Love and marriage

What happens when India’s Tinder generation searches for a match at a matrimonial event

Are Indians swiping right for sex, but turning to mummy and papa to find a spouse?

Every single day of 2016, over 14 million Indians swiped through prospective mates on Tinder, looking for a quick hook-up. That same year, a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Lokniti studied the responses of 6,000 people in the age group of 15 to 34 across 19 states, and found that more than half of those surveyed wanted their parents to decide whom they should marry.

As they reach prime spending and marrying age and brands rush to woo them, how are Indian millennials wooing each other? Reams of digital newsprint have been devoted to understanding millennials – shorthand for those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the millennium. Decoding their bizarre career paths, sleeping habits, living choices and food preferences was hard enough – what about when it came to love, dating and marriage?

Scroll.in visited a community matrimonial event in North Delhi to look for clues about the Indian millennial’s attitudes towards finding love – and learnt that in the end, for some upper-caste and upper class young people, it was all about loving one’s parents.

Parichay Sammelan

Rahul Wahi walked off the stage at a pre-matrimonial introductory event, called the Parichay Sammellan in North Delhi. For most candidates, it was a nerve-wracking experience – they hopped nervously from one foot to the other as a master of ceremonies read out their name, age, time of birth, caste and personal salary or family income to a large hall full of parents and prospective spouses.

Thirty-one-year-old Wahi was not nervous. His family income was several lakhs, he ran a restaurant in West Delhi that served popular and familiar international fare like pizzas and pasta, along with Indian favourites like dal makhani.

“I have never dated, I prefer serious relationships,” said Wahi.

Rahul Wahi, a millennial looking for a bride, at a restaurant he owns. Wahi is wary of dating apps or social networking sites as they require men to be sharp on chat to be able to attract women. He is comfortable with photo-sharing app Instagram. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra
Rahul Wahi, a millennial looking for a bride, at a restaurant he owns. Wahi is wary of dating apps or social networking sites as they require men to be sharp on chat to be able to attract women. He is comfortable with photo-sharing app Instagram. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra

Despite the favours of fortune, finding love had not been easy. Wahi had a girlfriend of many years, with whom things went awry after a formal pre-engagement ritual, known as the roka among Punjabi families. Wahi was heartbroken, and attempted suicide twice in 48 hours. In a couple of years, he fell in love again – this time, his partner did not tell him she was a divorcee and a mother – that was when Wahi decided to find a spouse chosen by his parents, community and convention.

“I am a serious guy, and an emotional guy,” he said, ordering a watermelon cooler at his restaurant. Tinder, which required men to be sharp and witty on chat, was bewildering to him. In the past, he had to reject a prospective partner he met through the Parichay Sammellan because the candidate had written that she knew how to cook and then denied it in a face-to-face meeting.

“Girls know how to cook, but don’t want to cook these days,” he said.

Manglik girls just want to have fun

“I never dated,” said Mehak Malik, a 25-year-old online retailer who used to work with Amazon, echoing Wahi’s words. “I go out with friends, meet people...but you cannot judge a person just by talking to them. It [finding a spouse] is not just about caste, creed, culture, it is about money, family background. You spend so many years in a family, in some customs, you cannot change that.”

Mehak Malik with her mother Asha, one of the active organisers of the pre-matrimonial introduction. Asha Malik says the matrimonial market is now ruled by 'patri and package' where package stands for salary package of both men and women. If a woman earns well – and they often do – she will face problems finding a groom. Patri is a chart which predicts a candidate's future by planetary alignments at the time of birth. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra
Mehak Malik with her mother Asha, one of the active organisers of the pre-matrimonial introduction. Asha Malik says the matrimonial market is now ruled by 'patri and package' where package stands for salary package of both men and women. If a woman earns well – and they often do – she will face problems finding a groom. Patri is a chart which predicts a candidate's future by planetary alignments at the time of birth. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra

At the sammellan, the emcee laid emphasis on whether each candidate he introduced was manglik or not, indicating a planetary alignment at birth which according to Hindu astrology, is believed to pose danger to a spouse’s survival.

Malik, who volunteered at the pre-matrimonial service, admitted with a giggle that she was manglik. It was no problem, she said, there were several ways the bad luck a manglik spouse brought could be cancelled out – if she was born on a Tuesday for instance (Malik wasn’t), if she was above 28 years of age, or if she married another manglik.

Failing all of these, Malik could undergo a Kumbh Vivah – which involved symbolically marrying a statue of Vishnu, a peepal or banana tree or a clay pot.

“It will be fun,” she said.

Seated just outside the hall, Malik managed candidates’ forms and queries – in addition to being a prospective candidate at the sammellan, she was also an organising volunteer at the event.

“Dude, no matter how many years you have lived, parents have a little wish that they get to select their daughter or son’s bride and groom,” she said. “And then you take this right away from them. It [marriage] is not about time pass. You are not marrying a person, you are marrying a family.”

Patri, package and patriarchy

Malik’s mother Asha Malik, an organiser of Parichay Sammellan, described the matrimonial hunt as a combination of “patri and package” – package referred to the salary package that candidates for marriage (both men and women) raked in. Unlike men, women with high salaries faced problems in finding grooms. Patri referred to the Indian astrological chart.

Asha Malik blamed television-and-movie doyenne Ekta Kapoor for astrological charts making a strong comeback into the marriage market. “Patri, patri...by god, mujhe to Ekta Kapoor mil jaye, main puchoongi kyun patri?” she said – if I ever get a chance to meet that Ekta Kapoor, I will ask her why she adds a patri to every televised love story.

“My patri was not matched with my husband,” Asha Malik said. “Nothing bad happened to us.”

The only time the family did suffer, Asha Malik said, was because of her husband’s cousin’s wife, who was Muslim: “When my husband’s chachaji died, she did not touch the body, she did not come to the temple. She said she goes to only the masjid. In our rituals, the body is washed. If she did not want to adjust with us, why did she marry here? So it is better to marry within one’s community. Are there not enough people within the community?”

To make this adjustment into each other’s families smoother, conditions were stringent, and becoming more so. The father of a prospective bride at Parichay Sammellan said that sometimes even 20 meetings were not enough to seal the deal.

A sister-in-law waits patiently for her devar's (a brother-in-law younger then her husband) turn on the stage at the pre-matrimonial introduction. The family is exploring all avenues for his marriage, she said. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra
A sister-in-law waits patiently for her devar's (a brother-in-law younger then her husband) turn on the stage at the pre-matrimonial introduction. The family is exploring all avenues for his marriage, she said. Photo credit: Aparna Kalra

“Even if one side watches movies and the other doesn’t, the match can be called off,” he said. Religion and caste then, were crucial things to have in common. In fact, recently, newspapers have reported even stranger reasons for marriages being called off: an argument over supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a groom’s embarrassing dance moves, the lack of meat on the menu and a different groom turning up at the altar than the one the bride was supposed to marry.

According to Malik, women are obeying convention, but simultaneously trying to fight the inherent patriarchy in these traditions. An eligible bride at Parichay Sammellan made it clear to all assembled that she would either work and draw a salary or look after the household. “You are expected to manage both fronts,” she said. “I can’t do that.” Malik knows how to cook, but several of her friends don’t and have no plans to learn – to avoid being tethered to a kitchen in their marital homes.

Finally, Malik said there was one major reason to marry someone your parents chose instead of someone you found for yourself: “At least I have someone to blame if things don’t work!” Her mother laughed.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.