In 2012, a precocious ten year-old girl filed an RTI query with the Prime Minister’s office. She wanted to know when the government had declared hockey as India’s national sport. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports responded and said that there was no official declaration that hockey was our national sport. In fact, they said, India has no national sport. This is preposterous. We all know what India’s national sport is. It is played out with passion in every gully in India. Some call it slow and old-fashioned, but the rewards are worth it. You guessed right, dear reader, I speak about that great Indian sport, matchmaking.
Many young people choose their own spouses these days, but it hasnâ€™t put the matchmakers out of business yet. Modern matrimonial websites offer ample proof of this. The latest is the clearly named IIT IIM Shaadi. This is the site to use if you want Ivy-league intellectuals like Chetan Bhagat for a groom. Other niche sites include VIP Shaadi (for the rich and famous), Intercaste Matrimonials (for the liberals), Divorcee Matrimony (for innocent divorcees), and SimplyMarry.com (for the desperate).
And then of course, there are the traditional veterans of the game. Take my dad for instance. When my husband and I lived in Australia, I asked him to find an apartment in Bangalore for us. Our weekly Skype calls suddenly got very interesting.
“Hi Appa, did you find anything?”
“Yes, the milkman said there was a 3BHK on sale at Mallika Mykonos. You remember the building? Itâ€™s the one with the slogan: ‘Your own Greek island in Bangalore’. Anyway, I went and spoke to the family. Very nice, cultured people. They have one son.”
“How is the flat?”
â€œTall and fair. 28 years old. He has an MBA and is in a good job. ”
“What is the price?”
“Shall we see him for Latha, your co-sister’s brother’s wife’s once-removed cousin?”
“Appa, how is the flat? Did you ask the price?”
“We’re going to discuss that tomorrow. I’ll get her horoscope before I go.”
Another time, after we’d moved to India, he brought his laptop to me in an excited state.
â€œSeeâ€, he said, â€œThis girl is an up and coming Carnatic singer, and a published author too. She will be ideal for your over-achieving cousin M!”
“Appa!â€ I said in alarm, “You can’t find a random person on the internet and make a match! You donâ€™t know anything about her.” I then gave him one of my bossy little lectures on how he must not believe everything he read online. I also made a mental note to myself to never get into this game.
About a month after the incident, I was at a play with my friend Rekha. She was pointing out to me the hip theatre types of Bangalore. “And that”, she said, “Is that promising young singer.”
“You won’t believe this, Rekha”, I said, “But my dad wanted to see her for my cousin. Imagine!”
Rekha cleared her throat. “Well, she is available.”
“How do you know?”
“We got a proposal from her family for my cousin. It didn’t work out but she’s a good catch.”
“Really? What a coincidence!”
“Do you know she’s written a book? Such a sweet girl too.”
“Tell you what”, I said, â€œJust forward me her horoscope. I’ll take it from there.”
Before I knew it, I had got sucked into the game. For a brief moment, I battled my inner matchmaker but she was too strong. “Send me your cousin’s as well”, I continued, “You never know…”