People prefer to pay to find a suitable match from among aspirants available at the click of a button
Marriages are made in heaven, it is said. But in contemporary times, it appears marriages are made by the marriage bureaus and websites. They have been around for some time, but the Temple City appears to be coming under their grip as well.
In the past, match-making was a social pastime and a dead serious family ritual. But with the arrival of the website culture, people appear to prefer the short route to “matrimonial bliss.” They prefer to pay and find a suitable match from scores of candidates dredged up at the click of a button.
And if it is too much of a pain to sift through the profiles on screen, then there are the neighbourhood marriage brokers. In fact, many parents in Madurai, who have approached the marriage bureau agents call them the ‘lucky mascots’ as they have been able to find a suitable partner for their wards. And when it works in one instance, for all future alliances the family and extended family members tend to turn up at the same doorstep.
A random check reveals that even in this internet-dependent age, more people prefer to approach the matrimonial bureaus than go to the websites.
Says M.Rajkumar, a caterer who also runs a kalyana mandapam and a match-making centre, “There is no data to substantiate the on line websites’ role in fixing a large volume of alliances. There is always an element of fear and doubt that lingers during these impersonal interactions through emails and websites.”
“Despite the changing life-style among the youth, a majority of the families hailing from the “Manja Puthur Chettiar community”, who are mostly into the bullion trade, choose prospective brides and grooms for themselves or their children through the marriage brokers.
Once the parents are convinced about the match, says Rajkumar, the children offer little resistance. “Only in very few cases, there may be some disagreement but majority of the proposals we provide the families for match-making succeed,” he adds.
Significantly, while political rhetoric is all about a casteless society, these centres and websites segregate individuals on the basis of caste, religion, community etc.
Inside a marriage bureau, the leading question which the 50-year-old owner asks his client is: “What is your caste and to which community do you belong.” After this comes the affordability factor – how much the family is willing to shell out on the wedding, jewellery and dowry. The educational qualification of the girl and the ‘expected qualification’ of the boy come only at the end.
Caste and community
There are bureaus which operate solely on the basis of caste and community. Apart from the community backed “bureaus” patronised by the Nadars, Pillaimaars, Chettiars, Mudaliars, Brahmins, Christians and Muslims, a few Mutts such as Sringeri Mutt and Ahobila Mutt are also engaged in intense match-making for boys and girls hailing from the respective sects.
For a nominal fee of Rs 100 or Rs 200, the bride or groom seekers can register with the “bureaus”. Within a week, they start receiving enquiries from at least five to ten prospective individuals. Once the process is set in motion, the brokers take a back seat and re-emerge to take their fee once the final deal is clinched. The final payment varies from party to party.
The websites come in handy for those living abroad. A parent recalls how anxious she was about fixing her highly qualified daughter’s marriage before she left for an overseas job. “We relied on the dot.com services and got choices aplenty. Though initially there were some apprehensions about the veracity of the facts in the boy’s bio-data, we took a call,” she says. The couple is reportedly happily married and settled in the U.S now.
For parents who allow their children to choose their life partners, it is an entirely different story. They can steer clear of such financial and emotional traps. As a young doctor in Madurai recalls, “I was in love with my classmate from school. Our relationship was steady and at an appropriate time, we informed our parents, who readily agreed…”
But then, it is not that easy always and for all…