There is a lot to learn about contemporary times and relationships in matrimonial advertisements that appear in newspapers. These pages that a lay reader skips are for me a great pastime and entertainment.
There is some very interesting stuff hidden in these columns. A friend asked me recently to accompany him to a seminar on "the complexities of relationships", and I said: "What is there to learn that I don't experience every day at home?" Surprised, he asked me: "How do you learn at home?" "Open the matrimonial advertisement page," I said, "and you will understand, too." He just laughed it away and went alone to the event.
While living in a family, friend circle, and society gives you a limited exposure to relationships, the matrimonial columns reveal relationships in all their colours. There are tales both good and bad. Some make you think and some make you wonder: "Is it possible?" In every issue, there are more interesting stories to read.
In Punjab, young people are going crazy about settling down abroad. Many prefer to go there on student visa, so an eligible Punjabi bachelor demands in the advertisement: "The girl should be IELTS (test of English skills) pass with 8 bands. If not, she should bear all the expenses of getting visa." Another ad says: "Boy Australia PR; wanted bride settled in Australia who can sponsor the boy's brother from India through marriage." Are they talking marriage or a 'complex' deal? You are appalled to read: "Young girl wanted for a retired man, aged 80, living alone in a palatial house, away from family." One first recalls the umpteen old people abandoned by their families, who seek company to kill time. Then another thought comes to the mind: "He must be like Khushwant Singh, the famous writer-journalist who had the reputation of being quite a ladies' man."
One learns how marriage, still considered in India to be a holy bond, is falling apart, when one reads: "Suitable match for well educated and smart girl divorced after 10 days of marriage." Or "SM4 (smart match for) boy with two issues, divorced after 10 years of marriage." One of my aged relatives, an old reader of this stuff, also agrees how times have changed.
A small light shines through in this dark era of "honour killings" and dowry deaths when one comes across many advertisements announcing: "Caste no bar, no dowry, Manglik acceptable." A good sign, but the right-thinking people are still a minority, as there are far more advertisements saying: "Upper caste no bar, only non-Manglik." email@example.com
(The writer is a Punjabi newspaper journalist based in SAS Nagar)