In many traditional communities, get-togethers organised for those who are single and ready to mingle, are the new hunting grounds for potential suitors. But abandon all thoughts of wild parties and raucous behaviour.. these rendezvous are more discreet. In fact, parents are invited to play chaperone.
Sejal Chacha is a marriage counselor at Aasheervad Mandal, a marriage bureau which organises annual meetings for Hindus. The last meeting had 300 guests and Chacha has observed a success rate of 80 per cent with couples who met through their Mandal.
Preparation begins a month in advance, with prospective partners being contacted for information. Vital statistics are then compiled into booklets, which are distributed at the venue. All participants are given a numbered badge for identification.
Informs Chacha, “We call the participants up on stage and ask them to introduce themselves. Later, families can seek out appropriate matches and set up individual meetings.”
She believes that the trend is picking up because tight schedules prevent people from associating with community members in social settings. “Young people usually mix only with the office crowd. They rarely attend wedding or religious ceremonies, so tend to miss out on an opportunity to meet people from similar backgrounds.”
Dolly Mansukhani, a physiotherapist who moved to Mumbai six years ago, agrees. Having participated in meetings organised by the Jain community’s Uttkarsh Mandal, she says, “Previously, you found suitors only through word-of-mouth. But that made it difficult for those living away from home. This way you don’t have to worry about meeting people and everything is organised for you.”
Dolly’s mother, Sushma, is all for such meetings which allow young people the freedom to make acquaintances while allowing their parents to keep an eye on proceedings.
“I want my daughter to make the right choice, find someone she has something in common with. This way you can gauge similarities and differences at the onset,” she points out. But the system has its share of detractors too. Amit K, an engineer, has steadfastly refused to participate in the meetings even though his parents attend them religiously.
The 25-year-old explains his reasons: “I don’t think you can decide whom you want to marry on the basis of one interview. I wouldn’t like to be grilled by someone looking at me as a prospective groom.” But while Amit doesn’t like “being treated like a commodity”, he does agree that this traditional twist on speed dating is a good way to meet new people. And it’s not just youngsters who are enjoying the dating game. Chacha has welcomed participants between the ages of 65 and 70 years. She says, “Widowers and divorcees who are looking for a second marriage love the idea.”