Material Girls

Aug 06 2012, 04:26 IST
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SummaryThere’s more to the wedding industry than planning

There’s more to the wedding industry than planning

A 30-something friend of mine, currently pursuing an MBA at Harvard, told me how surreal her vacation back in Delhi feels. After a year of crunching numbers in a very competitive environment, she’s back to fielding banal questions about when, if ever, she’s going to get married. Her single status is a constant talking point, so much so she’s wondering if a move back to India is right for her in case she decides never to marry.

Though there’s so much more pressure to be married in societies like India and China, the US is far better equipped to come up with suitable matches for its citizens. There are a variety of matrimonial sites and online dating services catering to specifics of every kind, besides the reams of newsprint and TV shows dedicated to sorting out romantic loneliness. Online dating is the norm, not somewhat uncool like it is here. In India, the traditional pundit or family astrologer has lost ground, and many of us belong to the older and in-between generation that considers looking for love on the internet just plain weird. We’d rather rely on friends and family for set-ups or continue to hope that a love interest will magically fall down from the sky. Though it’s changing with the younger lot, for city-based, corporate type 30-year-olds, registering yourself on a matrimonial portal still means you’ve hit rock bottom. The cultural resistance to matrimonial websites runs deep, even though shaadi.com claims to have matched two million people so far and you can choose a prospective partner based on 23 different factors, including income group. Surely someone should fit the bill.

Not much has changed in the 200-something years since Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and Jane Austen famously said in Pride and Prejudice that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in need of a wife. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe dished out some funny, non-serious advice in How to Marry a Millionaire, and surreally, now there are schools on how to snag a billionaire. After last week’s blackout, it seems unfair to compare India to China, which is clearly leap years ahead of us, but socially, we still have a lot in common, mostly the obsession with marriage and weddings.

But other than wedding planning, we haven’t cashed in on the bigger industry of marriage like

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