Fifty years ago, Indian society functioned in a predictable manner. It was understood that men had to earn a living and women had to look after the homes. The number of women being educated was growing, but as soon as they graduated, they were married off to a suitable match. They were brought up with that notion as well, so there was no conflict in anyone's mind about the plan laid out for when and who you should get married to. Parents looked for a "good family" from the same religion/ caste to marry their sons or daughters in to and the only other thing that needed to be ticked off was that the boy was earning money. Age gap, height, weight, and even skin colour were not considered deal breakers. In fact, in some parts of the country, marrying an older girl was considered auspicious.
Cut to the now saturated world run by businesses and their marketing departments. Pick any family ad now, and you will see a fair, thin, beautiful girl with a super fit, tall, and handsome man. If that wasn't enough, Photoshop was invented to make the whole world's fantasy to look a certain way become real, no matter what the mirror says. Newspapers started carrying matrimonial ads saying "Fair, slim, beautiful girl, educated, and homely, height less than 5ft 4in, age less than 24 years wanted for a 27 year old 5.ft 11, tall, handsome boy." This added another 5 criteria to finding a match. Then, with the internet, matrimonial sites promised to cater exactly to what you wanted. Of course, they had all of the above as search criteria with a promise to show you thousands of profiles compared to the 4 or 5 pages of newspaper ads.
Somewhere down the line, the reluctance for making introductions by friends and family the old fashioned way also set in. The main reason for this could be the low success rate of such introductions considering the many criteria that have set in leading to fatigue of making these introductions. Earlier, people met, on an average, not more than 5 or 6 individuals before the so called "rishta" happened. The number now has gone up 10 times to 50 or 60, hence the fatigue on the part of the person making the introductions.
The highly-customised search criteria have led to the want for a highly customised life partner as well. With so many profiles at your disposal, the rejection rate is way higher than acceptance rate. And, the reasons for rejection are even shallower. For example, the man is bald. He could be super fit, well educated, very articulate, and doing exceptionally well professionally, but sorry, I can't even meet you because you are bald. The girl seems to be a bit chubby. Everything else seems perfect but hey, I got to drop you for your weight. The availability of plenty of profiles keeps everyone going, continuously searching for the next best profile, and in the process, delaying the decision making and increasing the angst.
This increase in angst then leads to questioning of one's own self. It slowly starts chipping away at your confidence and you feel the need to be a certain way to make yourself suitable enough. It then becomes even harder because the confused signals one sends out in this situation can only attract those who you don't want to be with, unless you are very lucky. Suddenly the phase of your life that should be all about having lots of fun and doing a lot of different things becomes a phase where you are constantly worrying if you'll ever find someone.
The barrier of religion and caste is already breaking, but what about the other barriers of height, weight, and skin colour? They are worse as they push you towards wanting something perfect. And, just like there is no perfect world - there isn't a perfect human being either - including you!
Yes, we are a different generation who is more liberal, independent, and clear about we want. So, if we whittle down our wish list and make it about attitude and personality, we actually might get what we want. He should have a good sense humour; she should be passionate about what she does; he should be compassionate; she should have a sense of adventure are examples of attitudes to define. Your life partner should make your life easy, conversations with him or her should never bore you, and there should be physical attraction - these should be the bedrock of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman.
Simran Mangharam is the co-founder of www.floh.in , a platform that connects singles in real-life.