When Shreyas Deokule phoned his parents in Mumbai, India, in the summer of 2008, he received unexpected news. They had posted his profile on a matrimonial Web site.
"We had a major argument after that," said Deokule, 30, who works as a software consultant in Kansas City, Mo.
Eventually, Deokule said, his parents managed to persuade him to leave the profile up on the matrimonial Web site. They promised that his sister would deal with all the details of fielding inquires from prospective brides and that he would not be bothered until it came time to choose a suitable bride from a selection of candidates. Deokule said his parents underscored the fact that he was already 30, and they had to explain to all their relatives and friends in India why he was not married yet. Yielding to the pressure, he gave them permission to go ahead with the bride search through the Web site.
Deokule's parents are representative of many families in India whose sons and daughters work or study in the United States. Indian parents post their children's profiles on the matrimonial Web sites, which have become a successful business in India over the last decade. Some of the most popular matrimonial Web sites are shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com and jeevansathi.com (in Hindi, shaadi means wedding, Bharat means India and jeevansathi means life partner).
Historically, evolution of matrimonial matchmaking in India can be traced to the late 19th century, said Rochona Majumdar, assistant professor at the University of Chicago's Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. Marriages arranged by family, both extended, or by the parent of the man or woman involved, usually were made on the basis of matching income levels, caste and the like. The process of finding a suitable partner went through many changes, said Majumdar.
"First it was through caste journals and caste magazines, gradually it moved to newspapers, now from newspapers to online sites," she said.
Modern technology, however, highlights the differences in expectations of parents regarding the age at which they think their children should get married and the speed at which they take that step, and, on the other side, the children's desire to take more time in choosing life partners.
"People who are on the matrimonial Web site probably want to get married soon, and I didn't want to get married to someone I just met," said Deokule.
He did, however, respond to e-mails from two women who had contacted him after his sister gave them his e-mail address. Deokule corresponded with them over a couple of months, but they never talked on phone or met, and the e-mail exchanges eventually stopped.
"The girls were in the same boat as me," said Deokule. "They didn't want to do this, but they were forced into it by their parents."
Namrata Tognatta, whose mother created a profile for her on shaadi.com, shared a similar experience. When Tognatta, 30, started working as an educational testing researcher in Philadelphia in 2007, her mother, who lives in Pune, India, created a profile for her, even though her daughter said she was not interested in it.
"Every time I spoke to my parents," said Tognatta, "there was excessive pressure to get active on the Web site."
As a result she spoke to two men her mother had selected on the phone and met with one. Tognatta said she knew she was not interested in her date within the first 15 minutes of the meeting at a café in Philadelphia. They had different ideas on where they would like to settle--she would consider going back to India or moving to any other country, he wanted to stay in the U.S.; she put a high priority on education, he did not; she wanted to enjoy her work, for him, being paid well was worth enduring a job he did not like.
By mid 2007, Tognatta decided to stop considering men who expressed interest through the matrimonial Web site. Since then she has not logged onto the site, and no longer gets notifications of interest. As far as dating goes, Tognatta decided to replace the virtual world with the dating scene in Philadelphia.
Posting a profile on a matrimonial Web site, however, does not always spark a clash between parents in India and their children in the U.S. Nandita Mullapudi, 30, created a profile on telugumatrimony.com together with her parents when she was nearing the end of her Ph.D. in genetics at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. Since the profile was created in 2006, she has communicated with about 15 men and met with five.
Nandita's father, S.V. Rao Mullapudi, 63, who works as a consultant in information technology in Hyderabad, India, said he and his wife looked for simplicity, honesty and a willingness to work hard when they chose candidates for their daughter. He thought the groom search should be a joint exercise, since, he believes, the marriage is a bond between two families and not between just two individuals.
Even though Mullapudi was open to meeting the candidates her parents had screened, none of them worked out.
"There was no chemistry," said Mullapudi.
Then, in 2008, she met, through friends, a man with whom she went to school in India. They started dating and have continued their relationship after she moved to New York, where she now works as a post-doctoral associate at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her parents agreed to remove the profile from the Web site, but the pressure is still on.
"They're planning" the wedding, said Mullapudi. "They're hoping I'll marry soon."
Even though they have not participated in the selection of her current boyfriend, Mullapudi's parents have accepted him as their daughter's potential future husband.
"Times are changing, and so are we," her father said.
While some parents accept the different lifestyle their children have in the U.S., many young people from India still take the matrimonial Web site route and get married quickly after making initial contact. Sanjiv Vinaik, 35, a database architect from Omaha, Neb., and Bhavna Toteja, 32, a recruitment associate at a leadership consulting firm in New Delhi, met last December. After expressing interest in each other through a matrimonial Web site, they met twice in New Delhi--once with both families present; the second time alone. On the third they celebrated their engagement, and in May this year they will get married. Toteja plans to move to the U.S. to live here with her future husband.
Deokule, too, wishes to get married. If he can take time to make the decision, he is open to everything else.
"It doesn't matter if my parents introduce me to that person or I find that person myself," he said.
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