Even as matrimonial sites are growing in popularity, traditional matchmakers are still much sought-after

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,

Make me a match,

Find me a find,

catch me a catch

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Look through your book,

And make me a perfect match

These famous lines sung to Yentel the matchmaker in the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof was at a time when the matchmaker was an integral part of society. His/ her services were sought by anxious parents wishing a suitable match for their child. But times have changed and marriage alliances are hardly arranged the traditional way.

Or so we think.

The city’s few matchmakers work with a deep sense of social commitment, happy at uniting eligible boys and girls.

Fifty-seven-year-old Lakshmi Mohan has found countless matches in her 30-year career as a matchmaker. At 26 she made a match for her widowed father. “It began that way,” she reminiscences sitting in her office in Palliyil Lane. “After I lost my mother I wanted to find a suitable companion for my father. I did so. The marriage worked for 27 years till he passed away. That is what I wanted.”

It was requests from her relatives from around the world to find a suitable match for their children that got her going into the profession “Being the eldest I felt it was my duty to help them.” By 1991, Lakshmi had compiled a good number of bio-data of eligible youngsters and began work with an encouragement from within her, as if somebody was pushing her forward. “It became a social commitment. My husband was very encouraging,” she says. Her services were earlier confined to only members of the Nair community, to which she belongs. Now she gets requests from Christian communities too. Changing with the need of the times, Lakshmi also finds spouses for divorcees, her office having a stack of files labelled—Divorce-Boys, Girls. Though some matches do go awry Lakshmi says that nobody has blamed her for it, so far. “A matchmaker’s job is high risk,” she says. Her approach towards her “children”, as she fondly calls her clients, is that of a mother’s. She remembers their details long after they are married and settled and prays for their wellbeing daily at the Shiva temple in the city.

Today Lakshmi’s services are much sought—she receives at least three requests a day. Though Internet and matrimonial sites have changed the face of her profession, Lakshmi vouches that personal “trust and commitment” gives the client an altogether different satisfaction. She found brides for her sons through her office and finds requests from her happily married clients to search for a suitable match for their children. “I have come a along way and it has been satisfying,” she says.

V. Ananda Bhat claims to have made more than 3,000 alliances through his monthly magazine, Vaishnav Ratne, that he brings out. He started this free service for the members of the Gowda Saraswatha Brahmin community 15 years ago.

Initially Bhat began small, personally collecting details from clients. But now his services are much sought after with clients getting their personal details and horoscopes published in the magazine, which is circulated among community members even outside Kerala.

Bhat now holds matrimonial camps in temples where eligible men and women meet. He has held camps in Cherthala, Alappuzha and Ernakulam. The trend in the field, he says, is of girls wanting highly qualified boys and businessmen are not a favoured choice. Matchmaking for divorce cases and second marriages are catching on. Bhat is helped by his wife.

Krishna Joshi along with her husband Vinesh Joshi, a priest, has begun a matchmaking service recently, more out of the requests from friends and acquaintances. Krishna collects bio-data, photos and compiles the information into a CD, which she sends to her cousin in Mumbai who is into matchmaking. She thus finds suitable matches for the members of her Gujarati community and has managed three alliances so far. “I just introduce the families. We charge no fee. We are not a marriage bureau,” she says.

Julie Bayer began matchmaking with finding a bride from Vallarpadom for her brother who lived in the Gulf. She too began with requests from friends and members of the Anglo Indian community, to which she belongs.

Julie has so far made 45 matches and works diligently going across to homes to check out every little detail personally before she introduces the boy to the girl. At 69, and after getting her five daughters married, Julie feels she has an intuitive strength to sense the virtue of an alliance. “A girl in a cottage and a boy in a bungalow is always a good match,” she says, implying that economic parity is a good sign to look for. She receives a brokerage fee in case an alliance is fixed. If the families are truly happy they even give her expensive presents.

She often finds her matches in church gatherings, in parties, at weddings and keeps her eyes open for suitable boys and girls. Julie is strict about the clients she takes on. She refuses any one who trawls the net and seeks matrimonial site services. She has found matches from Pallippuram, Edakochi, Pachalam, Fort Kochi and also Australia, which has a fair settlement of Anglo Indians from Kochi.

Like all matchmakers, Julie too prays for the couples she has matched to live happily ever after. She says: “I pray that where a match is destined, let it come forward.” God brings them to her, she firmly believes.