Single, never been married, 35 years old, looking for love. Single, never wanting to marry, 20 year old, looking for love. Divorcee, married once, 42 years old, looking for love. Widowed, 2 children, 29 years old, looking for love. Married, bored, looking for love.
And then many more; in fact each one of us at some point in our life will have looked for love and for that dream match who one hopes to share life's special moments with. For an average Indian family, this would imply finding a groom or a bride. There is also an urgency of finding the right one by a certain age - no pressure!
In England and Wales, as per the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, there were 248,842 marriages in 2017, a decline of 2.8 per cent from the previous year. Only around 22 per cent of all marriages were religious ceremonies, the lowest percentage on record. Around 88 per cent of opposite-sex couples had lived together before marriage and this percentage was lower in those who married in a religious ceremony. Another interesting statistic to note is the average age of opposite-sex couples - 38 years for males and 35.7 years for females in 2017.
To marry, you obviously need to meet someone. Just how are people meeting prospective matches? Family and friends are ready reckoners willing to introduce you to their friends and acquaintances, invite you to house parties and functions. Then there are weddings that are a great meeting point for eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. Of course, there are the arranged marriages, many of which have lasted and weathered the tests of time, age and family expectations. One would be tempted to reflect on the previously quoted statistics and wonder if rates of marriages are on the decline, how exactly would an average person find love?
There are over 1,000 matchmaking websites related to Indian matches alone, with Shaadi.com, Bharat Matrimony, Eharmony, Elite Singles, Jeevan Saathi and Dil Mil being some of the popular ones,. The much talked about show on Netflix, 'Indian Matchmaking', has raised a few eyebrows and led us to question bias and stereotypes in matchmaking.
It appears that dating sites have done well to capture the attention of those wanting to not rely on matchmakers and instead let algorithms and social media platforms do this for them. Tinder, Bumble and several such dating sites are gaining popularity among busy professionals and also students.
Having no experience of any of the dating or matchmaking websites, I had to rely on discussions with friends who do. Though I had assumed that dating sites were just for those looking for physical, momentary pleasure, I was surprised to find a few having met their now husbands or wives on these platforms. One such user said: “I actually prefer meeting people on a dating site as I have at least some background information on them. I have options, far too many at times, but they are there to choose from.”
A couple who have been happily married for a few years now, met each other on a dating site to which they didn't even sign up to themselves. In both their cases their friends had cheekily signed them on and asked them to give it a go.
Another dating app user said: “Not just an emotional connect but physical, sexual compatibility is important. Sex may not feature highly in a traditional matchmaking process but is an important determinant - a make or break sometimes for relationships.”
On dating apps and matrimonial proposals, one essentially ought to create an advert of themselves - put an attractive picture along with a few lines of introduction to reflect who you are, what you like to market yourself to prospects. Of course, there are matches where people saw each other for the first time after getting married, but that's something that happened in our mum and dad or grandparents' generation. Today, looking at how ugly and treacherous divorce can be, people like to know everything they can about the one they are going to date or marry. Ultimately, everyone is looking for love that lasts.
I asked people in a social media survey, what traits attracted them most to a person. To my surprise, responses ranged from eyes and smile, vibes, sense of humour, elegance, behaviour, warmth, personality and positive body language. No one referred to height, weight, waist size, skin colour or even hair length!
It made me wonder then about the very basis of a relationship - romance. Within the parental and peer pressures of finding the right match, looking through a checklist of parameters - height, weight, physical bodily built, eyes, hair colour, profession, eloquence, etiquette and a million others, one really is looking for warmth, positivity and someone who is pleasant as a companion; a friend.
Butterflies in your stomach, blushing as soon as their eyes meet yours, then accidentally touching your hand, stealing glances at each other, leaving hints hoping the other would notice and make the move, the anticipation, the skipping of heartbeats and the long wait; counting flower petals to know does s/he or does s/he not - is this something people aren't going to experience anymore?
Pertinently, Ruskin Bond once wrote: “You find love when you least expect to, and lose it when you are sure that it is in your grasp.”
Lakshmi Kaul is the London-based UK Head & Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and an active Indian diaspora campaigner. In this regular Talking Point column for 'iGlobal', she will focus on issues that deserve spotlighting within the Global Indian community, referencing her personal experiences.