How do you know? Because I am forced to pick from one of your limited filters?

  3. Woah, whatever happened to privacy - Why am I being watched like you are my mother standing behind me while I am on the computer?

I politely thank her for her advice, and hang up. Then I think “Hmm, I wonder if any new boys have sent me requests?” How typical of a woman who’s been off the market for a decade no!

Drinking the poison on your behalf

I login again, and it feels like dejavu - another 2000+ matches, and 20+ inbox messages. How am I going to get through this day I think. Then I remind myself that it would be much worse had I been in the market myself, then muster the will to keep calm and carry on. I patiently read the ‘about me’s, and weed out:

  • In my Bhabhi’s words, I am jolly.

  • My mother is the perfect homemaker.

  • My green card is under processing.

  • My son is handsome and has sharp features

… and many more, really. Then I’m left with a handful of boys that I want to stalk on social media to confirm their existence before I send them expressions of interest. Sigh. I am exhausted. For all the times I promise to find you a soulmate, I think I will die a thousand times over, drinking the poison on your behalf. But it’s okay, atleast I’ll play a part in eradicating this new age epidemic called “decision fatigue” caused by the illusion of infinite choices.