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.

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From Indian pizzas in San Francisco to bhangra competitions in Boston

A guide to the Indian heart of these American cities.

The United States of America has for long been more than a tourist destination for Indians. With Indians making up the second largest immigrant group in the USA, North American cities have a lot to offer to the travel weary Indian tourist. There are umpteen reasons for an Indian to visit vibrant education and cultural hubs like Boston and San Francisco. But if you don’t have a well-adjusted cousin to guide you through the well-kept Indian secrets, this guide to the Indian heart of Boston and San Francisco should suffice for when you crave your fix.

Boston

If you aren’t easily spooked, Boston is the best place to be at in October due to its proximity to Salem. You can visit the Salem Witch Village to learn about present-day wiccans and authentic witchcraft, or attend séances and Halloween parades with ghosts, ghouls and other frightening creatures giving you a true glimpse of America during Halloween. But the macabre spirit soon gives way to a dazzling array of Christmas lighting for the next two months. The famed big Christmas trees are accompanied by festive celebrations and traditions. Don’t miss The Nutcracker, the sugar-laced Christmas adventure.

While it upholds its traditions, Boston is a highly inclusive and experimental university town. It welcomes scores of Indian students every year. Its inclusiveness can be gauged from the fact that Berklee College of Music released a well-received cover of AR Rahman’s Jiya Jale. The group, called the Berklee Indian Ensemble, creates compositions inspired by Indian musical styles like the Carnatic thillana and qawwali.

Boston’s Bollywood craze is quite widespread beyond the campuses too. Apple Cinemas in Cambridge and Regal Fenway Cinemas in Fenway can be your weekly fix as they screen all the major upcoming Bollywood movies. Boston tends to be the fighting ground for South Asian Showdowns in which teams from all over the North-Eastern coast gather for Bollywood-themed dance offs. The Bhangra competitions, especially, are held with the same energy and vigour as back home and are open to locals and tourists alike. If nothing else, there are always Bollywood flash mob projects you can take part in to feel proudly desi in a foreign land.

While travellers love to experiment with food, most Indian travellers will agree that they need their spice fix in the middle of any foreign trip. In that respect, Boston has enough to satisfy cravings for Indian food. North Indian cuisine is popular and widely available, but delicious South Indian fare can also be found at Udupi Bhavan. At Punjab Palace, you can dig into a typical North Indian meal while catching a Bollywood flick on one of their TVs. Head to Barbecue International for cross-continental fusion experiments, like fire-roasted Punjabi-style wings with mint and chilli sauce.

Boston is prominent on the radar of Indian parents scouting for universities abroad and the admission season especially sees a lot of prospective students and parents looking for campus tours and visits. To plan your visit, click here.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an art lover’s delight. The admission-free Trolley Dances, performed in October, focus on engaging with the communities via site-specific choreographies that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Literature lovers can experience a Dickensian Christmas and a Victorian holiday party at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a month-long gala affair starting in November.

As an Indian, you’ll be spoilt for choice in San Francisco, especially with regards to food. San Francisco’s sizeable Indian population, for example, has several aces hidden up its sleeve. Take this video by Eater, which claims that the ‘Indian’ pizza at Zante’s Restaurant is the city’s best kept secret that needs outing. Desi citizens of San Francisco are big on culinary innovation, as is evident from the popularity of the food truck Curry Up Now. With a vibrant menu featuring Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits and Bunty Burrito and more, it’s not hard to see why it is a favourite among locals. Sunnyvale, with its large concentration of Indians also has quirky food on offer. If you wish to sample Veer Zaara Pizza, Dabangg Pizza or Agneepath Pizza, head to Tasty Subs & Pizza.

There are several Indian temples in Sunnyvale, Fremont and San Jose that also act as effective community spaces for gatherings. Apart from cultural events, they even hold free-for-all feasts that you can attend. A little-known haven of peace is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Their Anjaneya World Cafe serves delicious mango lassi; the beverage is a big hit among the local population.

If you’re looking for an Indian movie fix during your travels, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival’s theme this year is Bollywood and Beyond. Indian film enthusiasts are in for a treat with indie projects, art-house classics, documentaries and other notable films from the subcontinent being screened.

San Francisco’s autumn has been described as ‘Indian summer’ by the locals and is another good season to consider while planning a trip. The weather lends more vigour to an already vibrant cultural scene. To plan your trip, click here.

An Indian traveller is indeed spoilt for choice in Boston and San Francisco as an Indian fix is usually available just around the corner. Offering connectivity to both these cities, Lufthansa too provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its India-bound flights and flights departing from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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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.