I’ve just realised that the matrimonial pages of newspapers are minefields for the uninitiated. The last time I visited these pages was over twenty years ago, when a family friend was trying to find a bride for his son. Because he knew that any attempt to find a match for the brat within his circle of acquaintances would be completely fruitless, he had no option but to put an ad in the newspapers and hope that someone who didn't know the dolt would read it. And because I wrote the ad, I not only spent an entire Sunday admiring my literary efforts but also wasted hours trying to convince my parents that it was one of the finest examples of matrimonial ad writing and they should have it framed.
A month ago, a friend of mine in the US wanted to find a match for his son and he asked me to keep an eye on the ads in the papers. My first reaction was a cordial dislike of this loser who couldn't find a single girl in all of the US, but then I remembered my old skills and decided to help him out. So there I was one Sunday, leafing through the classifieds section, hoping to catch the latest trends in marriage ads. I soon realised that all my experience was completely useless—it belonged to a pre-historic, pre-text-messaging era, when matrimonial ads were written in plain English.
Almost all the ads these days are prefaced with ‘SM for…’. I initially thought it stood for sado-masochist, although it was odd that a family would advertise ‘Bride Wanted: Sado-Masochist for South-Delhi based, Punjabi boy…’. On second thoughts, I realized SM could also stand for ‘slightly mad’or even ‘silly moron’: it's possible that a family could have a demented son and they wanted a suitable match. That's when it dawned on me that SM stood for ‘suitable match’, which is why it's used so frequently.
I soon became quite savvy at some of the acronyms. PQM, for example, stands for professionally qualified match and not ‘pretty queer male’as you might think. ‘SPQM B’ful Cltrd frm Stld fly’ means ‘Suitable professionally qualified match, beautiful, cultured from settled family’ .
But what are we to make of ‘PQM for PB BR boy' ? PB could be Punjabi, but it could equally well be ‘Poor Bihari’ or even ‘Paunchy Bengali’. Is the advertiser trying to tell the reader the boy is ‘Bloody Rude’? It could even be ‘Professionally qualified match for paunchy Bengali, big, round boy…’. And what on earth does ‘SM for GB boy’mean? Could the GB stand for ‘Generally Bald' ? Or is it just ‘Good Boozer'? Does the SPB in ‘SPB 30/5’10 H’some CA’stand for ‘Small and Pathetic Brain’or does it stand for ‘Specially Boring'? And then there’s the ‘Gr Br only son' — there’s obviously some ‘gadbad’going on here but then it should have been spelt ‘Gd Bd’ . And what about the ‘SRI fair BTech’ ? Was the advertiser trying to tell people that despite being fair and a BTech, the groom was ‘Sadly a Rogue and an Impostor’ ? Another common feature of many matrimonial ads is ‘Send BHP’, perhaps a reference to a CV. ‘BHP’probably stands for ‘Brief Hot Profile’ .
Perhaps the NRI section would be better? Not really. There was an ad about an ‘S/W 100k, GC, wkg in USA’ . The S/W is easy to place — it’s not ‘slightly wicked’but software, though I am stumped with the GC. Could it mean ‘Good Cook’ ?
I have a strong feeling, however, that it’s the guys who work in the classifieds sections in the newspapers who dream up these acronyms. Consider, for instance, the ad I finally put in for my friend’s son: ‘Wanted: Nice, Understanding, Decent and Elegant bride for a Handsome, Outstanding, and Tall young man. Beautiful, Interesting, Knowledgeable, Independent, Nice Individuals will do’. And here’s what appeared in the paper: ‘NUDE bride for a HOT young man. BIKINI will do’.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint