Hen Anita Jain's father placed a matrimonial ad in a newspaper, seeking a 'broad-minded' groom for his daughter, he was shocked when no one responded.
Anita, born in Delhi and living in the USA, had hit her 30s and was still single. The Harvard graduate decided to move to India to get married.
Her plan was to hook a modern man who would let her make her decisions, party and smoke.
Today, at 35, Anita is still single. Her Bridget Jones-style book about her fruitless quest Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India is slated for release.
Men don’t measure up
Anita is not alone. Stories like hers are unfolding every day with more and more financially independent women finding it tough to find Mr Right.
In fact, it is the men who fail to meet the required criteria. He should earn at least as much if not more, be interesting or good-looking or both and should not impede her freedom.
Kully Gaya (35) (named changed), business head of a hospitality firm in Mumbai, is single.
"Many of the good guys are married. It's one thing to have an affair with a married man but eligible single men are not available," she laments.
Gaya is willing to marry someone younger. "Even if he is in his twenties," she says.
Mumbai-based psychologist Reema Shah, who counsels many single women, feels that being unmarried is becoming socially acceptable.
"Women today don't want to be bound. Yet, while many are happy remaining single, others tend to get depressed," she notes.
The problem, she thinks, is the fancy Utopian idea that many harbour about themselves and their partner, which is "far removed from reality".
Shah counsels such women to "drop their standards" and those who've crossed the 28-year mark are told to forget love and look for companionship.
Amrita Halarnkar (name changed) (35) a fitness instructor in Mumbai, says, "Abroad, even if you can't find a husband, at least you have a boyfriend and a live-in relationship."
Halarnkar ended up in the arranged marriage circuit as she was not allowed to have boyfriends. When it was the turn to meet the prospective in-laws, her brown skin was a problem.
"Every Indian family wants a beautiful daughter-in-law with fair skin." Halarnkar's hunt continues to the day. "It's like job-hunting," she says.
Lina Sharma (name changed). 33-years old, a professional, remained single as she was always introduced to prospective grooms through the family.
"There's too much pressure from families and the men are weak-willed to stand up for their wives," she says.
Waiting for the ‘dream man’?
Psychiatrist Dayal Mirchandani too feels the problem is that many women wait for the "novel-like romance" to happen.
But there are single women like Roopam Rastogi (38), a housekeeping consultant, who refuses to be tied down with marriage.
"The men I met wanted me to give up my job because their family did not want me to work for a hotel."
Today Rastogi works six days a week, parties thrice and travels alone to exotic places.
"My closest friend is a 24-year-old man, and I don't feel 38 years.If it has to happen it will”, she says with nonchalance.
"But I am not going to look for someone," says Rastogi.