Desperately Seeking Soulmates

The Times of India , 10th April 2016

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

In the West

It is interesting how different cultures accept and address singleness and marriage. In the west there are various websites to assist people, who want to, find a partner. In the newspapers there are adverts with the headings usually along the lines of ‘men seeking women’, ‘women seeking men’, ‘men seeking men’, ‘women seeking women’ and so on.  Acronyms are plentiful e.g. GSH = good sense of humour etc. to reduce advertising costs. The adverts usually list hobbies and what they are looking for eg ‘fun, friendship and nights out’. The adverts are all placed by the people themselves who are seeking friendship or more.

In India

In India there are completely different sub categories. Today, in the Times of India, the following subheadings and categories were used for those seeking ‘Soulmates’:

  • Caste
  • Community
  • Profession
  • Religion
  • Language 
  • Nationality
  • General

It speaks volumes about the attitudes to people from different backgrounds, regions, religions and nationality. The page was separated into blue ‘Wanted Brides’ and pink ‘Wanted Grooms’, reinforcing stereotypes. There is absolutely nowhere for people to advertise for people meeting each other for friendship or relationships; this is purely for marriage only.

Included in the adverts are details of looks and width (slim!) height, skin colour (fair being preferred), date of birth, father’s occupation and asking for people with similar qualifications, background, language, caste etc. The majority of the adverts appear to be placed by the parents of sons and daughters who are seeking spouses for their children. Arranged marriages effectively. 

There are no sections for LGBT people to advertise. Sexual activity between two males is illegal in India and punishment is incarceration – a minimum of 10 years up to life in prison (although there have been no convictions for 20 years, despite arrests in 2014). Female same sex activity is not criminalised. 

Are the times changing?

The Times has placed its own advert on the bottom left of the page: 

It is said marriages are made in Heaven. It is a sacred union of soulmates who may not belong to the same colour, creed or colour.

As the social constraints imposed by the society slowly disappear, inter-caste and inter-community marriages are becoming more and more acceptable – and logical. To commemorate this changing trend, The Times of India dedicates exclusive space for inter caste and inter community marriages. A 25% discount will be offered to matrimonial advertisers who place their advert under the sub- heading “Caste No Bar”  and a 50% discount for matrimonial advertisers who place their advert under “Religion No Bar”.

In today’s paper there was not a single advert under the heading ‘religion no bar’. Under the heading ‘caste no bar’ there were only 2 adverts placed under ‘brides wanted’ and 9 under ‘grooms wanted’. 

It appears it is a triumph of hope over reality, by the Times of India, that trends and social constraints surrounding marriage are disappearing. What a shame society isn’t rising to the challenge – so much change is needed.

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