Forget the town gossip or even the evil sister-in-law. Facebook is the new villain in the saas-bahu saga. Ask 24-year-old Ishra Khan, whose fiancé recently called off their marriage.
“I had no idea what had gone wrong. And then I found out my mother-in-law had seen pictures of me on Facebook wearing short tops and skirts,” says the engineer.
Her off-shouldered avatar convinced her fiancé’s mother that she was “too modern” for their conservative Muslim family.
The explosive popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut — where users reveal personal details, and post photographs and videos — have led to a unique phenomenon in India: they’ve become the new tools for background checks in arranged marriages. Instead of relatives or detectives doing character-checks, a quick look through a prospective match’s profile page is enough.
“Clients often say, ‘I’ll ask my son to check her out on Facebook before confirming whether we’d like to meet her,’” says marriage consultant Falguni Mehta. “Sometimes they’ll refuse to meet a girl because she’s written she’s an occasional drinker on her page.”
Meghna Malhotra, a 26-year-old Mumbai-based physiotherapist, says Facebook came to her ‘rescue’. “My parents arranged a boy for me and I really liked him. Then he added me on FB and I saw pictures of him smoking marijuana. I turned him down after that,” she says .
For Tasha Thakkar, 26, the site is where she does her screen test of boys her parents like. “It helps me see what they really look like. I also get to see if we have any common friends so I know what kind of social circle they belong to,” says the event manager.
Zohaib Qadir (28), however, did a quick clean up to delete all incriminating pictures. Even those that have him holding a soft drink. “Someone may think just because I have my arm around my friend, I have a girlfriend. Or that a glass of Red Bull is actually beer”. Why take chances?
(Names have been changed)