As I was rummaging through magazines one evening in an attempt to find crosswords and Sudoku that would keep me busy, I happened to come across something more interesting - matrimonial ads.
Believe me, I, never thought I'd spend three hours scanning these ads, considering I do not belong to the club that's on the look-out for a better half.
As entertaining and amusing as the ads sounded, they were also an eye-opener. Besides sounding like promotional offers, they seemed to perpetuate the stereotypes in our society.
Fair skin was the most coveted feature, especially by those looking for brides. This would be justifiable if the man too had similar complexion. Overestimating oneself
According to psychologist Jamuna Tripathi: "What we do while placing matrimonial ads is overestimate ourselves in order to get the best offer. What most men don't realise is if one expects certain qualities from his prospective life partner, he should also possess similar qualities. But, on the contrary, many make tall claims."
As far as the marital lexicon goes, "slim" is in, "beautiful" has no substitute, "rich" is the USP, "affluent" seems to be the latest addition to the glossary, "only son" remains an evergreen bargain and the demand for the "green card holder" has far outstripped the supply. Does that mean 'dark' equals 'ugly'? Or 'fat', 'revolting'? And, is a call centre employee an unworthy match for a B.A. who is currently unemployed?
The use of euphemisms in matrimonial ads too perpetuates typecasting in society.
The "convent-educated girl" was highly desirable in an age where studying in an English medium school was something to be flaunted! Since a 'dark' girl would get no suitors, parents describe their daughter as having "wheatish" or "medium complexion".
Among divorcees, stating that one has had an "innocent divorce" is one way of shifting the blame, and it isn't like her ex is going to say he had a guilty divorce, now, would he?
There are certain misconceptions regarding the jargon people use in drafting such ads. Many are still unaware that a "homely" girl doesn't mean she happily does the household chores. 'Homely' means 'unattractive'. Look up the dictionary.
Sushil Chandranath, a sociologist says: "What is most disturbing about matrimonial ads is they are plastered with jarring labels. I cannot understand why parents of a dark-complexioned girl need to sound apologetic about her skin colour. Similarly, castes and sub-castes have always been a deciding factor with regard to marriage." Besides the newspapers and magazines, matrimonial websites and television too promote stereotypes. One website even promises "the crème de la crème of society" and that "the way you search for your life partner will never be the same again".
A change of attitude is needed when it comes to matrimonial ads because everyone has the right to matrimony.