Browsing matrimonial columns in Sunday newspapers is a ritual performed by Indian parents, particularly mothers and my mother is no exception to the norm. In the evening she would summon me to seek my opinion on the hand-picked candidates. As the years passed by and I moved to a different city for work, her task became more difficult. Recently, she discovered that several eligible grooms for her daughter are languishing in cyberspace, just a click away.
These days, after late night parties on Saturdays, I am woken up by my mother’s phone call in the morning. The conversation, which is usually one-way, is predictable — first, I’m chided for not showing enough interest in finding a partner which is then followed by a sermon on the virtues of marriage, garnished with examples of my friends who have high schoolgoing kids. I am then told to browse through the Internet profiles of potential grooms she has shortlisted from newspaper ads and through marriage brokers. With the appropriatedose of emotional blackmailing, citing her helplessness in searching the Internet herself, she wraps up by demanding an immediate update on the list. Wondering what my mother imagines searching for a groom on the Internet is like, I began my hunt for a partner in cyberspace.
Driven to the brink of complacency, I woke up to see four new messages in my inbox. My excitement, however, was short-lived as the first message was from a guy whom I had rejected several times. The second was a request from someone who thought I am a girl ‘having traditional values with modern outlook’, a hybrid variety into which I can never figure out how to transform myself. The third was an acceptance message from an nri in whom I had shown some ‘interest’ just to see his response. The last was a ‘decline of interest’ message from a guy who I had contacted a couple of days earlier. Fuming, I decided to block his profile. Not satisfied with my revenge, I shot off a couple of rejection messages to requests from guys I had previously chosen to ignore.
Having settled with the an-eye-for-an-eye dictum, I began my search. Looking at the number of profiles existing online, there is a looming sense of gratification, though I can’t figure out why so. Is it the realisation that there exist innumerable helpless individuals who are forced to market themselves on the Internet? Or a sense of hope that a large number of potential candidates are waiting out there for me?
Then suddenly I received a call from a matrimonial website executive. She hard-sells one of those tailor-made packages that guarantee finding a life partner within the shortest time span; of course the offer costs a hefty amount. As I refuse the package, including the special discount offered exclusively for me, the lady reminds me of my age and advises me to become more flexible in my choice!
While matrimonial websites might have provided companionship to thousands of couples, the Internet has only changed our mode of selecting a partner, I realised. Our preferences continue to be determined by age-old principles based on religion, caste, sub-caste and other such attributes.
What cyberspace does is to make our selection more convenient, with the additional advantage of adding, deleting, hiding and cross-checking information, until we are closer to our long list of unrealistic expectations. At the same time, it gives us the luxury of pretending that we are modern. I ended my search with the usual regret of having wasted half my Sunday, with Monday blues already setting it, and trying to frame a convincing excuse for my mother as to why I once again failed to be impressed by her choice of potential grooms in cyberspace.