Shyam Sharma’s marriage request in the Times of India’s classified section reads more like an eye chart than a matrimonial advertisement: SM/KKB invited 4 PQM earning 15 LPA.
Acronyms aside, Sharma is a professionally qualified match earning 15 lakhs (US$30,000) per annum seeking a suitable match who belongs to the Kanya Kubja Brahmin caste. To the untrained eye, the matchmaking vernacular that floods the matrimonial pages of Indian newspapers every Sunday can seem puzzling.
But for the lonely hearts — or their parents — who regularly pore over these ads, each detail, no matter how trivial, could potentially make or break an alliance. Personal ads cover every aspect of a person’s life that is considered important in India — religion, caste, profession, family status, dietary habits and skin complexion — which ranges from “fair” to “wheatish” to “very dark” in this color-conscious nation.
Even intimate details about whether or not an annulled marriage has been consummated are not off limits to people desperately seeking a partner. Fifteen hundred rupees (US$30) later, Sharma — whose advertisement describes him as a “V. h’some, fair, tall and smart boy” — says he has received a few responses from women who fit the ideal image.
“I have some figure in my mind and I want a girl according to that only,” the 28-year-old teacher said as he rolled off a list of requirements. “My height is 5’11” so at least I want a height of 5’4” and fair color and the features should be sharp and they should be beautiful. And for education, at least she should be a graduate.”
Any prospective spouse should be no older than 26, he said, considered a ripe age for settling down in India. Many families who opt for traditional arranged marriages choose to tap into their network of friends and acquaintances before turning to matchmaking services, viewed as a last resort for those who have weak family connections or have been overseas for some time.
“We have a very small family and we don’t have good social contacts and that’s why I’ve placed an ad,” he said.
Within the lucrative matchmaking industry, newspaper advertisements have emerged as the medium of choice for families who are not quite Internet savvy, even if they limit the scope of potential matches.
“A profile posted in a matrimonial classified column only gives one access to potential matches in one’s local area, which leads to narrow search results,” said Gourav Rakshit, business head at shaadi.com, one of the most popular matrimonial sites for South Asians worldwide.
Joycelin Jose, head of the matrimonial classified section of the Hindustan Times, said the paper’s clientele was “a mixed bag, cutting across socio-economic groups.”
“There are loads of people who come to us to find a match because they find it more reliable,” she says.