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In a world of dating apps matchmakers still thrive

They are treading the digital universe with a personal touch, keeping thick files and making use of social media

more lifestyle Updated: Oct 08, 2017 10:56 IST
Anesha George
“Either someone from my team who knows both families, or I personally make it a point to attend every meeting between both sides,” says Janvhi Oberai, community matchmaker, Delhi
“Either someone from my team who knows both families, or I personally make it a point to attend every meeting between both sides,” says Janvhi Oberai, community matchmaker, Delhi(Illustration: Sudhir Shetty )

If you thought matrimonial ads still started off with the ‘Wanted tall, dark and handsome boy’, Ram Sadhe, who runs Glory Matchmakers in Mumbai, will steer you into the present. “I recently had a lady fill out a form for her daughter, which did not specify how she wanted the prospective groom to look, but had written in big, bold letters: BOY MUST BE FUNNY,” says Sadhe, 50, laughing.

Glory has been forging alliances among Roman Catholics since 2008 and claims to have made 150 matches, but says the game has changed. “Now, I have to find out if the boys on my list are not only trust worthy but also have a funny bone.” Young men seek Kareena Kapoor look-alikes. NRIs walk in with photographs of actresses they want to marry, overestimating the city of dreams. And 70-year-old men come in looking for 50-year-old brides.

Deepika Godiawala, 71, who runs a marriage bureau, Parichay in Ahmedabad, says that traditional matchmakers are opening up their horizons to accommodate a wider demographic. “We now include categories like young divorcees, widows and widowers, which will remove the stigma,” she says. She’s found some of them partners too. “That’s where the personal touch comes into play in the matrimonial business.”

Online services may have the numbers, thousands of profiles you can sift through, algorithms and filters for your every preference. But human matchmakers cast their nets deep not wide. The process is part analogue (cupboards of files, arranged by sect and sub-sect) and part digital (connections on Whats App). “I share and collect information about prospective grooms and brides through Facebook,” says Taruni Shroff, who has been helping Gujaratis in Mumbai tie the knot. “But deciding who will be a good match for whom is what my skill and years of experience is all about.”

Going the old-school way

For Mumbai Parsis Marazban, 49 and his wife Jasmine Maney, 46, who operate out of their home in Mahim, matchmaking is a way to help the ever-dwindling community. Their tools: astrology, numerology and psychology.

“It’s mostly parents who bring their children to matchmakers, because most kids are headstrong about finding their own partners,” says Jasmine. “Instead of forcing them into marriage, we call them home learn about their personality and their aspirations.” It seems to work. Of the 16 couples they have united in 22 years, all remain married.

Marazban says that most people love to hear about themselves and love to analyse their characteristics and actions. “This is what makes them attracted to the people we suggest as well,” he says. The trick however, is to identify and deal with restless personalities. “The fire element in someone shows they are not easily convinced and will take their time to understand and choose their partners, so we guide them accordingly. No coercion or brainwashing works, just conversations with us about what will bring stability in their lives.”

Breaking the ice

Delhi’s Janvhi Oberai, 62, has been orchestrating big, happy, loud Punjabi marriages for 10 years. “My job is my stress buster. The amount of adoration I get for my work is unparalleled,” she says.

The job of a community matchmaker, she says, does not end with finding a match and taking one’s cut, it’s a responsibility that extends beyond the wedding. “I cannot live knowing that my error in judgement has ruined two people’s lives,” she says. “Either someone from my team who knows both families, or I personally make it a point to attend every meeting between both sides.”

From cracking a joke to breaking the ice between nervous couples, to assuring families that a marriage is not always a smooth process, Oberai, says it can be an emotional roller coaster ride. “It’s encouraging that a lot of women today are confident of what they want. They won’t be pushed around or emotionally manipulated by their parents,” she says. “Parents are broadening their perspective instead.”

One of the couples she connected four years ago, still calls her on their anniversary to thank her. “Such bonds can’t be made through online matrimonial sites.”

Mumbai’s Aarti Chabbria, 65, has been getting Sindhi boys and girls married for the last 31 years. She has scores of detailed files in her office and isn’t fazed by web-based competition. “Getting someone married is a personal affair,” she says. “You don’t want your private details and a dolled-up-photo on the internet. My job is about building a connection, not just making money.”

Registrations usually cost Rs 5,000, but are free around Diwali. “This is my way of proving that money does not buy you love,” she says with a laugh.

When Mumbai-based marketing executive Ralena Moras D’Souza, 29, was looking for a groom last year, she was not embarrassed about approaching a community matchmaker. “I was disappointed by the matches online,” she says. The family went to a matchmaker in Mangalore who asked her what type of a husband she really wanted, rather than templated questionnaires found online. “She helped me find a boy in Bangalore. We hit it off in two weeks, got married in January this year and are happily settled in Stuttgart, Germany.”