Love at first byte

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They used to be the words ev­ery girl ap­proach­ing her late teens or early 20s dreaded. “Dress up nice,” her mother would say, ex­cit­edly. “There’s a boy com­ing to tea.” This stranger wouldn’t turn up alone. He would bring his fam­ily with him to size up the girl’s prospects as a suit­able wife. That meant a host of awk­ward ques­tions; Could she cook? Was she kind? How much did she like house­work? The most ob­vi­ous ques­tion went unasked – a woman’s fer­til­ity was sim­ply as­sumed. Of course, she would give the boy’s par­ents their grand­chil­dren.

Through­out this, the girl would bus­tle be­tween the fam­ily, try­ing not to look at the boy, in­stead hand­ing out cups of tea – and smiles – be­tween plat­ters of home-made samosas, ka­cho­ris and sweets. The boy’s role was muted – he sim­ply had to be pre­sentable, not even good-look­ing, and have great ca­reer prospects. In other words, money. It was a tra­di­tional – but for many undig­ni­fied – way of find­ing a spouse.

Now, with the break-up of the nu­clear fam­ily and many chil­dren mov­ing away from home or even abroad to study, th­ese meet­ings for an ar­ranged mar­riage are not – thank­fully for many – pos­si­ble. Which is why dozens of mat­ri­mo­nial web­sites have be­come big busi­ness – boast­ing around 16 mil­lion users in a mar­ket worth Rs3 bil­lion.

As our re­port on page 32 re­veals, it has em­pow­ered the sin­gle men and women to search for their own bride or groom online – or to send their fam­i­lies their choice to vet. Ev­ery year thou­sands of cou­ples marry af­ter meet­ing online and fall­ing in love at first byte. Let me know what you think of that story and the rest of our very spe­cial In­dia spe­cial!

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