“Handsome 27 year old, senior IT professional, IIT, IIM, father senior government officer, seeks beautiful slim English medium preferably working girl. Upamanyu gotra.” I got this textbook case of an anachronistic text (also known in these parts of the world as a sms) one Sunday afternoon.
Now I receive texts a dime a dozen, mostly extolling the virtues of different real estate developments in and around Delhi. All of them, apparently are Spanish style villas surrounding by sylvan greens at throw away prices. And all of them are only a two minutes walk from the artery of Delhi, Delhi’s joy and pride, the metro line. How that is possible only God and the super competent town planners at the Town and Country Planners Organization would know, but that is what all real estate developers claim!!
I usually delete these messages even without a second look, having understood clearly that every place other than the one I live in is a Utopia with the best locations, miles of verdant greens, the best shopping experience ever with all ‘conveniences’ close by.
There are also texts telling me how to send bulk sms es and reach out to my ‘target audience’. Now right now I have several target audiences in my life. The HR Head who will give me a job, the guy I am hoping I will meet who will turn my monochromatic life into a Technicolor one and lately the magazine editors who I am hoping will publish some of my work, only because my friend A insists they are definitely read worthy by the general public.
Now I am not sure that the any one of these ‘targets’ would be happy to get a bulk text from me, so I let the delete button get those too. But the text about the handsome 27-year-old made me stop in my tracks a bit. I re read the entire text again.
As flattered as I felt to get a text from a 27-year-old, unfortunately the demographics were all wrong. I mean I agree with the new age marketing gurus about mobile marketing being the next big thing in marketing, but really, isn’t sending a text to advertise a boy of marriageable age taking things a bit too far? The target audience was all screwed up for starters!!
So this is how young India is now choosing its partners? By sending random texts? Except, for the most cases, young India still isn’t choosing its partners. It is still the family who chooses. North India has been rocked by a spate of honour killings in the past couple of months. Parents, uncles and grandparents even have killed girls and boys mercilessly just because they dared to marry outside of their caste or within the same ‘gotra’. Whether it is within, or without, the overriding expectation that works in India is to conform.
The mention of the Gotra (which is a lineage assigned to a Hindu at birth), which is now a hot topic in India, took my thoughts immediately to the khaps. The Khaps originally started as a system of social administration and organization in what are now the states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh eons ago. Unfortunately, Khaps still exist today, even in metropolitan cities like Delhi, their sole purpose of existence being to hold ugly prejudices against others. Most of the honour killings in Northern India, which on last count were more than a killing a month are almost always associated with the khaps.
With political patronage, the power of the khaps continue unabated. Obviously, the power extended over the sender of the text as well, since the gotra was carefully mentioned. God forbid we end up marrying within our gotra, which originally referred to a family group who owned a particular pen of cows, the word gotra, literally meaning “cow –pen”. It is incredulous that in this day and age, when we have the recession to worry about, global warming to ponder on, price rises to shout angry slogans at, terrorist attacks to save our children’s lives from, we still worry about the gotras that we may marry into? What is the worst that could happen? That we might just become the superpower everybody is scared of?
But I couldn’t let a misdirected anachronistic text take me away from my search of the Technicolor dream coat. I was single for most of married life. While we lived under the same roof, Professor X and I could not have a more different life. For the most part, we never did anything together, never had a hobby we shared, never went out for obscure foreign films that we both loved, never even had a conversation without trying to kill each other. I felt I was ready to mingle after so many years of being single.
But how? How would I meet people? I had no job now. I had no money to go out. I barely met my friends, choosing instead to spend most of my time at home. I asked my friends around who all shrugged conveniently and told me they knew no one they could set me up with. But I could try shaadi.com, my friend A told me brightly. He knew someone who had found someone from shaadi.com. Now while dating websites thrive in the West, we in India apparently do not believe in dating. We go straight to marriage. Hence the existence of names like shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com, lifepartner.com and even a regional sounding tamilmatrimony.com.
I almost couldn’t close my mouth for one whole second. He wanted me to go shaadi.com to find someone for myself? I never even looked at the matrimonial columns the first time around. And in my case, wouldn’t I have to look in secondshaadi.com, considering this was to be my second marriage. And moreover, I wasn’t ready for another marriage now, maybe dating, but definitely not marriage right now. As always, my verbose friend A had a ready answer. Well then you try secondshaadi.com. And you can always date people you meet there.
I cackled for two whole minutes during which time I am sure A held the phone away from his ears. Someone actually thought of that? There actually exists a secondshaadi.com? India must be the only place on earth where technology and traditions blend in so well together!
I decided to test the waters, enthused by the friend of a friend of A who found someone from shaadi.com. Setting up my profile, being as honest as I possibly could, I decided to wait for responses.
Responses started trickling in. From the 45-year-old Bengali guy living with his parents looking for his soul mate who would also take care of his parents, from the 24-year-old professional earning INR 10,000 a month who double checked if I was indeed in HR, from the 34-year-old owner of a BPO who was looking for a partner in life and business.
Responding to no one, I decided to wait and watch. Maybe the right guy would be right around the corner. Maybe the next one to respond would be my perfect match. I could not give up hope. There had to be the perfect man waiting for me. The next response would take me over the moon.
It did. Take me over the moon. Definitely not to a place on earth I would have liked to be in. Because the next responder was a 65-year-old man. Who wanted immediate marriage. And someone to nurse him to health because he was also mildly arthritic and diabetic. While I applauded him for his honesty, this was the polar opposite of what I was looking for. The man was just a few years younger than my dad for heaven’s sake. I decided I had enough and deleted my secondshaadi.com profile.
The emails extolling the virtues of 50 plus dating thankfully go straight to my junk mail box without me having to do much. Now I know that 50 is the new 30, thanks to slightly over the hill icons like Madonna who hang on desperately to their youth and men young enough to be their children. I also know that I will get there someday, sooner rather than later, because once you cross your 30s, time seems to accelerate at the speed of light. But till I get there, the junk mail box is the right place for it.
Ultimately, between the strange “I want to friendship you” requests one gets on social networking sites and the immediate marriage proposal from a geriatric, I definitely choose the former. Maybe someday I will get a friend request with correct grammar. But till then, I need to stay a million cyber miles away from geriatric marriage proposals.