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Table of contents :
Acknowledgements
Contents
About the Author
1 Introduction
1.1 Approaches and Paradigms
1.1.1 Defining the Middle Class
1.1.2 The Post-liberalisation Era
1.1.3 Marriage in India
1.2 Conducting Research
1.2.1 Inception and Motivation
1.2.2 Identifying the Sample of Study
1.2.3 Interviews
1.2.4 My Presence and Biases
1.3 Book Plan
References
2 Pre-marital Journeys of Romance
2.1 Delayed Marriages and Makings of a Modern Life
2.1.1 Marriage and Modernity
2.1.2 Operating with Deadlines
2.2 Moral Economies of Romance
2.2.1 ‘This Is the Time to Have Fun’
2.2.2 Unexpected ‘Love’
2.2.3 Fatigue of Fun
References
3 The Modern Family
3.1 Shaping Romantic Relationships
3.2 The Formal Process of Spouse-Selection
3.3 Meet the Parents
3.4 Muted References to Dowry
3.5 Reproduction of Class and Status
References
4 The Third Wheel: ‘New’ Matchmakers
4.1 Matrimonial Bureaus/Agencies
4.1.1 Acting as a Bridge
4.1.2 Professional Ethics
4.2 Matrimonial Websites
4.2.1 Registration Process
4.2.2 ‘About me’
4.2.3 Making of ‘Choice’
References
5 In Pursuit of a ‘Good’ Match
5.1 Caste Endogamy and Its Flexibility
5.2 Class Homogamy: Lifestyles and Professional Choices
5.3 Exposure as Class Reality and Ambition
5.4 A Good-Looking Spouse
References
6 The Gendered Makings of a Modern Couple
6.1 The Imagery of the Couple
6.2 The Good Wife: Establishing Respectable Modernity
6.2.1 The Working Woman
6.2.2 Patrilocality
6.2.3 The Moral Project of Disciplining: Dressing, Eating, and Drinking
6.2.4 Resistance and Agency
6.3 The Ideal Husband: ‘Higher and Better’
References
7 Love in the Time of Middle-Classness
7.1 Surbhi: Establishing Status with Professional Degrees
7.2 Sangeeta: Resistance as Acquiesce and with Time
7.3 Jayant: Cosmopolitanism and Fear of the Other
References
8 The Injuries of Love and Matchmaking
8.1 Sex, Drugs, and Self-harm: ‘It helped ease pain’
8.2 Emotional Numbness: ‘I did not marry for love’
8.3 Normalisation of Violence: ‘I was in love’
8.4 Humiliation: “It is like a poodle show”
References
9 Conclusion
9.1 Are Matches ‘Made in Heaven’?
9.2 Viewing Society Through the Lens of Matchmaking
9.3 Central Themes
References
Index
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Parul Bhandari

Matchmaking in Middle Class India Beyond Arranged and Love Marriage

Matchmaking in Middle Class India

Parul Bhandari

Matchmaking in Middle Class India Beyond Arranged and Love Marriage

123

Parul Bhandari Associate Professor, Sociology Jindal Global Business School O.P. Jindal Global University Sonipat, Haryana, India

ISBN 978-981-15-1598-9 ISBN 978-981-15-1599-6 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6

(eBook)

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore

For Neelam and Naresh

Acknowledgements

This book, and indeed the pursuit of this research, which spanned my doctoral and postdoctoral years, was possible only due to the support of my colleagues, friends, and parents. As I sit down to this humbling task of thanking each of those who provided me the encouragement and strength to continue to think, write, and research, I am filled with immense gratitude. I want to begin by thanking my Ph.D. supervisor, Prof. Göran Therborn, who always accompanied his incisive comments with encouraging smiles. Dr. David Lehmann was incredibly supportive, enthusiastically engaging with what he found to be fascinating insights into Indian matchmaking. During fieldwork, I shared my thoughts and received guidance from Prof. Patricia Uberoi, who patiently heard me out. Professor Nandini Sundar has been a great influence throughout this journey, right from the time when she motivated me to apply for Ph.D. programmes to the time after I came back to India, and I discussed book ideas with her mostly on our Lodhi Garden walks! I thank all the academic and administrative staff at the University of Cambridge, the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH), Delhi, and the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, who have nurtured my passion for research. A special thanks to all my interviewees, the gatekeepers, as well as those who preferred to chat ‘off the record’, for allowing me into their lives and trusting me with their personal information, secrets, struggles, pains, and guilt. This book is because of them. The Springer team, especially Shinjini Chatterjee, Priya Vyas, and Satvinder Kaur, have been ever so patient and supportive. At Cambridge, I was fortunate to meet Anshul Avijit, Adeel Hussain, Tripurdaman Singh, Ali Khan Mahmudabad, Amir Khan, Parth Mehrotra, Michelle Wu, Sara Shahzad, and Adam Aly, who have been cheering for me till date. A special thanks to Vinay Sitapati and Aditi Sriram for patiently brainstorming a fitting title for the book. Finally, nothing would have been possible without the unwavering support of my parents, Neelam and Naresh Bhandari, who have given me immense love and care, boosted my morale during dreadful lulls, and remain the most inspiring duo for me. This book is for them.

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2 Pre-marital Journeys of Romance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1 Delayed Marriages and Makings of a Modern Life . 2.1.1 Marriage and Modernity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.2 Operating with Deadlines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 Moral Economies of Romance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.1 ‘This Is the Time to Have Fun’ . . . . . . . . . 2.2.2 Unexpected ‘Love’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.3 Fatigue of Fun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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3 The Modern Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1 Shaping Romantic Relationships . . . . . . 3.2 The Formal Process of Spouse-Selection 3.3 Meet the Parents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 Muted References to Dowry . . . . . . . . . 3.5 Reproduction of Class and Status . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1 Approaches and Paradigms . . . . . . . . . 1.1.1 Defining the Middle Class . . . . 1.1.2 The Post-liberalisation Era . . . . 1.1.3 Marriage in India . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2 Conducting Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2.1 Inception and Motivation . . . . . 1.2.2 Identifying the Sample of Study 1.2.3 Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2.4 My Presence and Biases . . . . . . 1.3 Book Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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4 The Third Wheel: ‘New’ Matchmakers 4.1 Matrimonial Bureaus/Agencies . . . . 4.1.1 Acting as a Bridge . . . . . . . . 4.1.2 Professional Ethics . . . . . . . . 4.2 Matrimonial Websites . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.1 Registration Process . . . . . . . 4.2.2 ‘About me’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.3 Making of ‘Choice’ . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Contents

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5 In Pursuit of a ‘Good’ Match . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1 Caste Endogamy and Its Flexibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2 Class Homogamy: Lifestyles and Professional Choices . 5.3 Exposure as Class Reality and Ambition . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4 A Good-Looking Spouse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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6 The Gendered Makings of a Modern Couple . . . . . . . . 6.1 The Imagery of the Couple . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 The Good Wife: Establishing Respectable Modernity 6.2.1 The Working Woman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.2 Patrilocality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.3 The Moral Project of Disciplining: Dressing, Eating, and Drinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.4 Resistance and Agency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 The Ideal Husband: ‘Higher and Better’ . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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7 Love in the Time of Middle-Classness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1 Surbhi: Establishing Status with Professional Degrees . 7.2 Sangeeta: Resistance as Acquiesce and with Time . . . 7.3 Jayant: Cosmopolitanism and Fear of the Other . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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8 The Injuries of Love and Matchmaking . . . . . . . . . 8.1 Sex, Drugs, and Self-harm: ‘It helped ease pain’ 8.2 Emotional Numbness: ‘I did not marry for love’ 8.3 Normalisation of Violence: ‘I was in love’ . . . . . 8.4 Humiliation: “It is like a poodle show” . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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9 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.1 Are Matches ‘Made in Heaven’? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.2 Viewing Society Through the Lens of Matchmaking 9.3 Central Themes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183

About the Author

Parul Bhandari is Associate Professor, Sociology, at the Jindal Global Business School, O.P. Jindal Global University, India. From 2017–2019, she was a Visiting Scholar at St. Edmund’s College and the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, UK. Prior to this, she was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH), Delhi. She completed her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Cambridge (2014), under the Cambridge Commonwealth Scholarship. She has also been Guest Faculty at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and the Human and Social Sciences division of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. Her research interests include the study of social class (middle class and elites), modernity, social change, marriage, family, gender, and money. She is the author of ‘Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects’ (Routledge, London, 2019) and ‘Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices’ (co-edited) (Springer 2018).

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Chapter 1

Introduction

Marriages in India have since long been a topic of much anthropological, sociological, and general interest. In early twenty-first century, as India acquires a new form of global identity, accruing to its economic policies of liberalisation and a rising professional middle class, discussions on ‘type’ of marriages preferred by young Indians, have been abounded.1 Largely, these types are analysed with respect to categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’.2 This book contributes to these discussions, by unpacking the ways in which matchmaking in contemporary India takes place. The main aim of this book is to provide an extensive insight into the processes of spouse-selection, which a particular segment of the Indian middle class—one that is immediately associated with a modern and global India—undertakes in order to self-identify itself as being both ‘modern’ and ‘middle class’. To achieve this aim, I not only focus on the perspectives of the marrying individuals but also bring attention to the role, motivation, and intention of several important ‘actors’, as it were, involved in matchmaking, including matchmakers, friends, and the family. Significantly, I also unpack the essence and meanings of certain conceptual language—‘good match’, ‘suitable wife’, ‘providing husband’—that is routinely used in matchmaking. In doing so, I also address renditions and understandings of love, duty, honour, and gender roles that mark the being of young middle-class Indians. In explaining and describing the process of matchmaking and its varied experiences, furthermore, I crucially emphasise on another important yet overlooked aspect, namely, of rejection, hurt, and pain. By providing such a detailed account of matchmaking, my larger purpose is to explicate the explicate the specific ways in which a seemingly ‘simple’ and straightforward process of matchmaking is transformed into a significant opportunity to construct, 1 Several works have discussed the advent of a ‘new’ middle class in post-liberalisation India. Some

of these include Jaffrelot and Van der Veer (2008), Jodhka and Prakash (2016), Varma (2007), Sridharan (2011), Fernandes (2011), and Upadhyay (2009). 2 Some of the works explaining the complex relationship between being middle class and type of marriage include Donner (2002), Kapur (2009), and de Neve (2016).

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_1

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1 Introduction

reinforce, or challenge ideals of being middle class. In so doing, I also explain how the spaces and methods of matchmaking appeal to both familial and individualistic sentiments of marriage. In general, this book calls for expanding one’s understanding of matchmaking by not limiting it to the process when matchmaking formally begins (e.g. by family, matchmakers, or the marrying individual themselves) or focus exclusively on the experiences when love is transformed to marriage (though these form an important theme of discussion). Rather, this book argues that in order to understand matchmaking in general and address specific questions as of why some people prefer to marry someone from the same caste or same class it is also important to understand their pre-marital experiences. At the same time, it is important to note the intervening role of matchmakers who may shape desires and criteria of the family and the marrying individuals on the suitability of a spouse. This expansive approach, as it were, to understand matchmaking is all the more relevant in contemporary times because the middle class—especially that segment that is the focus of this book—is pushing their age at marriage to the late 20s or the early 30s. Their unmarried status is often described as a phase of ‘elongated singlehood’ or ‘prolongation of youth’ (Jeffrey and Dyson 2008; Jones 2007; Koh 2011), in which they experience significant romantic encounters and establish ideas on how their life can/should be. These experiences in turn, as I explain in the book, can reinforce middle-class identities or allow the young middle class to reconfigure and re-imagine these identities. This book thus provides an understanding of the phase of pre-marital experiences and how it shapes practices and preferences of matchmaking. At another level, this book also provides a peek into the anxieties and apprehensions of the middle class particularly on their marital future. The world of the professional middle class who are often viewed as the ‘children of neoliberalism’— owing to the fact that they grew up in the neoliberal era of India—is increasingly shaped by a rhetoric as well as bourgeoning reality of a ‘new’ India. What this ‘new’ begets, however, is far from clear and is continuously in the process of being contested and discovered. In this situation, the topic of marriage—who to marry, when is the ‘right’ time to marry, and how and where to meet a suitable partner—becomes only more interesting. This book, thus, is an attempt to delineate, reveal, and understand experiences of matchmaking in this ‘new’ and old world of the middle class. In doing so, this book adopts four approaches and perspectives: firstly, it provides an extensive and exhaustive account of contemporary spaces of matchmaking, giving due attention to all aspects involved in finding a suitable spouse from the use of professional matchmaking services to expectations of family, and to individual and experiences of intimacy and romance. Secondly, it explains how the individual-informal practices of spouse-selection interact with the family-formal-arranged practices, not always challenging each other but also working in tandem. Thirdly, it explains the specific understandings of the ‘modern’ that construct a middle-class Indian identity, arguing that the modern is indeed about remakings, adjustments, and changes and is far from a neat category. Finally, it brings special attention to feelings and experiences of hurt, rejection, and pain of the process of spouse-selection arguing that these too are significant to the making of modern middle-class selves.

1 Introduction

3

In the next few pages, I lay out a framework of the main themes and axes along which this research may be analysed. In the first section, I briefly discuss the ‘setting’ as well as ‘positioning’ of the subjects of this research, namely the professional middle class. I also provide a short introduction to research and approaches on marriage in India thus far. In the second section, I delineate the methods used to collect data, with a reflexive discussion on my role in conducting this research, and the final section provides a brief outline of the other chapters of this book.

1.1 Approaches and Paradigms 1.1.1 Defining the Middle Class Misra in his seminal work ‘The Indian Middle Class: Growth in Modern Times’ (1961) lamented the absence of adequate scholarship for the study of the middle classes. Since then, Indian scholarship has considerably compensated for this lack. The initial works in this field were conducted mainly on understanding the distinctiveness of a colonial middle class. More recently, research is interested in concluding whether there indeed exists a ‘new’ middle class, born in the wake of India’s liberalisation policies of the 1990s. In pursuit of this question, much of ethnographic research on the middle class in India has delineated certain characteristics of being middle class in contemporary India. Specifically, they attempt to draw out distinctiveness of being middle class according to specific geographic regions. This is to say, instead of making claims on middle class at a pan-Indian level, their emphasis is to account for specific regions. Therefore, we note that Donner (2002, 2008, 2011, 2016) conducts her fieldwork in Kolkata and Fuller and Narasimhan (2007, 2014) in Tamil Nadu; Nisbett (2007) focuses on the city of Bangalore and Ossella and Osella (2000) on Kerala; Dickey’s research is based (2011) in Madurai; Rudolph and Rudolph (2011) focus on the region of Rajasthan. Furthermore, each of these works understands the middle class based on a different occupational status. For example, Fuller and Narasimhan (2007, 2014) focus on IT sector and its relationship to being middle class. They include in this category those who have migrated to the city of Chennai to pursue a career in the IT sector. Some other works (Jeffery et al. 2011; de Neve 2011) trace the transformation of the landed rich class of small towns to being a middle class. Furthermore, these works include those who self-identify as being middle class as well as those who have ‘achieved’ middle-class status by an upward mobility. Together these works, therefore, explain the middle class as including a range of professions, class, and social status. At times, this variegated, heterogeneous essence of being middle class has led scholars to prefer the term ‘middle classes’ (Baviskar and Ray 2011; Srivastava 2011). In effect, this heterogeneity has come to mark the defining feature of being middle class, albeit, a class that is loose and expansive and accommodating of many a professions and social and cultural backgrounds. Deshpande succinctly notes, ‘Although it is true that the middle class is a notoriously

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1 Introduction

loose term, it is striking that hardly anyone wishes to decline membership and even those who are ineligible wish to be included in it’ (2003:129). It is in the backdrop of these debates and discussions on the nature and meaning of being middle class that I present my research. Like the above-mentioned woks, I do not claim that my findings and research are indeed a pan-Indian phenomenon. Nonetheless, my aim is to unpack the world of a ‘new’ middle class, which grew up in post-liberalisation policies and is nurturing its professional ambitions in an everincreasing multinational work culture. In order to understand and define the ‘new’ of this set of the middle class, I begin with reverting back to classic understandings of class as provided by Marx and Weber, according to whom class is determined by material resources and skills that an individual brings to a market situation. In that regard, there is indeed something ‘new’ about the contemporary middle class, for they hone and sell their work skills in a ‘new’ market situation, that of private multinational employment. Jodhka and Prakash (2016) too note this ‘change’, as it were, in the ideals and professional choices of the middle class. They explain that the post-colonial middle class was committed to ideals of nation-building and promoting a socialist state by committing to state or public sector employment. The ‘new’ middle class, on the other hand, they claim, provides legitimacy to the policies of economic liberalisation and privatisation as it ‘has turned to the market for its further growth and consolidation…the state begins to be increasingly viewed as a site of corruption and patronage while the market is seen as rewarding merit and performance’ [Chatterjee (2011) in Jodhka and Prakash (2016:161)]. A distinctive feature of the ‘new’ middle class then is their increasing participation in an open economy dictated by free market ideals, best exemplified in a shift in preference from public to private sector employment. Therefore, I chose to interview that segment of the Indian middle class who desire private sector employment, particularly in a multinational organisation, after achieving educational and professional training at India’s leading engineering and business administration institutes. Whilst this section of the middle class is homogeneous in terms of their material position, their familial and social backgrounds were varied. Some, for example, were born to parents employed in high-status professions, with at least one four-wheeler vehicle, whilst others were born to barely literate parents who did not own a car or fancy furniture.3 Some were educated in English-medium schools of urban centres such as Delhi and Mumbai, whilst others were not fluent in English until they moved to Delhi for higher education and employment. The commonality, amongst them all though was that they all self-identified as middle class. This speaks to Deshpande’s description and analysis of the middle class. According to Deshpande, the middle class is an elusive and loose category, not necessarily ‘middle’ or average in terms of income or its number in relation to the general population. Rather, it has come to signify an in-betweeness or average position as it is not defined by extremes of wealth or poverty, or lifestyle preferences. Such an understanding of the middle class is indeed echoed by the professional middle class I interviewed, for they took pride 3 For

further discussion on the different variables as of income, household items, and vehicles to define middle class, see Sridharan (2011) and Krishna and Bajpai (2015).

1.1 Approaches and Paradigms

5

in being a moderate and temperate class—one that does not epitomise extremes of Indian class system. For example, they said that they do not identify with, nor approve of the lavish lifestyle of the elites and nor do they relate to the struggles of survival of those from lower economic backgrounds. Satisfied with their situation, mindful of their limits and aspirations, my chosen population sample considered themselves to be the ‘in-between’ class. It is of course to be noted that this was their self-presentation, for most of them, if not all, had come to live a rather luxurious life with frequent foreign trips, meals at fine restaurants, and expensive leisure activities, alluding to a status that was akin to that of the elites. Yet, they were keen to selfidentify as being the middle class, which, as I found out, was also most starkly emphasised in their decisions of spouse-selection. It is here that I find Ortner’s (2003) conceptualisation of class most useful and appropriate for my research. Following Geertz’s (1973) methodological approach, Ortner provides a ‘thick description’ of middle class in America, explaining that class is also culturally constructed and is not simply a given or assigned status, as it were. She says, ‘…we may also think of it as a project, as something that is always being made or kept or defended, feared or desired’ (2003:13). She assiduously explains the need to incorporate both objective and subjective factors in understanding class constructions. She explains that there is a two-way relationship between an individual’s ‘objective’ position determined by income, residence, occupation, and their ‘subjective’ experiences and practices involving boundary maintenance, use of status symbols, and others as such, which define their class position. Bourdieu (1984) too explains the role of cultural dispositions in determining and performing of class, most evidently observed in mannerisms, tastes, and styles of life. My understanding of class then is guided by these important works, which argue that class is constantly constructed in everyday performances and is determined by cultural and subjective experiences as much as by any overtly objective factors. An important contribution in this pursuit is the edited volume by Baviskar and Ray (2011). Baviskar and Ray explain middle-class characteristics not only by economic standing or consumption practices but by bringing attention to the everyday experiences that carry cultural codes which enable an ‘unconscious gatekeeping’ for the middle class, especially in the spheres of work, leisure, and at home. In this volume of collected papers, they showcase the dialectical relationship between economic objective standing and the actor’s desires, imaginations, and aspirations, which together map the journey of being middle class. An emphasis on subjective experiences of ‘actors’ to perform and experience their class thus remains central to this work. In particular, I am drawn to the discourse on the importance of values, especially moral values, which are seen to be important boundary markers of class. Here, the pioneering work of Lamont (1992) remains most influential for my analyses. Lamont, in her exhaustive comparative study between the American and French upper middle classes, much like Ortner, brings attention

6

1 Introduction

to the subjective experiences of class.4 She significantly emphasises on the place of ‘morals’ in distinguishing between classes. In fact, her primary critique of Bourdieu’s conception of boundary maintenance is that he overlooks the role of moral boundaries. To explicate, Lamont in her work identifies three types of boundaries—(i) socio-economic, determined by wealth, power, profession; (ii) cultural boundaries, determined by taste, high culture, style of life, and (iii) moral boundaries, which are drawn on the basis of honesty, work ethic, personal character (1992:4). She argues that often works on class tend to focus on the first two, with little attention to the later. This absence was also detected by Dickey (2011), which, in her work on the middle class in India, leads her to argue that the Indian middle class takes moralising themes of moderation and deliberation in almost all its everyday practices including consumption. Saavla (2010) too explains the middle class’s determining relationship with morality by arguing that it is through the use of morals in their everyday life that the middle class is able to strengthen their ‘in-between’ position. Srivastava (2007, 2011, 2014) explains that being middle class is essentially a moral claim. He argues that the middle class has little to do with one’s income or material possession as, for example, a low-income clerk as well as a high-earning employee at a multinational firm equally claims middle-class belonging. The binding factor here is their claim to certain moralities that are seen as distinctively being middle class. Thus, in this book, I focus on a particular segment of the middle class who are popularly seen as the ‘new’ middle class, as they seek employment in the ever-increasing private multinational sector, newly emerging in India. At the same time, my definition of this middle class is not limited to their income or professional status. Rather, I am interested in delineating the ways in which they invoke and reinforce moralities of being middle class. More recently, works explain the middle-class sphere of consumption (Appadurai and Breckenridge 1995; Fernandes 2006; Lietchy 2003; Mazzarella 2003; Nisbett 2007), youth cultures (Bhandari 2019; Jeffrey 2010; Nisbett 2007; Osella and Osella 1998; Waldrop 2011), professional choices (Fuller and Narasimhan 2006, 2014; Jeffery et al. 2011; Radhakrishnan 2011; Upadhyay 2009, 2011), gated communities (Baviskar 2011; Srivastava 2014). My focus however is on the often-overlooked field of romance and matchmaking. This is not to say that no previous work has linked marriage with middle-class moralities, but that the approach provided in this book is more holistic. This is to say, this book does not focus on one aspect of marriage, defined by ‘type’ or arranged or love marriage. Rather, it undertakes an expansive framework by focusing on all ‘actors’, as it were, in this process of matchmaking (individual, family, and matchmakers), as well as the essence, and meanings of concepts routinely used in matchmaking. Crucially, unlike any other previous work on marriage in India, this book delves into hurt, pain, and injuries experienced in the process of spouse-selection, to explain the ways in which middle-class identities are constructed, invoked, and reinstated.

4 Whilst

Ortner explains the dialectic relationships between subjective and objective experiences, Lamont clarifies that she is ‘exclusively concerned with the subjective boundaries that we draw between ourselves and the others. I pay no attention to…objective social boundaries…’ (p. 9).

1.1 Approaches and Paradigms

7

1.1.2 The Post-liberalisation Era Often whilst referring to the ‘new’ middle class or ‘neoliberal’ class, the indication is towards that set of the middle-class population that grew up in the 1990s and thereafter in the wake of new liberalisation policies adopted by India. Scholarship, however, has demonstrated reservation and discomfort in these labels of ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘new’; for example, Fernandes (2006, 2011) argues that this set of middle class is not ‘new’ in terms of being new entrants to the middle-class status. Rather, this term signifies a new identity and orientation towards the state that promote the state’s ethos of liberalisation. Fernandes writes The middle class is not ‘new’ in terms of its structural or social basis…Rather, its newness refers to a process of production of a distinctive social and political identity that represents and lays claim to the benefits of liberalisation (2011:68–69).

This difference in orientation of values becomes starkly evident if we understand the middle class as a historical and sociological category (Jodhka and Prakash 2016). Jodhka and Prakash explain that the category of the middle class is synonymous with a modern capitalist society. It came into being in the context of a western-style education system, which demanded an administrative class to support colonial rule in India (2016:4). As time passed, these middle class nurtured ambitions of freedom and were in fact those with acute political aspirations leading the country into independence. In the 1950s and 1960s, post-colonial India’s focus was on nation-building, and the middle class then popularised socialist state policies. At the same time, as Joshi (2011) explains, they also established their cultural authority by undertaking a cultural entrepreneurship as they published literary journals and magazines.5 In the 1990s, India underwent another significant shift in its economic policies where it supported free market and opened its economy to foreign investments and trade. This strong economic change certainly impacted India’s social and cultural reality, with a growing emphasis on being ‘modern’ and experimenting with the ‘new’. One of the most compelling characteristics that the ‘new’ ushered in was an emphasis on consumption.6 It is in this time period that consumption, and not nation-building, development, or social programmes was the new idiom of ‘mobility, achievement, and identity for the middle class’ (Jodhka and Prakash 2016:145). This is to say that for the ‘new’ middle class the sign of being middle class was not passion for nation-building and furthering of socialist agenda, rather ‘self-making through the acquisition of a lifestyle, primarily associated with possession of status goods’ (ibid:146). Upadhyay (2008) succinctly states that for this middle class the primary ideology was consumption, which replaced previously held ideology of 5 However,

they did not want to dislodge the feudal elites. So, they incorporated them as they excluded the lower castes and classes from participating in the public sphere. In fact, in this way, the middle class became a class of the upper castes leaving out a substantial population. Also noted by Deshpande (2003). 6 Several recent works have explained the middle class’s relation to consumption in contemporary era, including works by Brosius (2010), Jaffrelot and Van der Veer (2008), Mazzarella (2002, 2003), Nisbett (2007), Varma (2007), and van Wessel (2004).

8

1 Introduction

development. As a result, whilst the ‘old’ middle class were symbols of a Nehruvian state socialism and Gandhian ideals of austerity (Fernandes 2006; Khilnani 1997), this contemporary middle class, due to its acute focus on consumption, is viewed as a symbol of India’s transition to liberalisation (Fernandes 2011:69). This penchant towards consumption is not restricted to consumption of goods. Rather, as Jodhka and Prakash (2011) point out, it extends to their style of life, which now includes extensive traveling and regular medical check-ups, therapy, and counselling. This is not to say that all middle class are increasing their consumption practices per se. Rather, it is the appearance or association of consumerism with being middle class that is now widely accepted. By championing the era of consumption and itself as its symbol, the middle class has thus become a ‘hegemonic socio-cultural embodiment’ of India’s turn to liberalisation (Fernandes 2011:69), advocating its benefits.7

1.1.2.1

Neoliberalism Unpacked

Often, as noted earlier, this middle class is popularly referred to as the ‘neoliberal middle class’. The use of the term ‘neoliberal’ has generated much debate in scholarship, and my aim here is certainly not to provide any definitive understanding of this term. Rather, I acknowledge that ‘neoliberalism’ has a range of different implications for people attach different meanings to it depending on their own unique context (Springer et al. 2016). It is beyond the scope of this book to delve into this discussion, yet for purposes of better understanding this research context, I briefly discuss those definitions of neoliberalism that come close to the current situation. Here, I consider Hilger’s (2010) contribution most relevant, as he offers three approaches to unpack this term. The first approach emphasises the culture of neoliberalism, according to which neoliberalism can be defined much like a culture is defined, that is, as a shared set of values and practices. A second approach focuses on understanding neoliberalism as a system, one that perpetuates and enables a ‘top-down’ capitalist system. The third approach emphasises on the technologies of government that are involved in promoting neoliberalism, ‘…the individual responsibilisation and the self as enterprise is a major principle of the neoliberal art of governing’ explains Hilgers. This art of governing, promotes acute individualisation, where the self is developed and conceived of as an enterprise in a competitive framework that leads individuals to manage themselves in the logic of the market’ (2010:358). In order to understand the middle class from the perspective of their matchmaking practices, I find Hilger’s first approach as more relevant. This is because this approach urges to view neoliberalism as a shared set of practices and values, and in the contemporary situation this shared sense seems to be consumption—not simply of goods and services but with a focus on betterment of self. 7 Furthering

this explanation, Deshpande (2003) considers a framework as provided by Gramsci as more useful to understand than the Weberian, Marxian, or Bourdeian approaches which give primacy to material positions and dispositions, whereas in discussing the middle class it is crucial to analyse the discourses of power and hegemony.

1.1 Approaches and Paradigms

9

Gooptu (2013) explains that one of the features of neoliberal culture in India is an ‘enterprise culture’, which is dominating the contemporary Indian youth. Amongst the middle class I spent time with, Gooptu’s ‘enterprise culture’ seemed evident in the phase of ‘elongated singlehood’. This is to say that the youth decided to push back their age at marriage, so as to pursue their professional ambitions, and in this way, the fervour of enterprise can be connected to decisions on marriage. The professional middle class often explained to me that they prefer to use the decade of their 20s to ‘focus on making a career’, instead of deciding on marriage. At the same time, it is not that this phase of non-marriage is devoid of any romance or intimacies and decisions on marriage. Instead, they make use of this phase of ‘elongated singlehood’ to experiment and ponder over their preferences of a suitable spouse. In due process, at times they engage in romantic relationships and/or prefer to primarily be ‘unattached’ and focus on building a career. Either way, it is in this phase that they begin to hone their understandings of how they wish to appear being middle class and suitably modern and how this may reveal in the choice of their spouse. The relationship between being modern and being middle class is indeed an important one and not just the contemporary, but the previous middle class too was defined by explicating this relationship. Particularly, the ‘old’ middle class was seen to have a dubious relationship with modernity, where, for example, a western ‘modern’ lifestyle was an acceptable ideal in the public sphere. Yet, the private life, it was insisted, should be unsullied by these ideals. In other words, the private sphere, for example, was expected to carry on ideals of patriarchy and to maintain the status quo, namely of women’s primary sphere being that of the domestic (Chatterjee 1993). In the same vein, important characteristics of the contemporary middle class too can be understood vis-à-vis its relation to being modern. In this case, the contemporary middle class seems to have embraced the modern in a way that it furthers specific aspects of neoliberalism ones that emphasise consumption and ‘self’. This book aims to further unpack the relationship of the middle class and being modern, in that, it delineates the ways in which middle-class professionals encourage and engage in practices and decisions of ‘self’ whilst at the same time giving due importance to values relating to family, duty, and honour. It poses the relevant question that if postliberalisation India can be seen as en era that promotes ‘enterprise culture’, that is, individualism and focus on ‘self’, then how does this interact with the structures, norms and expectations of the ‘collectives’, particularly family, community, kinship networks?

1.1.2.2

Understanding the Indian Modern

One way of approaching and untangling the interactions between desires of self and continuities of societal norms and familial expectations is by nuancing the idea of the ‘modern’. It is important to approach the concept of the modern not in an uncritical manner, wherein only ideals of progress, betterment, or development are attached to it. Rather, the modern needs to also include those registers which are at once contradictory and conciliatory. In other words, it is important to view the modern not

10

1 Introduction

as a neat category which only champions values of rationality and progress, as the modernisation theorists would like us to believe.8 Instead, it needs to be recognised that the ‘modern’ is bereft with hierarchy, violence (Dube 2009; Dube and BanerjeeDube 2006), and as such can be a tortuous and far from a straightforward experience. The modern has often erroneously been presented as based on some tabula rasa of imagination and practice, looking outwards to a futurity. However, it is important to note that ‘modernity involves processes of the past and the present’ (Dube 2012:7). This interaction with the past and present inevitably leads to contradictions and contestations, thereby making a neat future vision and experience of the modern a difficult possibility. It is in this framework that the experiences of the middle-class youth need to be analysed as they do make claims of being ‘modern’. In effect, it needs to be noted that these claims are not simply about being ‘new’ or completely detached from the past, exuding a focus on ‘self’. In fact, as we will see in the book, their expressions and aspirations of being modern are not detached to their social and cultural backgrounds and learnings. My argument then is not that there is a ‘new’ middle class in India, the characteristics of which I explicate in this book. Instead, following Fernandes’ (2006, 2011) work, I recognise that there has not been a drastic structural change in the reckonings of the middle class. Nonetheless, post-liberalisation has shaped the social and cultural orientation of the middle class in a certain way, albeit related to ideals of professional success, aspiration to a global identity, and a life significantly determined by consumption. At the same time, ties with family, notions of traditions, and other cultural identities find firm resonance with this ‘new’ middle class. The aim of this book, then, is to explicate the specific ways in which these approaches influence matchmaking. In doing so, I reveal the specific ways in which these aspects enable a making, remaking, and experiencing of middle-class modernities.

8 One of the key modernisation theorists is Talcott Parsons. The aim of the modernisation theory he

proposed was to categorise societies in binaries of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’. In order to determine the category to which a society would belong, Parsons proposed that progress should be measured along five pattern variables: affectivity versus affective neutrality; self-orientation versus collective orientation; particularism versus universalism; ascription versus achievement; and diffuseness versus specificity. For him the West, in particular the American society, had successfully laid a claim on the modern as it had experienced industrialisation, specialisation of occupational roles, urbanisation (Parsons and Shils 1951). Subsequently, there emerged other scholarship that argued against a unilinear vision of the modern; for example, Eisenstadt proposed the use of ‘multiple modernities’ (2000); post-colonial scholarship insisted on critically appraising a western hegemonic concept of the modern, and instead focus on the ‘local’ or subjective (instead of ‘global’ or imposing) interpretations and understandings of the modern. A few recent works that bring attention to such a critical and nuanced understanding of the modern include Chakrabarty (2000), Dube and Banerjee-Dube (2006), Dube (2009, 2012), Deshpande (2006), and Choukroune and Bhandari (2018).

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11

1.1.3 Marriage in India There is growing anxiety amongst the middle class regarding their marital future, and in particular, with respect to who will form an ideal partner, and how to meet this ideal spouse? This angst is closely entwined with their aspirations to give a concrete form to their professional aspirations and ‘be settled’ in a ‘good’ life. It is also related to achieving or even imagining sexual and social intimacies in more individuated frameworks of love and romance. These anxieties seem more emboldened and complicated in contemporary cultures where increasingly technology is used for looking for suitable spouses (websites and mobile phone applications) and a rise of leisure culture that enables dating or meeting of suitable spouses (dance classes and gymnasiums). This angst begets other towering questions on matchmaking including is family really rescinding its presence and letting go of control in matters of spouse-selection? How strong are commitments to caste endogamy? What are the meanings and contours of the concept of love that is often liberally used to describe any marriage that does not follow the notion of parents-arranged unions? Not just in India but all over South and South East Asia, there is a new phase of ‘elongated singlehood’ where urban middle class is choosing to push their age at marriage. Is marrying at 24 any different than marrying at 31, and if so, how do we as sociologists understand these differences? In this book, I attempt to provide answers to these questions, though in no way I claim that this book is an exhaustive account of changes and continuities in practices of marriages. Nonetheless, in providing an ethnographic study of marital procedures and practices amongst the middle class, I hope to shed light to some changes and continuities. More so, I aim to bring out the need to introduce more paradigms in which discourses on marriage can be analysed. Specifically, I draw attention to the phase of pre-marital relationships and emotions of pain and rejection in the process of spouse-selection, which as I demonstrate reveal considerably about attitudes and practices on marriage. The field of study of marriage is indeed a vast one, and over many decades scholarship has made crucial interventions to explain the different aspects of marriage. The earliest works contextualised marriage in a structural framework in order to understand the social organisation of society, with a focus on kinship. This interest slowly gave way to cultural frameworks, which explained the construction of patriarchy, womanhood, and changes in marital preferences and procedures due to impact of industrialisation, modernisation, and urbanisation. There are indeed many lenses through which decisions of marriage, its procedures, dynamics, and structures can be analysed, for example, by gift exchange and rituals (Caplan 1993; Goody and Tambiah 1973; Sharma 1993), migration (Gardner and Osella 2003; Kaur 2012; Palriwala and Uberoi 2008), marriage strategies (Bourdieu 2002; Donner 2002; Pache 1998; Parry 2001; Sheel 2008), legality (Basu and Ramberg 2015; Mody 2008; Oldenburg 2002; Sen et al. 2002), violence (Chakravarti 2005; Chowdhry 1997, 2009; Menon and Bhasin 1998), commercialisation of weddings (Kapur 2009; Uberoi 2008), interactions with caste (Banerjee et al. 2009; Corwin 1977; Fruzetti 1982; Grover 2011;

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1 Introduction

Sheel 2008), meanings of love (Dwyer 2000; Hirsch and Wardlaw 2006; de Neve 2016; Trawick 1990), and gender dynamics, agency, and resistance (Chanana 1988; Das 1976; Derne 2000; Gold and Raheja 1994; Jeffery and Jeffery 1996; John and Nair 1998; Kalpagam 2008; Thapan 2009). The field of study of marriage is indeed exhaustive, and whilst I touch upon many of these themes, my motivation is also to provide a fresh perspective on analysing marriage decisions. I explain how procedures and decisions of marriage uphold appropriate middle-class moralities and a suitable modernity, which in turn shape the cultural codes and grammar of being middle class in India. In pursuit of this, I focus primarily on four aspects of contemporary marriage. Firstly, my emphasis is not on the structures that govern marriage, rather on the practices, social action, and agency involved in matchmaking. In doing so, I not only bring attention to the marrying individuals (and their narratives) but also examine the role of other ‘actors’ involved in matchmaking, namely professional matchmakers, detective agencies, and the family. Secondly, I eschew from adopting a unilinear progressive approach to understand change and modernity, especially in order to analyse the increasing intervention of technology in matchmaking. This is to say, I do not establish a causality between the use of internet and increasing romance or individualistic choice in marriage. Rather, I consider the dynamics between technology and culture as more nuanced by demonstrating that technology can ascertain ‘old’ values as it can also enable new imaginings of companionship and practices of romance. Thirdly, I tease out the latent and manifest gender asymmetries that are often couched in the language of modernity and love. Specifically, I view women’s voice and agency as not always in complete resistance, but also in acquiescence.9 Fourthly, I bring attention to the emotive language of ‘love’, duty and honour, and experiences of humiliation, rejection, and pain, which mark this process or spouseselection. In doing so, I call for the need to duly include these affective experiences, which carry the potential of altering decisions on choice of spouse, in an analysis of spouse-selection. Crucially, in this book, I do not proceed the analysis of matchmaking from the established categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’, or indeed the middle category of ‘arranged cum love’. Nor do I focus only on the meanings and renditions of ‘choice’, as such, in explaining how contemporary marriages are more ‘modern’ or ‘Indian’. My approach resonates with Clark-Decès perspective as in her ethnography on spouse-selection in Tamil Nadu (2014) she argues that, ‘discourses fetishising individualistic notions of “choice” and self-chosen marriage do more to obscure than illuminate the ways in which Tamil young men love and marry’. To that extent, though this book is about the professional middle class of Delhi and their romantic experiences and journeys of spouse-selection, my aim is not to explain how ‘choice’ is constituted in their process of spouse-selection. Rather, my aim is to provide an extensive analysis and holistic picture of all the actors, languages, and structures that assist in contemporary matchmaking and how these create or shape class identities, particularly by invoking moralities of the class. 9 Some

of the important works that propose such a nuanced understanding of women’s agency include Kalpagam (2000, 2008), Thapan (1997, 2009), Jeffery and Jeffery (1996).

1.2 Conducting Research

13

1.2 Conducting Research 1.2.1 Inception and Motivation I was in University in the early 2000s, and as is perhaps expected of ‘youth culture’, our conversations and discussions inevitable included topics of romance and marriage. It was striking to note the extent to which these matters occupied our minds, and even so the purposefulness with which futures of a relationship were decided. For example, it was not uncommon to rationalise a decision of breaking-up a romantic relationship on the grounds that the two individuals had different ambitions for their life. Equally, some emphasised the importance to ‘adjust’, ‘compromise’, and bring changes in one’s personality in order to make a relationship progress. An aspect that stood out in all these discussions was the anxieties related to romantic relationship, and the different rationales provided to claim whether a relationship could or could not transform into marriage. In these narratives and experiences of romance, were seamlessly interwoven aspirations and ambitions of this section of a young middle class. This is to say, the young middle class was insistent on ‘thinking hard’ before marriage and taking time before making a commitment, especially to first ensure that their professional lives are secure. This dream was supported by their parents. At the same time, they desired to find a spouse who could relate to this dream and support their ambitions and endeavours of professional success. In other words, in an already established matrix of adjudging a suitable partner on parameters of caste, linguistic, religious commonality, now the young middle class also desired a partner who can relate to the dilemmas and workings of a post-liberal Indian economy. This is to say, the axes along which they wanted to ‘relate’ to a potential partner now also included someone who shares their experiences of working in this post-liberalised work culture, namely of acute competition and ambition. In other words, the desire was to be with someone, who, for example, equally enjoys and appreciates the ‘good life’ of eating out and consumerism, and is shaped by aspirations of ‘more’. The decision to choose a suitable spouse was indeed a cause of great anxiety, and this was evident not simply in conversations with those in my age cohort, but also in discussions on weddings of their elder siblings or relatives. Being able to have a worthy conjugal union was one of the most pressing concerns of the young middle class. Witnessing these decision-makings and deliberations on spouse-selection only piqued my interest in the interconnections between neoliberalism, individual aspirations, love for family, desire for social experiences in romance, and the emerging ‘marriage markets’ and languages of professionalism in matchmaking. I became interested in how these marital discourses and practices aid in construction of middle-class identities.

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1 Introduction

1.2.2 Identifying the Sample of Study My first approach was to decide on the geographical extent of my fieldwork, and I chose Delhi as my primary site of research. This decision was motivated primarily by two reasons: firstly, because Delhi is one of the main cosmopolitan centres of India, with a strong lure of migration especially for the North Indian population, and secondly, Delhi is close to the district of Gurugram (formerly Gurgaon), in Haryana, which is host to head offices of all multinational companies in India (Patel and Deb 2006; Srivastava 2014). As a part of ethnographic research, I conducted in-depth interviews with over 100 individuals, either single, or engaged to be married, or recently married, men and women, within the age group of 25-32. I also conducted interviews with 30 sets of parents, and other professionals involved in the process of matchmaking including matrimonial agents and detective agents. I also conducted participant and non-participant observations as I spent time with groups of young middle class during their leisure activities and generally ‘hanging out’ with them. I chose five clusters, as it were, which in some ways signified the ‘neoliberal’ middle class. Three of these ‘clusters’ were India’s highly coveted educational institutions which produce able management employees and engineers—who too often choose a path of ‘management’. The students in these institutions were training to acquire high-paying jobs in private multinational companies. The other two clusters comprised multinational companies who recruit engineers, management students, and social sciences students as consultants, analysts, and human resource professionals. Whilst I had no restriction on the caste and religious composition of the people I interviewed, it was noteworthy that most people I ended up spending time with were mainly upper-caste Hindus. This is in line with the argument furthered by scholars (Deshpande 2003; Fernandes 2006; Jodhka and Prakash 2016) that though seemingly an ‘open’ category, the middle class is overrepresented by upper castes.10 Though the caste and religious background of my sample were skewed in favour of one category, there were substantial variances in the economic and social status of the people I interviewed. Some belonged to small- or middle-income families living in tier 2/3 cities, whilst some others were children of senior government employees or businessmen living in Delhi. The common thread, running through these variances, however, was that they all self-identified as being middle class. Moreover, they were also employed in similar kinds of high-salaried jobs, after achieving competitive educational and professional degrees (beginning from Rs. 50,000 per month going up to Rs. 5 lakhs), and aspired towards gaining a globally oriented lifestyle involving foreign travel and engagement with global work cultures. In this way, despite any differences in upbringing, social or financial status of parents, what glued together

10 The middle class, old and new alike, have been seen to always push out certain groups from reaping benefits of the project of modernity. Jodhka and Prakash (2016), for example note this about the colonial middle class. Recent works on the characteristics of the contemporary middle class too note their different exclusionary practices such as Baviskar (2011); Srivastava (2014); Waldrop (2000) on gated colonies; and Sankaran (2006) and Voyce (2007) on shopping malls.

1.2 Conducting Research

15

this group as being middle class was that they considered themselves to be symbols of ‘global India’ and in this way, being the ‘new’ middle class, as it were.11

1.2.3 Interviews Whilst my aim was to get an equal number of men and women for in-depth interviews, as it turned out, fewer women agreed for an interview, though I did manage a ratio of 40 women to 60 men. Women’s reluctance to give me an interview was telling of the immense pressure they are put under to not bring dishonour to themselves or their family. Men, on the other hand, seemed more keen to talk about their experiences of romance and marriage, as I faced fewer refusals from them. Having said that, it was satisfying to note that women gave longer interviews, providing in-depth details of personal and intimate experiences. I conducted interviews in both English and Hindi, and used the language that was most comfortable to the interviewee. Whilst most preferred to talk in English, in the middle of the conversation, they often broke into Hindi. There were only a handful who preferred to give the interview in Hindi. I structured the interview guide in a way that it could tap on a range of experiences of marrying individual. The primary aim was to understand their interactions with those who aided in the process of spouse-selection, any other influences that shaped their opinions and decisions (friends, peers, professional ambitions) on choosing a spouse, and their experiences of romantic relationships as well as rejection and heart pain that some of these experiences caused. As the questions were mainly openended, some aspects were more emphasised in certain interviews than others. Given that the topic of discussion was highly personal and intimate, my sample, once I identified the five clusters, was mainly determined by snowballing. Those who had agreed to give an interview for extended period of time, discussing their personal opinions and experiences, recommended friends and colleagues to me, whom I contacted for an interview. The process of selection for interviews, therefore, depended on trust and comfort. Given that the topic of the interview was personal, several interviewees requested me to not record their words. Some suggested that I can use pen–paper to note down their interviews, and some others preferred the interview be more conversational—with no recording device nor use of pen and paper to take notes. As a result, the narrations presented in the chapters are not verbatim but built on what was said and remembered by memory and notes. I have not used any real names in analysing the narratives, and have used pseudonyms instead. With one cluster, an MBA institute, I lived on campus for a few weeks. This enabled me to spend more time with the people I was interviewing; talking to them outside the context of an interview and interacting with their friends and colleagues, 11 Deshpande writes, ‘having consolidated its social, economic, and political standing on the basis of the development state, this group is now ready to kick it away as the ladder it no longer needs’ (2003:150). This means that the middle class now claims to be the nation, rather than restricting its role from simply identifying with the nation. In other words, as Deshpande explains, the middle class has shifted its representation from ‘portrait’ to ‘proxy’ for the nation.

16

1 Introduction

which in turn allowed me to get a better grasp on the lifestyle, leisure activities, and ambitions of young professional middle class. Another advantage of this method of research was that it allowed those who were hesitant in giving me a formal interview, to interact with me and share their thoughts on matters related to marriage, sex, and love, in an informal group setting. I also conducted participant observation by registering on matrimonial websites to analyse the structure and content used in these websites.

1.2.4 My Presence and Biases It has often been suggested that information collected in interviews can be biased because the interviewees might be affected by the interaction with the interviewer’s and be concerned with providing a ‘right answer’ (Lamont 1992:19). In my research, this concern could indeed be magnified for the topic of discussion was a rather personal one, with concerns of shame, honour, and pride attached to each experience. Furthermore, my own gender and social identity could have also affected the answers. For instance, in order to appear to be ‘modern’—to an interviewer who they considered to be ‘modern’—some interviewees might have exaggerated their romantic and sexual interactions. It is also possible that some wanted to appear to be more ‘in control’ and not ‘too wild’, and therefore downplayed their sexual and romantic exploits. Similarly, my gender identity might have influenced the interview in some ways. For example, men might have been more eager to speak to a woman interviewer but, at the same time, could have withheld information in order to not appear as ‘spoilt’ or ‘bratty’. Women, on the other hand, might have been willing to discuss their experiences more openly with me as they perhaps felt a sense of camaraderie given that we belonged to the same age bracket and similar social and cultural background. At the same time, I am also aware of any potential ‘distortions’ that my gender, social, cultural, educational background could have caused in the collecting and analyses of data, and employed a few techniques to minimise any potential misrepresentations and analyses. It is important to flag here that my aim is not to arrive at the truth, as it were, of ideas and practices of marriage amongst the middle class. In other words, I am not concerned about the veracity of the claims made by the interviewees. Rather, I am more interested in the politics of self-presentation. Therefore, the purpose of my techniques was to ensure that my class, social, and gender identity do not starkly influence the interviewees’ responses and that I am able to make a sound judgment between reality, perception, and self-fashioning. The fact that I was a doctoral student certainly stood out as an ‘over-achievement’ for many of my interviewees. Some confessed to have initially been intimidated, especially given that I was a student at University of Cambridge, UK, but felt at ease after meeting me, for they said that I did not come across as being arrogant. They also commented that they imagined that I would have dressed ‘differently’, but were pleasantly surprised to see that I was dressed very much like them. In this

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way, I emphasised on creating spaces of commonality between my interviewees and myself, at the same time, not appearing as overtly familiar but reasonably curious. Another difficulty I encountered was owing to my social and residential status, especially with those interviewees who had migrated to Delhi. I often encountered strong opinions on ‘typical Delhi girls’. This stereotype, I was explained, referred to most girls brought up in Delhi, who clearly preferred to wear western clothes over Indian, were talkative and unhesitant in their interactions with men, and were ‘spoilt’ by parents for they had easy access to material goods, including the luxury of travelling in chauffeur-driven cars and dining out frequently. Some even confessed to have reassessed this stereotype, for upon interacting with girls from Delhi they realised that they were ‘warm’ and ‘normal’ much like girls from any other parts of India. In order to not risk falling into the category of a ‘typical Delhi girl’, therefore especially by those who seemed to uphold the stereotypes about ’Delhi girls’, I was cautious to not dominate the conversation, prefer traveling by public transport, and left the decision on where to meet entirely to them. Some invited me to their university campus, others to malls and cafes, and some to public spaces like parks, and I always readily accepted. Then, there were also those interviewees who too belonged to Delhi and were keen to establish commonalities with me, enquiring about the schools I attended and finding other common links. Another way by which I ensured not to influence my interviewees’ responses was by refraining from expressing strong opinions on ‘sensitive’ topics such as adultery and expectations of gender roles. One of my fears, especially when I was staying on the MBA institute’s campus, was that I had developed a reputation of a researcher who talks about ‘past love life’ and ‘marriage’. As a result, a few of the interviewees, especially those meeting me towards the end of my stay, were a bit hesitant to talk to me in an ‘open’ area and always booked library or reading rooms for the interview for they did not want to be seen in an ‘interview setting’ with me. At one post-project submission party, the first man I interviewed came up to me and said, ‘Aapke saamne aane mein dar lagta hai… nanga feel hota hai’ (I am fearful to come in front of you, for I feel naked), implying that I know his deepest and darkest of experiences and feelings, making him feel exposed. This statement was made in part jest, part seriousness, but I was aware that some people might feel uncomfortable to be seen with me. There were also those who confessed that they agreed for an interview only on the recommendation of their friend and would have probably rejected my request for an interview had I contacted them directly. To that extent, my prolonged presence on campus had both positives and negatives, as it allowed me to interact with people in informal settings yet it also lead me to be ‘famous’ as a ‘love-guru’ of sorts. The interviews that I conducted certainly serve as a further topic of research, for they brought out interesting ‘trends’. For example, I found a glaring gap in attitudes towards consumption and importance of cosmopolitanism between those who migrated to Delhi and those who were raised in Delhi. This is to say, there were reasonable differences in attitudes towards meanings of money, cosmopolitanism, ambition, between those who grew up in Delhi and those who were ‘new’ to the cosmopolitan life of Delhi. This made me think the extent to which employment in a certain profession can indeed homogenise experiences of work and lifestyle. In

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other words, it makes one wonder of the differences that exist amongst the same set of professionals, thereby begetting the question of how homogenised this segment of the middle class indeed is? Secondly, it was hard to overlook the ease with which women related their experiences of hurt, rejection, and pain. This is perhaps because women, more than men, felt comfortable in ‘opening up’ to a woman interviewer. Alternatively, it could be because men consider it less ‘manly’ to discuss their experiences of heartbreak and rejection. Due to these reasons, it is possible that women’s voice is more prominent in this book. However, it should be noted that this remains an unintended consequence of this research. At the same time, it certainly presents as an exciting theme of further research.

1.3 Book Plan As emphasised throughout this chapter, this book is an account of processes and deliberations of matchmaking, not only from one standpoint—of marrying individuals, or the role of morals in matchmaking. Rather, it delineates the role, position, and relevance of all actors, concepts, motivations, and emotions that are involved in finding a suitable spouse. Each chapter then provides a particular lens to look at the process and experience of choosing a spouse. Chapters 2–4 focus on the three main actors involved in the process of spouse-selection, marrying individuals, family, and the ‘middlemen’. The next two chapters bring attention to the most often used phrases, which have come to be concepts in themselves, in middle-class matchmaking, namely desire for ‘a good match’ (Chap. 5) and the ‘modern couple’ (Chap. 6). The next set of chapters focus on the affective experiences of the marital process, namely love (Chap. 7) and rejection, pain, and humiliation (Chap. 8). Each of the chapters, though distinctive, has overlapping themes as of respect for family, gendered expectations of men and women, ideals of being modern, aspirations, and moralities which govern romantic relationships as well as decisions on marriage. In this way, the reader can either read the book cover-to-cover in order to get a more holistic sense of contemporary Indian matchmaking or focus on each chapter individually and yet be able to capture the main theoretical approaches and objectives of this book. One of the main objectives of this research is to bring recognition to the phase of pre-marital relationships in analysing discourses and procedures on marriage. I, therefore, begin this book with a chapter (Chap. 2) on pre-marital intimacies. I explain that the young middle class are pushing their age at marriage, as a result of which they now have approximately a decade (usually their 20s) of non-marriage status. This phase has been described by scholarship as ‘elongated singlehood’. In this chapter, I explicate how this phase of ‘singlehood’, or rather non-marriage, is appropriated to experiment with different kinds of romances including ‘one night stands’, casual dating,

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and serious relationships.12 In particular, I relate these experiences to moralising tendencies of the middle class. This is to say, I trace the specific moralities, as it were, that are attached to different kinds of romances. For example, they believe that to be modern in contemporary times inherently means experimenting with different kinds of romantic experiences. At the same time, I also bring attention to those moralities particularly of upholding family honour, which are invoked to not carry on with romantic indulgences. This is to say, that the middle-class youth give primacy to sentiments of sacrifice and duty even in experiences of romance, and make this a basis of also claiming to be suitably modern and moral-middle class. de Neve (Neve 2016) argues that love has its own economies, and in this chapter I highlight the moral economies, as it were, of love and marriage that define romantic experiences of the middle-class youth. In Chap. 3, I shift attention to the family, which is often seen as the main heuristic device to gauge whether a marriage is ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’, depending on its degree of involvement. Querying the stereotypical understanding of family, I explain how parental support is pivotal for the young middle class, in order to present themselves as being modern. Furthermore, I reveal that the family too desires to be seen as ‘modern’ and progressive, as a result of which it accepts a more muted presence in the process of spouse-selection. At the same time, this is not to say that the family retreats from playing an important role. On the contrary, it ensures that its desires and criteria for a suitable spouse are communicated in less confrontational ways and more subtly, often also with the help of matchmakers (discussed in the next chapter). With this chapter, I therefore argue in line with works of scholars such as Béteille (1993) that the family continues to be an important site of reproduction of inequality, as it ensures that the marriage of their children follows rules of class endogamy. In Chap. 4, I bring attention to the role of ‘new’ matchmakers, namely matrimonial websites and matrimonial agencies, which have a sprawling hold in contemporary matchmaking. I delineate the significant ways in which these matchmakers may act as ‘bridges’ between the marrying individual and their family. In doing so, I explain how the matchmakers ensure that the family continues to influence decisions on matchmaking, and at the same time, the marrying individual feels more in control of their process of spouse-selection. It is in maintaining their act as the ‘bridge’ that the ‘new’ matchmakers’ claim to efficiency and impersonal approach in matchmaking plays an important role. Furthermore, I argue that these matchmakers are to a great extent responsible for curating an image of a ‘modern’ because on the one hand, they promote the idea of a companionate marriage and a more individual oriented spousal search. On the other hand, they also assist in reproducing asymmetries between bride-givers and bride-takers and maintain centrality of the family in processes of spouse-selection. This approach of the matchmakers however should not be viewed

12 Surprisingly,

little attention has been given to romantic categories of the young adults. A recent exception is Mihirini Sirisena’s (2018) ethnography on university students in Colombo, in which she traces the meaning, essence, and making of a ‘serious relationship’, which is very similar to the findings of this research (more in Chap. 2).

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as a contradiction or state of ‘in-between’ that needs to be reconciled to suit modern times, for it is indeed this contradiction that constitutes being modern in India. In Chap. 5, I unpack one of the most popular concepts that dominates the jargon, essence, and process of spouse-selection that of a ‘good match’. I explain the different aspects that construct a ‘good match’, drawing attention to continuities of criteria for suitability as well as pointing to any shifts or re-imaginings in this suitability. In particular, I discuss concerns of caste endogamy, which I argue is a flexible criterion in relation to the age of the marrying individual. Furthermore, I also trace certain changes in the constituents, as it were, of a good match. For example, I bring out the popularity of the term ‘exposure’ as a defining criterion of a suitable spouse; that is to say, marrying individuals and their families prefer someone to have ‘exposure’. This, I explain, is a discernible shift from another popular term in matchmaking, namely of belonging to a ‘cultured’ family. This is not to say that ‘cultured’ family rarely appears in jargon of matchmaking but that ‘exposure’—a term that is more akin to individualism, as it signifies an individual’s achievement—seems to define ideals of ‘good match’. A popular aspect of ‘modern’ self-fashioning for this segment of the middle class is claiming an allegiance or desire for being a ‘modern couple’. This phrase is constantly invoked not only by the interviewees but also by the parental generation, and seems to imply an emphasis on a companionate relationship and more gender egalitarian dynamics of a couple. In Chap. 6, I critically appraise the imaginings and practices of being a modern couple by highlighting the gender roles and expectations of a modern coupledom. I argue, for example, that whilst the ‘new’ middle-class women are supported and encouraged to be professionally employed and globally mobile in pursuit of professional ambitions, they are also disciplined especially with respect to their physical appearance, dietary habits, leisure practices, and dressing styles. This is to say that there are no unbounded spheres of freedom and liberation for the young professional middle-class women, as they are subjected to disciplining even in those spaces that they imagined to be sources of freedom and liberation. The gendered connotations of a modern coupledom, thus, as I explain are that a suitable wife is expected to manage both domestic and professional roles with aplomb. I also turn a critical eye to the expectations of a ‘good husband’, explicating that women continue to follow principles of hypergamy. This is to say, women’s primary requirement is to find someone ‘higher’ than them in educational qualifications, economic standing, or professional success. In this way, this chapter questions the meaning of ‘modern coupledom’ as it delineates the ways in which this aspired coupling too follows gendered principles. Whilst this book is about marital discourses and procedures, it does not directly deal with the often used concepts of ‘love’ and ‘arranged’ marriage, or even ‘love arranged marriage’.13 This is because though some interviewees describe their marriage as one category or the other, they also questioned the relevance and meanings of these categories. Keeping this in mind, it seemed more helpful to not proceed 13 One of the first references to the term ‘love cum arranged’ in scholarship was a chapter by Uberoi and Singh (2006) ‘Learning to ‘Adjust’: The Dynamics of Post-Marital Romance’.

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analyses of marriage in urban India with these ready-made categories rather, let the ethnographic details speak for themselves. In that vein, I often use the terms ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ process of spouse-selection, which bring attention to the method to find a suitable spouse. This is to say, it explains whether a more formal route of soliciting services of matchmaking was used to find a suitable spouse or whether the more informal methods, that is through one’s work, friendship, leisure circles, are used to find a suitable spouse. At the same time, these categories explain that they are not exclusive binaries and that both methods are often used in tandem. Equally, this approach helps us note the continued influence of family in matters of spouse-selection, as it also explains the emphasis on ‘personal’ connection. Having said this, it is not that this work considers categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ to be trivial or outdated, for these are often used to describe one’s marriage. Keeping this in mind, in Chap. 7, I bring exclusive attention to narratives of those individuals who unequivocally described their marriage as based on ‘love’. I discuss that in these narratives, love and companionship were presented as the main guiding principles in their choice of spouse. Appealing as these narratives are, I unpack them to reveal that even in these narratives parental consent remained paramount. Their narrative of love was equally guided by dilemmas and deliberations on getting their family’s consent for their chosen union. In this process, the couple invoked the importance of moralities and values, which they immediately connected with their middle-class identity, especially the decision to not elope and instead in due course gain parental consent to their union. I thus argue that whilst these narratives may have presented themselves as ‘state of exceptions’, driven by ideals of compatibility and love that are both caste and class free, they in fact operated in the accepted frameworks of being middle class, with a strict emphasis on middle-class moralities of parental consent and maintaining family honour. In the final ethnographic chapter, I turn my attention to that emotional and social experiences, which are lamentably left out of discussions on matchmaking, namely rejection, humiliation, heartbreaks, and loss of confidence, as encountered in this process of spouse-selection. I label these as ‘injuries of matchmaking’. Since the young professionals experiment with romance and intimacy in the phase of elongated singlehood, it is only expected that some of these adventures would cause them heartbreak and pain. At times, these relationships adversely affect one’s opinions on romance and marriage, significantly changing notions of compatibility and perhaps even love. For example, it is possible that after a harsh break-up an individual might prefer to marry within one’s caste or community. At the same time, it is possible that whilst previously an individual did not pay much heed to the criteria of compatibility, but after facing rejections and in process humiliation whilst spouse-selection, they decided to look for a spouse from their own networks, with whom they can first establish a friendship. There are also instances when this process can cause depression and self-doubt, making the marrying individual disinterested in marriage altogether. In this chapter, therefore, I provide a glimpse of the ‘dark’ side of love and matchmaking, bringing out the themes of humiliation and pain that this seemingly ‘ordinary’ process can cause. On the basis of this, I further my argument that urban contemporary matchmaking is not simply about finding a spouse.

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Rather, it is a culmination of range of experiences of pain, rejection, happiness, love, familial involvement, and duty. As a result, a sociological enquiry of matchmaking must study all these aspects, thereby unpacking their role and relevance. In the concluding chapter, I provide a summary of the main themes addressed in this research, some of which recur throughout the book. I also briefly discuss certain themes that were not analysed in this book, but will prove to be illuminating topics for future research.

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Srivastava, Sanjay. 2007. Passionate Modernity: Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India. New Delhi: Routledge. Srivastava, Sanjay. 2011. Urban Spaces, Disney-Divinity and the Moral Middle Classes in Delhi. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray. New Delhi: Routledge. Srivastava, Sanjay. 2014. Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Thapan, Meenakshi. 1997. Feminity and Its Discontents: The Woman’s Body in Intimate Relationships. In Embodiment: Essays on Gender and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Thapan, Meenakshi. 2009. Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Sage. Trawick, Margaret. 1990. Notes on Love in a Tamil Family. Berkeley: University of California Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2008. Aspirational Weddings: The Bridal Magazine and the Canons of ‘Decent Marriage’. In Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in India and China, ed. Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter Van der Veer, 230–262. New Delhi: Sage. Uberoi, Patricia, and Amita Tyagi Singh. 2006. Learning to ‘Adjust’: The Dynamics of Post-marital Romance. In Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India, ed. Patricia Uberoi, 217–247. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Upadhyay, Carol. 2008. Rewriting the Code: Software Professionals and the Reconstitution of Indian Middle Class Identity. In Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in India and China, ed. Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter Van der Veer. New Delhi: Sage. Upadhyay, Carol. 2009. India’s ‘new Middle Class’ and the Globalising City: Software Professionals in Bangalore. In The New Middle Classes: Globalizing Lifestyles, Consumerism, and Environmental Concern, ed. Hellmuth Lange and Lars Meier, 253–268. Dorchecht: Springer. Upadhyay, Carol. 2011. Software and the ‘New’ Middle Class in the ‘New India’. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 167–192. New York and Delhi: Routledge. van Wessel, Margit. 2004. Talking About Consumption: How an Indian Middle Class Dissociates from Middle Class Life. Cultural Dynamics 16: 93–116. Varma, Pavan. 2007. The Great Indian Middle Class. New Delhi: Penguin. Voyce, Malcolm. 2007. Shopping Malls in India: New Social ‘Dividing Practices.’ Economic and Political Weekly 42(22): 2055–2062. Waldrop, Anne. 2000. Gating and Class Relations: The Case of a New Delhi ‘Colony.’ City & Society 16(2): 93–116. Waldrop, Anne. 2011. Kitty-Parties and Middle-Class Femininity in New Delhi. In Being Middle Class in India: A Way of Life, ed. Henrike Donner. Londoni: Routledge.

Chapter 2

Pre-marital Journeys of Romance

Each time I approached potential interviewees, requesting for an interview, they enquired on the topic of my research. I specified that I was mainly interested in understanding their experiences of spouse-selection and views on marriage. I explained that the interviews will be open-ended and not like a survey, thereby allowing them control over the conversation. I clarified that I envision our chat to be a general conversation about their spousal preferences and how they came to identify the characteristics that comprise the ideal of a suitable spouse. As a result, I prepared myself for the different ways in which these conversations could proceed—family’s influence on their spouse-selection, importance of community identities, and ideals of compatibility, education, professional status and so on. In the diversity of these responses, two aspects unexpectedly stood out: firstly, the professional middle-class’s decision to push their age at marriage to late 20s or early 30s and secondly, their desire (and reality) to experience different kinds of romantic engagements prior to marriage. As I began to analyse the contemporary space of matchmaking in Delhi, I recognised the influence of these two aspects on the decision of spouse-selection, as well as construction of middle-class identities. In this chapter, I explain how these two ‘trends’ are related to the moralities and ‘new’ identities of being middle-class. During my interactions with the professional middle class, they tended to present a chronological categorisation, as it were, of their romantic experiences. In-depth discussions on these experiences, furthermore, revealed that they associated certain moralities or values to each of these experiences, which help them construct or reinforce their class identities. Broadly speaking, there were four such categories of romance: a ‘casual’ relationship, which was not bound by commitment to each other nor feelings of love but was mainly based on a sexual relationship. A second type of relationship was one when the individuals claimed to be interested in each other, perhaps also influenced by strong feelings of attraction or likeness, but at the same time, they were aware that the relationship would never convert into something ‘serious’ and therefore described it as ‘just a phase’. Often this type of relationship

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was justified to overcome loneliness or as a result of peer pressure.1 The next category was of a ‘long-term’ relationship which implied that the couple have been together for several months or years, though they do not necessarily intend to marry each other. The final and oft-used category was a ‘serious’ relationship; the defining aspect of which is that the couple intends to transform the relationship into marriage.2 A serious relationship was not necessarily a ‘long-term’ one; in other words, two people could experience ‘love at first sight’ and decide to make their relationship ‘serious’ right at the outset. I was pleasantly surprised to note this rich vocabulary that adeptly maps the urban experiences of romance in India. Crucially, this vocabulary indicates that the decision to choose a suitable spouse does not begin only when an individual decides to marry. Rather, it is constantly shaped and evolved through romantic experiences, and in that regard, a process of spouse-selection is longer than one assumes it to be. Furthermore, this form of categorisation also lays bare the workings of several factors that govern the choice of a spouse—family, morality, professional ambitions, thereby challenging the widely held assumption that this phase of ‘non-marriage’ is essentially about innocent romances, pursuit of passionate love, and fulfilling individualistic desires of intimacies. I thus begin presenting my ethnographic work in this book by first discussing how pre-marital romances shape experiences and processes of spouse-selection and argue that these experiences should be duly analysed in any study of matchmaking.3 This is important because often research on marriage and matchmaking either concerns itself with the strategies of spouse-selection or traces the ways in which structures of patriarchy and kinship are reinforced through marriage or examines the impact of modernisation or urbanisation (education, employment) on choice of spouse. Rarely, however, any attention is paid to the experiences before marriage, except when they involve transgressions of community or collective identities and lead to forms of violence or elopement (Chakravarti 2005; Chowdhry 2009). Yet, I explain throughout this book and particularly in this chapter, that these experiences of romance, including the non-transgressive and ‘non-serious’ ones, too are important contributors to the professional middle-class’ conceptualisation of love, companionship, duty, honour, and family. In providing this explanation, my aim is not to delve into the conceptual essence of relationships and their precise workings—gender dynamics, use of technology, or influence of consumer culture—as has been the focus of other recent studies such as Sirisena’s (2018) work on university students in Sri Lanka. Rather, my focus is to layout how romantic experiences are key configurations for the middle-class’ 1 Works

such as by Lukose (2009), Osella and Osella (1998), Sirisena (2018), have explained the role of ‘peer pressure’ in initiating relationships. 2 Sirisena’s (2018) ethnography on university students in Colombo, Sri Lanka, too unpacks the meanings and workings of a ‘serious relationship’. 3 In some ways, these links also find resonance to Hindu ideals of dharma and karma, and perhaps one’s religious background and upbringing might also affect one’s romantic experiences and decisions of marriage. However, in this book, I have not discussed this aspect of religion and marriage.

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modern life; that is, how these experiences are inextricably linked to their selffashioning of being modern and espousing a middle-class and global identity. At the same time, there are important overlaps and points of departure with recent works on relationships; for example, Sirisena writes that for her interlocutors a ‘serious relationship’ is one that is based on a ‘future orientation’, that is with the goal of marriage, and is a process that is built on ‘habitual embedding’ (2018: 217) of the couple. This was also the definition provided by my interviewees, though a stark point in difference is that whilst Sirisena’s interlocutors engaged in ‘serious’ relationships at university, most of my interviewees claimed that relationships in university are rarely ‘serious’, though they can be long-term. To them, a serious relationship is achieved only when one is more ‘settled’ in life; that is, after gainful employment, for this implies that the individual makes a more informed choice and is not swayed by considerations of ‘immature’ or ‘young’ love. By providing such a definition then, as I will explain below, the professional middle class are able to successfully weave together ideals of hard work, professional success, middle-class identities, and love and marriage. 4 This chapter, therefore, situates the experiences of romance in the larger narrative of matchmaking. It explains, in the first section, how the decision to delay one’s age at marriage is crucially linked to one’s modern self-making, and in the second section, how each romantic type (casual, serious) signals a specific attitude towards romance, family, and middle-class morality and identity.

2.1 Delayed Marriages and Makings of a Modern Life In the past decade, scholarship especially in South-east Asian societies has noted that the age of marriage in these societies is increasing (Goswami 2012; Jones 2007; Situmorang 2011; To 2013), leading to a phase of ‘elongated singlehood’, typically extending throughout an individuals’ 20s where they remain unmarried, at times also extending beyond the 30s.5 These studies attribute this demographic change to larger societal changes which include, though are not limited to, women’s increasing higher education and greater participation in work force, a decrease in ‘arranged’ marriages, and expectations, especially of women, to achieve gender egalitarian relationships. A delay in marriage certainly leads to lower fertility rates, and indeed some of these 4 Another

field of work is one that looks into the impact of literature on the ideals of relationships, such as Puri’s (1997) analysis of reading habits of young Indian women. Puri’s work helps understand contemporary cultures and their engagement with romance, especially as she explains that reading romantic novels is a complex and contradictory process for young women (p. 449). This is because these novels, on the one hand, promote an idealised utopia of partnership and romance, which defines the readers’ expectations of romance, femininity, and sexuality, and on the other hand cause anxiety amongst them as they wonder if they will ever be able to achieve these ideals of romance. The professional middle class of Delhi too seemed influenced by novels and movies in shaping their imaginations of romance and love, but this book does not delve into studying their role in shaping realities of romance and marriage or cultures of ‘sexual socialisations’. 5 This in turn has an effect on the fertility rates and population growth, which is increasingly a topic of study for demographers.

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countries are witnessing a rising population of ‘never married’ men and women. This has concerned governments of some of these countries, who fear that their population demographic will be adversely affected by trends of ‘non marriage’. As a result, governments of countries like Singapore and Japan are intervening by way of introducing marriage and family conducive programmes, such as speed-dating events, maternity and paternity leaves, providing day care for children at parents’ work places, and so on.6 Though this trend of ‘elongated singlehood’ might not seem as conspicuous in India, given that Indian society is inextricably linked to the idea of marriage, my research did note that the professional middle class in Delhi are indeed delaying their age at marriage.7 For them, marriage before 25–26 is simply not an option, and they are actively pushing their age at marriage to the late 20s or early 30s. As some of my interviewees proudly stated ‘30 is the new 25’, in order to explain that the ‘trend’ now is for a late marriage, and no ‘educated and modern’ person marries in their early 20s. Parents of marrying individuals and matchmakers too supported this statement, by explaining that ‘times have changed’ and it is only expected of the modern middle class that they will push their age at marriage.

2.1.1 Marriage and Modernity A typical trajectory of the 20s of a middle-class youth in Delhi who aspires to be employed in a multinational firm involves completing graduation by the age of 21– 22, thereafter getting a few years’ work experience and then applying for a master of business administration (typically by the age of 26–27) or any other professional qualification (Chartered Accountancy), with the aim of securing permanent employment by age 28–29. This was the most popular template of educational and professional trajectories of the middle class I spent time with. This was indeed evident even in our conversations when they explained to me that their 20’s was the time for them to establish themselves professionally, and not worry about romances or marital responsibilities. A concomitant and perhaps consequent effect of this was on the leisure habits of this class, which also shaped the changing urban spaces. Indeed, I noted a steady increase in malls, pubs, restaurants in Delhi from early to late 2000s. As the physical spaces of Delhi were undergoing transformations, so were the urban cultures and this class happily engaged in the increasing leisure habits such 6 A 2018 government report notes that the proportion of singles in Singapore has increased substan-

tially, with the biggest increase amongst Singaporean women aged 25 to 29. In order to promote dating and marriage, the Singapore government has launched initiatives including dating events (Cheng 2018). Japanese government too has noted a similar trend, and in order to address this ‘demographic time bomb’ (Weller 2016), they too have undertaken initiatives to promote dating such as youngster’s parties and speed-dating events (Weller 2016). 7 Indeed, more recently, newspaper articles, books, and reports are commenting on the increasing number of single women, including ‘never married’ category (Bamzai 2019; Sharma 2019), Bollywood movies as Queen (2014) and Piku (2015) too bring attention to lives of single women.

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as attending comedy nights, plays, musical performances. In some ways, thus it can be argued that Delhi’s urban spaces were accommodating as well as shaping the lives of its growing unmarried and high-income demographic. There was an emphasis on ‘having fun’, living life to the fullest by engaging in leisure activities, thereby enjoying and justifying one’s ‘not-married’ (single or not) status. Indeed, all my interviewees explained to me that their 20s is the time to focus on their professional career as well as the time to ‘have fun’ and ‘enjoy life’. In partfacetious and part-serious tone, they exclaimed that this life could not be possible if they are ‘tied down by marriage’. Marriage is inevitable, they said, but 20s is not the time to take on this kind of responsibility. Instead, it was the time ‘to make something out of themselves’, and enjoy the benefits of their hard work and professional success, by travelling widely and going out with friends. This viewpoint was upheld by both men and women, though women did express concerns that they cannot bask in these freedoms for too long, as they felt the pressure to marry at the ‘right time’ was stronger for them than for men. Though the professional middle class were justifying pushing their age at marriage, it did not mean that they were averse to the idea and institution of marriage itself. Rather, they preferred to delay the responsibilities of marriage. This attitude surely shaped their experiences of intimacies and romances, particularly as evident in their desire to enter ‘casual relationships’ or date. Several of the interviewees explained to me that it is only normal to have relationships with the opposite sex that are not long-lasting or necessarily ‘serious’. Dating or casual relationships, they explained, is a way of getting to know each other, of exploring one’s own sexualities and preferences, and this is best achieved without the pressure of marriage or commitment. ‘Our generation likes to date’ was an oft-repeated sentence. This, some explained, was different than the previous generation who did not necessarily date as much but were in serious relationships.8 As we discussed, the reasons for the prevalence of this dating culture it became clear that media had an influence, especially American TV shows. This generation grew up watching American television series as FRIENDS, How I Met Your Mother, Bing Bang Theory, each of which depicts cultures of sex and romance. Indeed, FRIENDS was seen as the reference point for several of my interviewees to make sense of their own feelings and relationships, and normalise dating cultures—of asking someone’s phone number, not phoning them back, ‘hooking’ up and so on.9 More recently though, Bollywood movies too depict a range of pre-marital romances. In another work (2017a, 2017b), I have explicated this argument by commenting that recent films including Break ke Baad (After the break, 2010) Shudh Desi Romance (Pure Desi Romance, 2013), Ye Jawani hai Deewani (This Youth is Crazy, 2013), and Tamasha (Spectacle, 2015), tell stories of ‘pre-marital relationships, including break-ups and struggles to find ‘self’ in the 8A

few though also expressed that they believe that sexual love is only proper to experience when it is embedded in love and companionship (Kaur and Dhanda 2014). 9 A recent survey revealed that FRIENDS is the most popular TV show amongst young viewers in the UK. Opinion columns in newspapers and magazines seem to agree that the appeal of the show is in its covering of a range of dating and romance-related issues.

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contemporary nexus of profession, money, and love, and also live-in relationships’ (Bhandari 2017:3). The contribution of Bollywood, then, in furthering a public discourse on pre-marital relationships cannot be ignored. In fact, it might not be a stretch to claim that these films have enabled a more frequent use of terms ‘boyfriends’ and ‘girlfriends’ especially in intergenerational interactions. This is accompanied by a more candid portrayal of sex and romance in the public space, as evident in television commercials, movies, newspaper articles, magazines, and festivities associated with love and romance, as Valentine’s Day. Mazzarella writes of the contributing effect of advertising in the 1990s—especially of condoms, that challenged the ‘public morality and austerity aesthetic of Gandhi and Nehruvian quality’, indicating that sex can also be for pleasure and fun (2003:60). Brosius explains the significance and popularity of Valentine’s Day, which though ‘unspectacular, if not irrelevant’ for her interviewees, nonetheless, ‘contributed to the circulation and spread of romantic, eroticised love as a legitimate element of lifestyle’ (2013:269). The extent of influence of public celebrations of love, or media, remains unexplored in this book, nonetheless, it was evident that the culture of leisure, exposure to national and international entertainment, and the expectations and norms associated with being in one’s 20s, all promoted romantic explorations. In turn, these explorations also helped to create a narrative of being modern and middle class. A core aspect of this narrative was linking delayed marriage to an ideal of being middle class (professional success and hard work), and being modern. I met Sakshi, aged 26, who is working in a multinational company. She was recently accepted to an MBA programme at a leading institute in India (Indian School of Business, Hyderabad (ISB)). As we chatted over coffee in a mall in Gurugram, Sakshi mainly spoke of her professional ambitions and achievements, particularly her dream to work in a multinational company and live a globally inclined life, including frequent foreign travels. Though she discussed relationships, all of which were mainly ‘shortterm’, she did not mention marriage at all. I enquired whether she ever thought of marriage, and she replied, Of course, marriage will happen, but I want to make something of myself first. I want to be secure professionally and then I will turn to marriage. And it is not like I am not having fun, like I am some boring behenji [aunty]. […] I have had relationships in the past and have been dating, but nothing serious. I need to sort this [professional life] first.

For her, the focus on building a successful professional life did not imply that she overlooks romance. In fact, it enables romantic explorations. Indeed, several recent studies, such as by Sirisena (2018), too explain the links between being away from home and realisations of sexual desires and romances. Sakshi too explained how moving out of her parents’ home to somewhere closer to work not only allowed her to be more efficient at work (by saving on travel time) but also provided her more space and time to date. She said, Earlier, I spent a lot of hours commuting from my parents’ place to my office. I was so tired by the time I got to work. Also, colleagues living in Gurugram were having so much more fun. They made plans to meet up after work. I was missing out on all the fun. So, I decided to move close to work […] Now, I also have more freedom to date [said with a laughter]. I can meet boys for dinner or drinks without anyone asking where I am off to… [sic]

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Throughout the interview, Sakshi invoked the ‘modern’ life that she was living, explaining that her decisions to stay away from her parents and engage in casual relationships were signals of the Indian youth’s modernity. For her, every relationship—serious or casual—has the potential of stumping an individual’s growth. This does not mean that she is averse to serious relationships but that she cherishes her freedom and individual space, and that the benefit of living a ‘modern’ life is that people do not ‘judge’ you for marrying later or putting fun and success before marriage. She said that she does not want to enter into ‘serious relationships’ right away as she is enjoying her new lifestyle. This, however, did not mean that she is against serious or committed relationships. Rather, she believes that there is a ‘right’ time for these forms of relationships, usually towards the end of one’s 20s, when one has established themselves professionally and have had enough fun.

2.1.2 Operating with Deadlines The term ‘deadline’ often came up in conversations with marrying individuals as well as their families. For example, some explained that they had imposed deadlines on themselves by which they will ‘seriously’ think about marriage. In conversations with parent of marrying individuals too, I was told that they had imposed ‘deadlines’ on their children to begin spouse-selection, because without these deadlines their children would continue to postpone marriage. It was interesting to note the use of this term, which usually appears in a more professional context, relating to submitting assignments or completing projects. In some sense, this term highlighted that often marriage, specifically, matchmaking, too is seen as a ‘project’ that needs to be ‘completed’ by a certain time (age). At first, the use of this term in conversations on spouse-selection seemed a bit out of context but on closer thought it fit right in with the context of this middle class, whose lives are increasingly dictated by a professional ethic, as it were, beset by ‘targets’, ‘plans’ and ‘achievements’. In that regard, it was not inconceivable that their approach to matchmaking too is guided by a linguistic jargon that emanates from their professional work ethic. Indeed, ‘deadline’ was not the only ‘professional’ term to find its way into the language of matchmaking, as other terms like ‘criteria’—qualities that would make someone a suitable spouse; ‘investment’—if a selected spouse is indeed a ‘good’ option or not, too were routinely used to express anxieties and ‘targets’ of matchmaking. Coming back to deadlines, broadly they are defined by two ‘acts’ or ‘markers’: the first is achievement of a professional status or educational qualification, for example, completion of one’s MBA degree, which was one of the most popular deadlines— self-imposed or imposed by parents. Acquiring a job was another such event marker, and many interviewees revealed to me that right after getting a job placement from college, their parents began the process of spouse-selection, whilst some others said that they officially declared their intention to marry a self-chosen partner, after their job placement. The other marker of a ‘deadline’ was age and ranged from 28 to 30. The reason why these discussions on ‘deadline’ grasped my attention was because

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they laid bare the links between marriage and professional achievement, in that that the former is put on hold until the latter is achieved. At the same time, it seemed like a good strategy by individuals to ward off the looming pressure to marry, by declaring that they have a ‘deadline’ by when they will seriously think of marriage. This, in turn, allowed them to freely engage with other enchantments of their modern lives. This of course did not mean that ‘deadlines’ were always adhered to, as in fact some fell in love and decided to marry even before they reached their deadline (see section below). As such, my interest is not so much to trace whether deadlines were adhered to or not, but to unpack the range of emotions, ambitions, and anxieties that are brought together with this term. Not only does this term explain the significance of ‘settling professionally’ and its links to middle-class moralities of hard work and success (see Sect. 2.1), it is also a window into the emotions of pain and suffering in love (see Sect. 2.2). As we will note throughout the book, and in the section below, it seems that ‘deadlines’ become ‘coping mechanisms’ of this modern life encapsulated by emotions of ambitions and anxieties. Indeed, this term presents itself as a prism to understand the encumbrance of middle-class moralities (hard work, success, family honour, and duty) as well as freedoms and enchantments of modernities (romance and intimacies).

2.2 Moral Economies of Romance One of the main aspects that scholarship on marriage addresses is the strategies of matchmaking, in particular, delineating the rationales of choosing a particular spouse over another. Apart from addressing these strategies from the perspective of kinship (lineages, kin relations), studies have also delineated the ‘economies’ of marriage, that is to say, tracing how spouse-selection can ensure sound economic status or lead to ownership of greater property. A pioneering study in this domain was by Bourdieu (2002), who delineated the advantages of marrying the eldest daughter over a younger one for example. Other studies, particularly on South Asian societies, brought attention to other preferences, for example, of marrying an educated yet nonworking woman. Such women are viewed as propitious for maintaining a ‘good’ lineage, because their own educational achievements enable them to provide an appropriate learning enviornment for their children and at the same time, they do not overlook their domestic duties by engaging in paid work outside home (Joshi 2001; Papanek 1979). Some more recent works explain that increasingly the preference is to marry a woman who is in paid employment and can also fulfil domestic duties and responsibilities (Belliappa 2013; Hussein 2017). Such women are defined as being ‘respectably’ or ‘suitable’ modern. I too discuss these expectations in Chaps. 5 and 6. In this way, works on strategies of spouse-selection link specific moralities, identities, class and economic anxieties to the preference for a spouse. This is indeed an important approach to understand matchmaking, yet lamentably, this analytical prism is not typically applied to the phase of pre-marital romances, whereas I believe

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this should also extend to the phase of pre-marital experiences. This is because as I found out during fieldwork, the rationales for romantic explorations too are often linked to moralities of being middle class. For example, some individuals might argue (as also noted above) that serious relationships can interfere with achievement of professional ambitions or act as hindrances to hard work. As a result, the rationale as it were to engage in ‘casual’ or non-serious relationships is that these relationships help upholding of middle-class moralities and ambitions of professional success and hard work. In this way, each romantic experience was justified on the basis of an ‘economy’ of morality attached to each of these experiences. As also discussed earlier, the professional middle class use certain categories to define their romantic experiences, such as casual, open-relationship, dating, longterm, and serious relationship. In this section, I identify these types along three main axes each in turn associated with specific moralities and values of being middle class: the first focuses on when the individuals are simply looking for ‘fun’ and do not necessarily desire a ‘committed’ relationship; the second axis focuses on the feelings of love; and the third discusses those experiences where it is considered time appropriate (or age appropriate) to enter into a serious relationship. As such, my aim here is not to explain the conceptual, theoretical and empirical bearings of these romantic experiences. Rather, I intend to simply understand the meanings of romantic experiences in the framework of constructing or reinforcing a middle-class identity and delineating the moralities associated with this identity.

2.2.1 ‘This Is the Time to Have Fun’ I met Sanjeev, aged 27, on recommendation of another interviewee, who thought that Sanjeev’s life theories and experiences will only enrich my research. When I approached Sanjeev for an interview, he immediately agreed and scheduled to meet at a café close to his office. As we sat down for a chat, he pre-empted that he is an honest and straightforward man and will therefore not ‘sugar coat’ his answers. He also expected that as a researcher I will not be biased and judge him for his opinions on sex, romance, and marriage. He added that if I am the ‘feminist type’, I might be offended by his opinions, but he assured me that his intention was not to be disrespectful to women but simply expresses his view uninhibitedly. I assured him that I was not interested in ‘judging him’ and only wanted to understand his experiences. Sanjeev provided one of the most clearly thought out and coherent narrative of his life experiences and values that define him and have been the sounding board for all his decisions. He began by stating that he belongs to a ‘typical’ middle-class family. I enquired what he meant by ‘typical’, and he said that like all middle-class families, his family too encouraged him to only focus on being a ‘good’ student so as to get a ‘good’ job. In this process, his parents made several sacrifices and invested money and effort, to ensure that these goals are fulfilled. Instead of spending on themselves, he elucidated, they saved money for after-school private study classes

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(called tuitions). They scheduled all holidays and social gatherings according to his and his sister’s school and study commitments.10 His parents’ hard work paid off, when Sanjeev gained admission in IIT, Delhi—India’s premier engineering institute. As Sanjeev was preparing to move to IIT’s on campus hostel, his parents reminded him of his values and morals and instructed him to stay away from ‘bad elements’ and ‘influences’, particularly the ‘bad’ habits of drinking alcohol, taking drugs and ‘wasting time’ on relationships. His mother particularly warned him against getting involved in any ‘girl’ for they can be distractions from education. He said, It was drilled in my head that relationships are a waste of time, that girls who want relationships are bad.11 The main goal [in life] is to study hard, get a good job, and earn money. And I followed this mantra. But at the same time, you have that itch, you want to try new things – first time you smoke, drink alcohol, kiss a girl, have sex. Then you also have your friends who will keep giving you advice ki bhai bandi ke chakkar mein mat panda. Bada emotional atyachar hota hai. (Don’t get involved with girls, they cause emotional damage).12 So, what ends up happening is that you want to do all of this but without any emotional involvement. […] On the one hand your brain tells you that all this is wrong, forbidden, and on the other hand you want to do it. So, you decide to separate these things and the result is that these things become mechanical! You run away from the emotional angle of it [a relationship]. And I think men can do this, women can’t, but we men are somehow trained to separate them […] I was always clear that I don’t want anything serious to happen. Ye pyaar vyaar nahi karna tha (didn’t want to fall in love).

In due course of our conversations, Sanjeev described the few relationships he was involved in during college, but he was always clear that none of these could mean anything ‘serious’. This earned him a bad reputation but ‘girls like bad boys’, he said with a proud smile. He explained that all he wanted from relationships was ‘fun’. He did not want a ‘burden’ of a relationship. He explained that his middle-class upbringing, sacrifices of his parents, had deeply ingrained the merits of successful employment, and he was working very hard towards it. He considered women, and their emotional demands, a hindrance in achieving his goals. At the same time, he wanted to experience intimacies. Indeed, with a well-paying job, he had a lot of money to spend—much more than his father did at his age. So, he wanted to spend it on going out with friends, drinking, going to concerts. He said that none of this would be possible if he had a serious relationship because relationships are demanding, and girlfriends can be ‘emotionally toxic’. 10 Kumar (2011) has specifically studied the relationship between education, hard work, and middle-

class moralities, and Dickey (2002) and Nisbett (2007) explains the relationship between hard work, performance, and middle-class identities. 11 Sirisena’s work (2018) in Sri Lanka also describes how school-going children are forbidden to enter into romantic relationships. 12 Peer-groups and essences of friendship certainly play an important role in shaping youth cultures, and attitudes towards romance and intimacies. This book does not delve deeper into the dynamics of friendships and their impact on spouse-selection, though there remained a palpable influence as marrying individuals discuss their spousal prospects with friends. Works that have studied the workings and dynamics of friendship include Jeffrey (2010), Nisbett (2007), Osella and Osella (1998), and those that have particularly explore women’s friendship groups in the form of ‘kitty parties’ include Bhandari (2016, 2019) and Waldrop (2011).

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He was well-aware that by a certain age he will have no choice but to marry, and he had given himself the deadline of reaching age 30, after which he would seriously begin the process of spouse-selection, if he has not already found someone, he said. He believed that upon marriage he would not be able to enjoy his life as much. As a result, he had decided to not enter into any committed or serious relationship and instead focus on having fun, without being answerable to someone nor taking anyone’s responsibility that is not family. Throughout our conversation, Sanjeev made several references to TV shows as FRIENDS and Sex and the City, explaining that it is young earning adults’ ‘right’ to have fun.13 As we were nearing the end of our conversation, Sanjeev explained that he is not a ‘bad’ person; he merely thinks that he deserves to have fun because all his life his motto has been of hard work and to provide for his family. This was his way of flexing muscles before the long innings of marriage, he said. I met Pragya, aged 25, for coffee at the educational institution where she was pursuing a master’s degree. After her graduation, Pragya worked with a fashion house for two years and was recently admitted to a prestigious master’s programme. A self-professed ‘modern’ girl who wants to live life on her terms, she said that she was often viewed as ‘too progressive’ by her classmates, friends, and family. Pragya belongs to a middle-class family, she said, from Uttarakhand, a neighbouring state of Delhi. Her parents live in Dehradun—the capital city of Uttarakhand—whilst she lives in Delhi with her sister and brother-in-law. Living away from parents has enabled her greater freedom, she explained, especially as she frequently goes out with her friends, dates more freely and is able to talk on the phone late at night with boys without interruptions. Though her sister is always looking out for her, she is less interfering than her parents, she said. Pragya presents herself as a die-hard romantic, who is looking for her prince charming, whilst also enjoying occasional flirting with colleagues.14 After some hesitation, she accepted that she has had one-night stands and multiple sexual partners. She explained that she did not think of her choices to be wrong, though ‘society’ might see it that way. She added that she did not want to marry right away, unlike what her sister did, and instead wanted to enjoy her freedom to the fullest. She said,

13 Media indeed plays a crucial role in mediating everyday romance. Though this work does not delve deeper into the dynamics of media and romances, selected works exploring this aspect of media, consumption and romance include Bhandari (2017), Dwyer (2000) and Lukose (2009). Furthermore, Lukose (2009:111) brings attention to how cinema projects male anxieties of disciplining the female subject. 14 Whilst this book does not delve into the dynamics of flirting; of how they can be empowering or as a cause of harassment (especially towards women), other works have unpacked this form of social interaction between men and women. For example, Osella and Osella (1998) trace the dynamics of friendship and flirting as they note how men and women try to outwit one another in this game of flirting. Lukose brings attention to how flirting (and their retellings) is appropriated by women, when she explains how young women redeploy narratives of flirting to express their struggles, desires, and choices for both commodities and men (2009:112). Indeed, Simmel (1984:140–145) too had noted that in flirting hierarchies between men and women can become less clear, as women in refusing or surrendering advances of flirting become ‘players’ too.

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2 Pre-marital Journeys of Romance I love my sister, and my brother-in-law is truly the best man I have met. I respect their life choices and they are so in love. But I also think they married very early – they were just 22–23. I have bigger dreams and ambitions. I want to work hard, make something out of myself. But I am also not a geek! I like to have fun – go out, party, drink, dance. Why should boys have all the fun? Why can’t we girls live the way we want to […] When I came to Delhi, I saw that the culture here is more accepting of this [fun]. I really like being here […] I do want to marry, and I want to fall in love before I marry but that does not mean that I will be a virgin till I marry! (said with a laughter). I want to explore. There are so many nice, good looking men out there […]This is the time to do all this, it won’t come back.

Pragya’s parents had begun pressuring her to marry, she said, but she had a ‘deadline’ for herself when she will stop with the casual relationships. This is when she will find a job that she is happy with but not before 28. Only after that will she seriously think of marriage, she declared to me with a broad smile, and hint of achievement and aspiration. Not only these two conversations but in other interviews too it became clear to me that most of the middle class considered their 20s to be largely about exploring non-serious relationships and having fun. Their idea of ‘fun’, furthermore, was enabled by their professional life, which provided good remuneration and the possibility of living away from home. Moreover, a non-serious relationship was also not viewed as a hindrance in professional success, because it was considered less emotionally heavy, as it were. Thus, in this counter-intuitive way, casual relationships or dating were linked to middle-class moralities of professional success.

2.2.2 Unexpected ‘Love’ Studies on ‘love’ have pursued several lines of enquiries in scholarship, of which a popular one is where ‘love’—specifically the idea of individual desires—is seen as a heuristic concept to place the progress of modernity of a society. Such an approach argues that societies that base marriages on ‘love’ are more modern or progressive than those that continue to follow diktats of kinship or other societal norms (including caste, for the South Asian context). This approach has been widely criticised by scholarship, especially works on India and parts of South Asia, which argues that ‘love’ shapes ‘arranged’ marriages as well (Kapur 2009; de Munck 1988; Seth and Patanayuki 2009; Sharangpani 2010).15 Another popular theme for the study of ‘love’ has been to explore if romantic love has undergone transformations due to impact of globalisation and modernisation processes. Some of the classic works in this field, for example by Giddens (1993), explain that the rise of individualisation, urbanisation will promote a form of individualistic ideals of love, with focus on exploring sexualities for example.16 Others, as Bauman (2003), explain that modern love is more ‘fluid’, in that it is not bound by societal norms and pressures of 15 One of the aims of this research is also to further this debate. In particular, I address this aspect in Chaps. 3–5, 8 and 9. 16 Giddens’ (1993) work has been widely criticised, and several studies, including this one, explain how this might not be the case.

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commitment for example and is more ephemeral. He explains how technology has altered the experience of love, and therefore, in some ways, the essence of love too is different in modern times. Though these themes of research on ‘love’ are pertinent both to this particular study and to the contemporary times, my focus is not so much on the idiomatic expressions of love, nor on the potential transformations to love with technology, forces of urbanisation or globalisation.17 Rather, my focus is to bring out how evocations and experiences of ‘love’ shape romantic encounters and decisions on spouse-selection. This is indeed a far from straightforward task, for there are multiple meanings of ‘love’ in South Asia, indeed with multiple terms to denote love (aashiqi, deewangi, pyaar, mohoabbat) (Mody 2008; Orsini 2006). In fact, my interviewees too attached different meanings to love. For some, the phrase ‘I love you’ is a western imposition, popularised by Hollywood movies, and they consider Indian conception of love as far more nuanced that this. Some others disputed the viewpoint that ‘love’ is not known to Indian social fabric and cited several famous love stories, Kamasutra, and historical events to explain that love has always been the motivating factor for marriage. Then there were those who preferred to describe their relationship as based on companionship and ‘connection’, rather than ‘love’, because they considered the term ‘love’ to have been reduced to a ‘commodity’ popularised by capitalism (Illouz 1997). These conversations were certainly illuminating, however, for purposes of this book I am mainly concerned in analysing the contexts in which ‘love’ is invoked and its relationship with modernity for the professional middle class. In doing so, I focus mainly on that expression of love where even when the individual falls in love, she/he decides not to transform it to marriage, in order to uphold certain ideals of being middle class. This discussion explains that there is more to the expression and experience of ‘love’ than simply a sublime purity of emotions. Indeed, this term, its experience and expression, is inextricably linked to the ideals and practices of being middle class. Following from the previous section, it was clear to me that several of my interviewees believed that falling in love would not be an ideal situation when one is building a career or enjoying a life of freedom and fruits of urbanisation. Yet, at times this was not under their control, as they ‘fell’ for someone. Understandably, this situation could lead to two results: marriage and heartbreak. In this section, I focus on the latter, that is, when an individual could not transform their relationship of ‘love’ to marriage primarily due to the burdens of upholding middle-class moralities and expectations.18 This was the case with Umang, aged 30, who completed a Bachelor and master’s degree from the University of Delhi and immediately after was employed with a high salary in a multinational company. Umang belongs to a small 17 There

are several other studies that focus on these themes, including Ahearn’s (2001) work on how romantic experiences in Nepal underwent changes with the trend of writing ‘love’ letters, and more recently, Sirisena’s (2018) work on use of mobile phones and its impact on experiences of romance amongst University students in Colombo. 18 I undertake an in-depth analysis of love and heartbreak in Chap. 8, as I trace the different ways in which heartbreaks shape experiences of romance and marriage. In this chapter, my focus is mainly on explaining that ‘love’ can be overpowered by duties and morals of being middle class.

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close-knit Punjabi family and resides in a posh residential area of South Delhi. His father holds a senior position in a private company, and his mother is a homemaker, and his younger sister was preparing for MBA admissions when I met him. Umang clarified that he belonged to an upper-middle-class family, given their economic status, but at heart they were a typically middle-class family that focused on education, achievement and respect towards elders and not spending money unnecessarily. He explained that he was a shy boy when at school and had minimal interactions with his girl classmates. His first ‘girlfriend’ he said was from his neighbourhood who was a year older than him. They would play badminton together and go on walks, and one day his mother expressed her displeasure on his friendship. He said, My mother is very strict. One day she gave a big lecture to my sister and me that we are a middle class family and our main focus should be on studying and getting a good job. She said we were not like the Delhi rich brats, who have been given everything on a platter. We have to work hard so we should avoid wasting time on girlfriends or boyfriends or partying. [sic]

Umang was constantly reminded of this ethic of being middle class, he said, and he found it hard to completely get rid of it. In college, he did engage in casual relationships but never wanted to enter a serious relationships. He was convinced that love and sex are distractions and should be seen only as fun, and the focus should be on getting good marks in university and getting a good job. At the age of 24, when he was working in a multinational company in Gurugram, he met Megha, who was visiting the Delhi office from the company’s Bangalore branch. There was an instant connection, he said, ‘love at first sight’. They started spending time with each other after work. He said, There were a 1000 reasons why we [Megha and he] could not work. She was from the South and I am a typical Punjabi munda (Punjabi boy). She did not have one-night stands and had previously been only in one relationship when in college, whereas I had had my share of fun. She was basically the serious type and I was far from it. Despite knowing all this, I felt something inside me that I wanted to be with her. I wanted this to work.

The day before Megha was to leave, Umang confessed his love and she reciprocated his feelings. They both decided to begin a long-distance relationship, and eventually she would move to Delhi. After a few months of dating, and when things were going well, Umang, aged 25, decided to tell his parents that he intended to marry Megha. His mother seemed a bit disturbed, he said, but did not immediately reject the prospect. Yet in due course, his parents began asking pertinent questions about how he envisions a life with a woman who was culturally very different than him. They asked if he had thought about where he would live—Delhi or Bangalore? Would his children be brought up as Punjabis or as Kannadas (from Karnataka)? Which language would they learn? They confessed to him that they were not convinced by this match because they felt they would be left out, as they will not be able to ‘connect’ with her, and this would severely impact their family relations and dynamics. He said that he loved Megha, but when his parents started to express their doubts about the future, he began to think if they were indeed correct. To make things more difficult, he said, Megha confided in him that she does not want to move to

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Delhi, and even if she did move she would not want to live with his parents. She thought it wiser to buy a flat in Gurugram. Umang soon began to realise how this relationship was upsetting the balance and peace of his family and was even a cause of stress for Megha. Eventually, they broke off. This experience made him more responsible, he said, as he no longer wanted to fool around. He saw the beauty of love, especially in feelings of security and happiness. I then enquired if he was so taken by ‘love’ why did he let go of the relationship, He responded, Your parents work hard all their lives to make you successful. I don’t think it is right to just dismiss their concerns. In my case, they were right. They never said anything negative about Megha. In fact, my mother thought she was pretty, smart, and intelligent. But they had very practical concerns. I could not move to Bangalore, and I really do want to stay with my parents. Maybe things would have been different had Megha instantly agreed to move to Delhi, but she didn’t. But that’s okay, I respect her choice. […]I loved her and learnt a lot from her, but I cared for my responsibilities towards my family.

After this experience, Umang did not enter any relationships. His mother started pressuring him for marriage when he was 28, but he wanted to start an MBA course. He assured his mother that his ‘deadline’ was the completion of his MBA programme, after which he would happily marry. As soon as he graduated from the MBA, aged 29, his mother registered him on a matrimonial website. I met Umang when he had just turned 30 and had recently been engaged to marry. He described his fiancé as smart, educated, and cosmopolitan girl who was respectful towards elders. As we concluded our long and engaging conversation he said, I felt like I really evolved in my 20’s. I had fun, and then also had beautiful but painful experience of love. I don’t regret any of my decisions, even falling in love. But yes, it was painful and I could not go through this experience again so I decided not to enter all this relationship business, and just focus on marriage, but only after I have achieved all that I wanted to. I am now looking forward to starting the new chapter of my life – of my 30’s and as a married man.

Charu, aged 28, related a similar experience of ‘love’. A self-described careeroriented modern woman, Charu moved to Mumbai for two years for work experience, where she met the man she fell in love with—her work colleague. He was smart and educated, with a flair for English language, which impressed Charu. Within a short span of three months, they became good friends, especially when he looked after her when she was sick. ‘That was the turning point of our relationship’, she said, because she realised that he truly cared for her. They fell in love, and for the first time, she felt the sweet bliss of true companionship, she said. The problem, however, was that he was from a lower caste than her and from a different region, Maharashtra—a prospect that her Brahmin caste parents of Uttar Pradesh would never accept. As she expected, her parents were very unhappy when she revealed her relationship to them. They stopped talking to her, and when her relationship with them did not improve for a few months, she began to think that perhaps he was not the right choice after all. She said that during this time she also realised that perhaps she will not be able to adjust to his life in Mumbai, and his family and kinship networks. In the meantime,

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she got admission to an MBA programme at ISB. It became difficult to sustain their long-distance relationship, and eventually they broke off. There, she started seeing a fellow MBA student, who like her, belongs to Delhi and traces lineage to Uttar Pradesh. ‘There’s a lot more common between us’, she said. In retrospect, she thinks that though the pain of leaving someone you love is sharp, she does not regret ending her previous relationship. Much like Umang, she too explained that whilst love is an important sentiment and integral part for a marriage, it should not come at the cost of upsetting family who have only been supportive of her professional ambitions throughout her life.19 Both these accounts lay out how individuals might unexpectedly fall in love in the phase of ‘elongated singlehood’ yet might be unable to transform these relationships to marriage because of the duties and responsibilities of their middle-class upbringing and values. In such circumstances, they take the decision to hold off any further engagements with ‘love’, until the ‘time is right’.

2.2.3 Fatigue of Fun I began this chapter by delineating the professional middle-class’ preference to not immediately enter committed relationships like marriage in their 20s and instead use this time to ‘have fun’. This also implies that eventually, perhaps in their late 20s or early 30s, they do make the decision to put a stop to the ‘fun’ and look forward to entering a more permanent relationship, especially of marriage. In this short section, I describe accounts where interviewees have clearly specified as to when and why they decided to marry. It seemed one strong motivation for this decision was that they had become ‘tired’ of being in meaningless or short-term relationships and were looking for a sense of permanency, and another reason was that they had now achieved a professional status that they aspired for. One such narrative was of Mihir, aged 31, who after graduating from a prestigious engineering institute of India, worked for several years in a consultancy firm and then enrolled for an MBA programme, at one of India’s leading institute. Mihir said that he had actively delayed getting married, and only recently, once he completed his MBA degree, did his mother register him on a matrimonial website, and he found a suitable spouse within the first month. He narrated that he was not always opposed to the idea of marriage, but this changed when his girlfriend cheated on him. He was 25 and madly in love, he said, but his girlfriend started dating someone at her office. This made him very sceptical of women and the ‘empty promises’ they make, he said. As a result, he pledged to not focus on relationships but just enjoy his life

19 See Chap. 3 for an in-depth discussion on family and romantic relationships. Scholarship on other South Asian societies (Abeyasekera 2016; Jones et al. 2011) too has explained the role of parents in approving or rather constituting ‘choice’.

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and only date. His mother started pressuring him to marry when he was 27, and he wanted to get away from the pressure and focus on building his career, so he decided to enrol in an MBA programme. Even after he graduated, he was not yet ready for marriage, but then things began to change. He was getting a bit tired of casual dating, and he also saw that his friends were ‘settling’ down. He said, Things really change when people around you get married. First, they don’t have time to hang out as much. And when you go out to pubs and bars you see these kids in their early 20’s and you think to yourself “what am I doing here!? Then your friends always show up with their spouses and you sort of feel left out. I think I really began to think about marriage seriously around 29–30, when I had done my MBA and got a job. I thought to myself that I can no longer act like I am 22. I have had enough fun […] It is time to settle down. [sic]

Mihir also mentioned the important role of his family in encouraging his desire to have a family of his own. He said that despite his differences with his family especially over his lifestyle choices (drinking, partying, and casual relationships), he deeply appreciates the love and respect he receives as a son and a brother. His family has always been a strong support system for him. He said, We can act all modern and enjoy living alone, working long hours, going out weekends, and partying with friends, but in the end, we are close to our families. This is what makes us Indian […] Yes, in the past I have had some differences with my family but the bottom line is that I love them and I know they only think for my best. So, I gave them the responsibility to look for a spouse for me.

A similar experience was of Suman, aged 28, who described herself as a strongheaded woman who knew exactly what she wanted. She was expressive in explaining the ways in which women were dominated in everyday life, both at home and at workplace, and she was motivated to challenge these patriarchies everywhere, she said. She explained that she has spent most of her time working hard to ensure she quickly climbs the corporate ladder and has not had a serious relationship in a long time, though she occasionally dates. In the past year, however, she was beginning to get tired of this lifestyle and wanted to have a more family-oriented life. She said, I suppose this might come as a surprise, because I am this modern woman who has enjoyed her single life. But I have to admit, I feel I am getting old, and tired of just being alone, and only going out with friends. It will be nice to come back home to someone, to plan holidays with someone.

She then proceeded to explain the uniqueness of being an Indian middle class as opposed to a ‘westerner’ and said, We are not westerners, you know. We are rooted in family and if you look at our culture, our festivals, they are all about the family. I am not saying women should not be single or anything, if they want to be then good for them. But for me, this life of being alone and single and just having fun was getting a bit boring and tiring.

These accounts explain the linkages between ‘elongated singlehood’ or delayed marriage and experiences and self-fashioning of the modern. They explain how even

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pre-marital romances—casual relationships, preferring family preference over ‘love’, as well as fatigue from ‘fun’ and casual relationships—become a ground to assert or assess one’s middle-class moralities. *** I began this chapter by explaining the professional middle class’ unbridled lure towards romance and intimacies, often undefined by commitment. To them, these explorations are a marker of their modernity and ‘new’ middle-class identity, as they are embedded in their freedoms related to professional success and changing urban spaces and cultures. For them, these romantic explorations are a version of their assertion of freedom and therefore are not necessarily ‘serious’ or ‘proper’ relationships. At the same time, these experiences often unintendedly makes them reassess their criteria of a suitable spouse, for example, when a hurtful experience leads them to only enter a relationship that can convert to marriage or propels them towards the formal space of spouse-selection (dedicated to finding a suitable spouse). For some others, these experiences make them involve their parents in decisions on choice of spouse or relationship.20 I have further argued that though this phase is appropriated (and even viewed) as an unabashed pursuit of individualism and individual choice (in romance, profession, leisure), it also tends to ‘wear’ them out as they might feel fatigued by romantic explorations, and instead desire a ‘settled’ familial life of marriage. As such, this chapter can also be seen as a testimony to the fact that the professional middle class, though enjoying its freedom to explore romantic relationships, has not rejected the institution of marriage. They are simply waiting for the right ‘time’ and person, and what constitutes a right person too undergoes changes especially due to their previous romantic experiences. As a result, this chapter has argued that modern romances cannot be delinked to the desire for marriage and the practices of matchmaking.

References Abeyasekera, Asha L. 2016. Narratives of Choice: Marriage, Choosing Right and the Responsibility of Agency in Urban Middle-Class Sri Lanka. Feminist Review 113 (1): 1–16. Ahearn, Laura M. 2001. Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal. University of Michigan Press. http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Invitations_to_Love.html? id=VsdAA8fmL88C&pgis=1 (December 3, 2013). Bamzai, Kaveree. 2019. Single Women a Growing Tribe in India. ThePrint. https://theprint.in/ opinion/no-three-tiered-wedding-cake-no-mangalsutra-single-women-a-growing-tribe-in-india/ 262608/ (July 16, 2019). Bauman, Zygmunt. 2003. Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Cambridge: Polity Press.

20 I have discussed elsewhere (2017a) how pre-marital relationships often model themselves on marital expectations, especially with regard to gender role expectations, and have delineated the importance of family in approving and supporting the relationship.

References

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Belliappa, Jyothsna Latha. 2013. Gender, Class and Reflexive Modernity in India. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan. Bhandari, Parul. 2016. Inside India’s Elite Kitty Parties. Quartz. Bhandari, Parul. 2017. Pre-marital Relationships and the Family in Modern India. South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (16). Bhandari, Parul. 2019. Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, Pierre. 2002. Pierre Bourdieu on Marriage Strategies. Population Council and Development Review 28 (3): 549–558. Chakravarti, Uma. 2005. From Fathers to Husbands: Of Love, Death and Marriage in North India. In Honour: Crimes, Paradigm and Violence Against Women, ed. Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain, 308–331. Zubaan: New Delhi. Cheng, Kelvin Seah Kah. 2018. Government Matchmaking Programmes Need a Rethink to Get Singles to Mingle. Channel NewsAsia. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/sdusingles-singapore-dating-total-fertility-rate-marriage-10839312 (July 16, 2019). Chowdhry, Prem. 2009. Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. de Munck, Victor. 1988. Love, Lust, Arranged Marriage in Sri Lanka. In Romantic Love and Sexual Behaviour: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Westport: Praeger Publishers. Dickey, Sara. 2002. Anjali’s Prospects: Class Mobility in Urban India. In Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. Dianes P. Mines and Sarah Lamb and Sarah Lamb, 214–226. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Dwyer, Rachel. 2000. All You Need Is Money, All You Want Is Love: Sex and Romance in Modern India. London: Cassell. Giddens, Anthony. 1993. The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press. Goswami, Baishali. 2012. An Investigation into the Pattern of Delayed Marriage in India. Bangalore. http://www.isec.ac.in/WP%20275%20-%20Baishali_delayed%20marriage%2015%20sep.pdf. Hussein, Nazia. 2017. Negotiating Middle-Class Respectable Femininity: Bangladeshi Women and Their Families. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (16). Illouz, Eva. 1997. Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Jeffrey, Craig. 2010. Timepass: Youth, Class and the Politics of Waiting in India. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Jones, Gavin. 2007. Delayed Marriage and Very Low Fertility in Pacific Asia. Population and Development Review 33 (3): 453–478. Jones, Gavin, Terrence Hull, and Maznah Mohamad. 2011. Changing Marriage Patterns in Southeast Asia: Economic and Socio-cultural Dimensions. London: Routledge. Joshi, Sanjay. 2001. Fractured Modernity: Making of a Middle Class in Colonial North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kapur, Jyotsana. 2009. An ‘Arranged Love’ Marriage: India’s Neoliberal Turn and the Bollywood Wedding Culture Industry. Communication, Culture and Critique 2 (2): 221–233. Kaur, Ravinder, and Prit Dhanda. 2014. Surfing for Spouses: Marriage Websites and the ‘New’ Indian Marriage? In Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World, ed. Ravinder Kaur and Rajni Palriwala. Orient BlackSwan: New Delhi. Kumar, Nita. 2011. The Middle-Class Child: Ruminations on Failure. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 220–245. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Lukose, Ritty A. 2009. Liberalization’s Children: Gender, Youth and Consumer Culture in Globalizing India. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Mody, Perveez. 2008. The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi. New Delhi: Routledge. Nisbett, Nicholas. 2007. Friendship, Consumption, Middle-Class Bangalore. The Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (4): 935–950.

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Orsini, Francesca. 2006. Love in South Asia: A Cultural History. ed. Fracesca Orsini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Osella, Caroline, and Filippo Osella. 1998. Friendship and Flirting: Micro-politics in Kerala, South India. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4 (2): 189–206. Papanek, Hannah. 1979. Family Status Production: The ‘Work’ and ‘Non-Work’ of Women. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 4: 775–781. Puri, Jyoti. 1997. Reading Romance Novels in Postcolonial India. Gender and Society 11 (4): 434–452. Seth, N., and R. Patanayuki. 2009. Online Matrimonial Sites and the Transformation of Arranged Marriage in India. In Social Networking Communities and E-Dating Services: Concepts and Implications, eds. C. Romm-Livermore and K. Setzekorn. Information Science Reference. Sharangpani, Mukta. 2010. Browsing for Bridegrooms: Matchmaking and Modernity in Mumbai. Indian Journal of Gender Studies 17 (2): 249–276. Sharma, Kalpana. 2019. Single by Choice: Happily Unmarried Women. Delhi: Women Unlimited. Simmel, George. 1984. George Simmel on Women, Sexuality, and, Love ed. Guy Oakes: Yale University Press. Sirisena, Mihirini. 2018. The Making and Meaning of Relationships in Sri Lanka: An Ethnography on University Students in Colombo. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Situmorang, Augustina. 2011. Delayed Marriage among Lower Socio-economic Groups in an Indonesian Industrial City. In Changing Marriage Patterns in Southeast Asia: Economic and Socio-cultural Dimensions, ed. Gavin Jones, Terrence Hull, and Maznah Mohamad, 83–98. London: Routledge. To, Sandy. 2013. Understanding Sheng Nu (‘Leftover Women’): The Phenomenon of Late Marriage Among Chinese Professional Women. Waldrop, Anne. 2011. Kitty-Parties and Middle-Class Femininity in New Delhi. In Being Middle Class in India: A Way of Life, ed. Henrike Donner. London: Routledge. Weller, Chris. 2016. The Japanese Government Is Setting up Speed-Dating Events to Help with Its ‘Demographic Time Bomb.’ Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.in/TheJapanese-government-is-setting-up-speed-dating-events-to-help-with-its-demographic-timebomb/articleshow/54702825.cms (July 16, 2019).

Chapter 3

The Modern Family

In a South Asian context, it is difficult to analyse marriage without acknowledging and tracing the involvement of the family in spouse-selection. In fact, one of the most popular types of marriage, namely arranged marriage, is defined on the basis of the family’s dominating influence on the choice of spouse. Though this caricature is broadly realistic, it is also to be kept in mind that the boundaries between ‘love’ and ‘arranged’ marriages are increasingly blurring, especially with the intervention of technology (matrimonial websites) and a greater public discourse (even acceptance) of romantic relationships before marriage (Bhandari 2017). As a result, it will be far too simplistic to claim that the family plays an integral role only in ‘arranged’ marriages and remains less conspicuous in matters of ‘love’ or ‘choice’ marriages. Indeed, their role and influence in matchmaking have become all the more complicated, at once muted and obvious. In this chapter, therefore, I trace the ways in which the family influences spouse-selection and, in so doing, argue that the involvement of the family cannot be gauged on the basis of the extent of control it exercises—complete/strong or minimal. Rather, it is more helpful to discuss the diverse ways in which the family encounters the experiences and emerging spaces of spouse-selection, such as romances, heartbreaks, matrimonial portals, and so on. This expansive approach towards understanding the role of family will furthermore help critically appraise the idea of the ‘modern’, as it will reveal that the modern does not demand the rejection of the family in matters of spouse-selection and an unabashed championing of individual choice. Rather, the modern exists in the ability of the family to engage with the new and emerging discourses and technologies of spouse-selection, its interaction with individual’s needs and wants, and its own preferences of furthering its status through matchmaking.1 In order to fully grasp this, it is perhaps more useful to focus on the spaces of spouse-selection, particularly a formal space of spouse-selection—those that are 1 A version of this argument appears in my chapter ‘Makings of Modern Marriage: Choice, Family,

and the Matchmaker’ (2018).

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_3

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designed exclusively for spouse-selection such as matrimonial websites and agencies and an informal space of spouse-selection—those that are not geared towards meeting potential spouses but can end up being an effective space for that. This categorisation is more conducive for understanding the role of the family and contemporary practices of matchmaking at large, because it does not pre-suppose a level of control or dominance either by the family or the individual, as furthered by the categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriages. Furthermore, this approach allows to easily identify how the family has a more evolved yet evasive presence in matchmaking, as these categories do not fix or pre-determine the role of the family. Rather this approach, helps note how the family has begun to engage with their children’s pre-marital romances and the phase of elongated singlehood whilst also not giving up the hope to shape their children’s choice of spouse. It also helps note how the family is embracing the ‘new’ in matchmaking (dating, technology) whilst ensuring that certain traditions as of ‘meet the parents’ continue to be of relevance. I thus argue that the family is asserting a decentralised mode of control, whereby it is active yet non-dominant, and in order to best comprehend this sort of control it is important to study how it appears and disappears during the different stages of spouse-selection; how it interacts with the new technologies of matchmaking as well as engages with the experiences of the individuals, at times asserting its preferences more strongly, and at other times, subtly forwarding its preferences. Crucially, this approach also helps understand how the family reinforces moralities of being middle class (respect to parents, values of hard work) in new environments of matchmaking. I discuss this nuanced role of the family in five sections: the first section focuses on the ways in which the family influences pre-marital relationships and the second section brings attention to its involvement in the formal spaces of matchmaking. The third and fourth sections discuss the modern renditions of two important customs of matchmaking, namely ‘meeting the parents’ and dowry. The final section briefly comments on how the family ensures its class and status reproduction through matchmaking.2

3.1 Shaping Romantic Relationships One of the characteristics of a ‘serious’ relationship (Sirisena 2018), which was discussed in the previous chapter, is that the couple intends to transform their relationship to marriage and therefore, at some point, reveals the relationship to their parents. Conversely, as a few interviewees explained to me, parents are not necessarily informed or involved in matters of casual dating or other forms of ‘non-serious’ relationships, at the same time, they also commented that it is naïve to believe that the parents are unaware of one’s non-serious relationships. As Shivam, aged 26, opined, 2 This

by no means is an exhaustive discussion on the interactions between the family and matchmaking or a comprehensive account into the importance of the family in contemporary society. Other works that have discussed family in India include Majumdar’s (2009) historical account on matchmaking, where she explains that marriage is always about the family, Radhakrishnan’s (2011) commentary on the good ‘Indian’ family; and Uberoi’s classic essay, ‘The Family in India’ (2006).

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Parents are not stupid. If we are getting married at 30, they obviously know that we have been romantically involved before. They don’t discuss it because they don’t want to entertain the idea that we are not virgins.

It was indeed worth pondering that if parents are no longer expecting their children to marry at the age of 25, then they must have some inkling of their children’s romantic exploits. If so, what do they feel about these relationships, and how do they express their approval or disapproval of these relationships? Indeed, during my interviews with the parental generation they often reiterated that they were ‘modern parents’ who are supportive of their children’s romances, and this, in fact, differentiated them from their parental generation, who did not entertain discussions on romance before marriage. In one such interview, Mr. Kumar, father of a prospective groom, proudly exclaimed that he and his wife have maintained an ‘open and frank relationship’ with their son, who is encouraged to bring his girlfriend home. He said, We want to support our children in every way. We have taught our son to be respectful towards his girlfriend and not hide the relationship. He should bring her home, introduce her to us. This way we also get to know what’s happening in their life […] We are modern parents you see. We don’t want to be strict and traditional with our children. Times have changed. [sic]

Not just Mr. Kumar, other parents that I interacted with too claimed to be modern because they do not disapprove of their children’s romantic relationships. This of course did not imply that they were not concerned about who their children were dating but that they were open and accepting of the idea of pre-marital romances insofar as the boyfriend/girlfriend belonged to a respectable family and had good habits. As I spent more time talking to parents, I realised that though they did not always outrightly reject a girlfriend/boyfriend, they could shape the outcome of the romantic relationship, especially if they were unconvinced of it. I met Chirag aged 28, working in a multinational company in Gurugram on recommendation of his colleague, whom I had interviewed. Chirag was engaged to be married and had found his fiancé through the services of a matrimonial agent. Chirag was described as a ‘catch’ by his colleauges, as he is from a well-to-do family and well educated. Therefore, they were surprised to know that his girlfriend broke up with him after two years of the relationship. They suspected that the primary reason of the break up was Chirag’s mother, who was not very fond of his girlfriend, though she never openly misbehaved with her. I had a pleasant conversation with Chirag and requested to also interview his mother, Mrs. Sharma, who agreed to meet me. She invited me to their plush South Delhi apartment. As we began chatting, she described her family as an upper-middle-class family, where education and hard work are given immense importance. She also proudly claimed that she and her husband have fulfilled every desire of her two sons and maintain a healthy and communicative relationship with them. When Chirag turned 27, she asked him if he liked a girl, and when he said he was indeed single, they suggested that he solicits services of a matrimonial agent. Mrs. Sharma was very particular in specifying that she is not controlling this process of choosing a bride for Chirag, and that the agency directly sends profiles to Chirag for him to shortlist. She said,

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3 The Modern Family Today’s generation is smart, well educated, and mature. They should take their decisions on their own. I have given my sons complete freedom to choose a good girl but it is so difficult to find the time to look for a spouse […]. He (Chirag) stays so busy [with work] that he doesn’t meet many people outside of work. I was getting worried as he was in his late 20s. I had spread a word in my friend circle as well, but then my husband and I decided that we need to think of this [finding a suitable spouse] more seriously and so we contacted a matrimonial agent. We of course asked Chirag’s permission, and checked with him if he was seeing someone. He said no, and gave us a ‘yes’ to contact the matrimonial agents.

Since Mrs. Sharma considered herself as a modern parent with whom Chirag discussed everything, I enquired if she was aware why Chirag’s relationship (particularly the most recent one) did not transform to marriage. Mrs. Sharma seemed a bit hesitant and responded to my question a bit evasively by stating that she had met Chirag’s girlfriend only once and suspected that they broke up because they did not ‘click’ with each other. She quickly added that she is not ‘interfering’ and ultimately the choice of a spouse is solely his. After a few days, when I interviewed Chirag, he was open about discussing his relationship, which he described as a ‘serious’ relationship, and explained that his girlfriend was well-liked by his friends and family. She attended all his house parties and at times spent the night at his place, though in a separate room, he clarified. This information was in contradiction to Mrs. Sharma account who claimed to have met Chirag’s girlfriend only once. In order to clarify, I specifically asked if his mother had met his girlfriend. He said, Yes, of course, a few times. My girlfriend attended all the parties at my house and even spent the night once or twice, when she was too drunk to go back to her PG (he said with a laughter) […] My parents never really asked much about her, just basic things like her education, and where she lives etc. I mean I am sure they knew that I was serious about her or else she wouldn’t be spending the night over, but I never had a formal chat with them.

I enquired why they broke up and Chirag said that the final straw was long distance, as she had gone abroad for her master’s, but that problems between them had been surfacing since a while. He said, She did not seem very comfortable with my family or class situation. We come from a wellto-do family and she is from a regular middle class family, which doesn’t mean that she is poor or anything but that her family is very different. I met her mother, who is always very simply dressed and you have seen my mother - she likes to dress up, is elegant, and goes for her kitty parties. I think somewhere there was a clash. I still wanted to make it work but she was giving up […] She also mentioned that my mother didn’t like her. I told her it was all in her head and that everyone likes her.

I asked Chirag if his mother had ever expressed any reservations about his girlfriend, and he denied. He added that when he and his girlfriend started fighting a lot, he discussed the situation with his mother, who explained to him that perhaps his girlfriend is genuinely finding it difficult to adjust to his family’s way of life. She apparently assured Chirag that she does like his girlfriend but that she also believes that marriages should take place between equals. She explained to him the advantages of marrying someone who can ‘keep the family together’ (as she had also mentioned to me), and she thought that if his girlfriend was unable to relate to his family, then

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things might get difficult for their marriage. To add to this, their long-distance communication was not working well. When his girlfriend wanted to break up, Chirag was heartbroken, he said, but he also began to see that perhaps this decision was for the best. Immediately after this incident, he agreed to sign up to a matrimonial agency, and his primary criterion, he said, was that the girl should also belong from the same class background as him, so he does not have the same experience as he had with his girlfriend. Later, at an evening outing with Chirag and his colleagues, one of them who had befriended his ex-girlfriend revealed to me that Chirag’s ex-girlfriend used to complain about Chirag’s mother. Though his mother was never disrespectful to the girlfriend, she barely exchanged a word with her every time she visited their house, and this made her feel unwelcomed. Apparently, his mother’s primary concern was that she was not from a well-to-do family and thought that she could not adjust or fit into their world. This was a revelation to me because Chirag’s mother never even once mentioned her disapproval of his girlfriend due to her class or status. Perhaps this was because she did not expect me to understand her concerns or feared that I would label her as ‘traditional’. Either way, this account highlighted the family’s need to present themselves as being ‘modern’ by claiming to not influence their children’s decisions on spouse-selection, when in reality they were shaping these decisions. A similar account was of Mrs. Shete, a successful gynaecologist, who, like Mrs. Sharma, had recently registered her son with a matrimonial agency. In a largely candid interview, Mrs. Shete specified that her top preference for a suitable bride for his son is for the girl to be educated and preferably from their community (Maharashtrians). From the Indian state Maharasthra. i.e., (Maharashtrians, from the western Indian State Maharasthra). I enquired if her son had any romantic relationships earlier, and she replied that he had two long-term relationships and described both the girls as ‘nice and sweet’. She was particularly fond of the most recent one, she said, who was a Bengali. The relationship did not last though not because of cultural differences but more ‘practical’ problem of geographical location—she wanted him to move to the city she was residing in. Her son was torn by this because he did not want to uproot his life and move somewhere else yet he wanted to be with his girlfriend. Mrs. Shete confessed that she was heartbroken at the prospect that her son might move to another city but since she is a ‘good’ mother, she encouraged him to work out the relationship. She said, Main interfering maa nahi hoon jo apne bache par rok-tok rakhe […] Par ye hai ki accha to nahi lagta agar wo doose sheher jaata. Thodi anxiety to thi is rishte ko lekar par maine kabhi ye apne bete se kahan nahi. Main to yehi chahti thi ki wo khush rahe, jaise bhi, jahan bhi […] unki relationships problems badhti gayin, aur phir chal nahi paaya. Dukh to hua tha jab unka rishta toota kyunki wo kaafi udaas tha, par thoda relief bhi tha ki wo mujhe chhod ke kahin aur nahi bas raha hai. I am not an interfering mother who will restrict her son’s life […] I wouldn’t have liked him to move to another city. I was slightly anxious about this relationship but never said anything to him. All I want is for him to be happy, wherever he is, and however he chooses to live his life […] In the end, they couldn’t make the relationship work. I was sorry for my son but also relieved that now he would not leave me.

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When her son and his girlfriend were unable to make a decision, Mrs. Shete decided to intervene by imposing a ‘deadline’ (of his turning 30) by which they had to decide whether they would marry each other or not. Come his 30th birthday, they were still in a state of limbo. Mrs. Shete then warned him that she will create a profile for him on a matrimonial website and will find someone suitable who is residing in his city. In the meantime, in order to assuage her own anxieties, Mrs. Shete consulted an astrologer who looked at his girlfriend’s birth chart and informed Mrs. Shete that his son is not destined to marry his girlfriend. She immediately revealed this to her son, who brushed off her belief in astrology as archaic and irrational. Mrs. Shete was increasingly getting impatient and one day she gave an ultimatum to her son that she will phone his girlfriend’s parents with a formal proposal if they do not reach a decision in a week’s time. Her son requested for a month’s time instead, after which he informed her that he and his girlfriend had broken off the relationship. At the outset, it may seem that Mrs. Shete did not have a role in the breaking-up the relationship. At the same time, it is hard to overlook the subtle ways in which she shaped the final stages of the relationship by setting ‘deadlines’ for her son, consulting astrologers on the fate of their relationship and discussing the merits of marrying someone from the same community and city. In this way, she influenced her son’s thinking on the future of his relationship, without actively disapproving it. Both these narratives reveal how parents (mothers in this case) do not necessarily dominate or control their children’s (sons in this case) romantic experiences yet can shape the outcome of these relationships. They advise their children on the ‘practicalities’ of the prospective union, and though they do not outrightly reject their son’s choice of spouse, they make it apparent why the choice might not be an ideal one.3

3.2 The Formal Process of Spouse-Selection Not only in matters of romance but also in the formal spaces of spouse-selection, which has traditionally been viewed as the domain of the family, the parents of the professional middle class claimed exercising a ‘hands-off’ approach. Each time I interviewed parents of prospective spouses; they claimed to be less-involved in the process of matchmaking. They insisted that their approach to spouse-selection is based on a ‘dialogue’ with their children rather than instructing them on the ‘right’ characteristics of a suitable spouse. In fact, they also considered a formal process of spouse-selection as the ‘last resort’ of matchmaking, when their children were unable to find a suitable spouse through informal networks of work or friendship. They also clarified that they opted for a formal process of spouse-selection only after 3 In the previous chapter, I have noted works that explain the role of peer groups in shaping romantic

experiences. There is now emerging scholarship such as Viresh Patel’s work (2017) on young women in Rajasthan, which delineates the influence of family in shaping these women’s future. In a similar vein, in this chapter, I bring exclusive attention to how the family influences their romantic relationships.

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gaining their children’s approval, and therefore, by no means were controlling the process but merely acting as advisors in the process of spouse-selection. I met Mrs. Rawat on the recommendation of a matrimonial agent, who scheduled a meeting with her at the matrimonial agency itself. I began our conversation by asking what made her seek the assistance of a matrimonial agency given that the urban youth seems to prefer ‘choice’ marriages. She said, I don’t think today’s parents believe that the only option is arranged marriage. I have always told my children that they are free to marry whoever they want to. […] Ultimately, what parents want is their children’s happiness.

Mrs. Rawat repeatedly told me that her intention is not to impose on her son’s life by deciding on who he should marry. Rather, she wanted him to control the process. She said, My son is a consultant working in a big multinational company. His job is very demanding. He spends 14 h in the office every day. He has no time to look for love and marriage. He is so busy that he doesn’t find time to even talk to me. We asked him if he has someone in mind and he said no, so then my husband and I decided that we should contact an agency. We asked him if he was fine with this, and he said okay. […] This agency has been of big help. We are not really involved in the process as much. We have specified our preferences, and they send shortlisted profiles to my son over email. He shortlists who he likes and then we formally approach the girl’s family. So, you see, we are not controlling anything. We are just organising things for him. [sic]

Whilst the parents were presenting their involvement as a ‘hands-off’ approach, the marrying individuals were allotting more credit to them by explaining the crucial role their families play in not only initiating the process of spouse-selection but also providing them with the courage and confidence to make that ‘leap of faith’, that is the final decision especially when they are unsure. Some others discussed how their families helped them overcome confusion regarding a choice of spouse. Such was the case with Sahil, aged 31, an employee at a multinational company. We met over a cup of coffee, close to his office, and he began the interview by describing the formal process of spouse-selection as confusing. He was unable to make up him mind, he said, and took over two months to decide on his fiancé. His parents shortlisted a profile, he said, and send the details to him. He was immediately drawn to Seema—aged 26, and working in private company in Gurugram. At the initiation of the parents, their phone numbers were exchanged and they began talking on the phone. When they first met, he liked her, ‘but there were no butterflies in his stomach’ he said. He wanted an instant spark, he explained, which was missing. He met her a few more times but was unable to agree on her proposal. He told his parents that he needed more time and they suggested that he visit his brother in Bangalore to mull over the situation. Sahil’s elder brother has been married for four years also through a formal process of spouse-selection (matrimonial website), after he was heartbroken at the ending of his three-year long romantic relationship. Apparently, his elder brother’s girlfriend cheated on him, and he took a few months to come out of depression due to her infidelity, after which he approached his parents to look for a suitable bride for him. He found a ‘good’ wife, he said, and has been happily married.

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One evening, both brothers were enjoying a drink when Sahil’s brother enquired on what was holding back Sahil about Seema. Sahil explained that though she is a ‘nice and sweet’ girl, he did not feel the spark, as she lacked a few characteristics that he wanted in his wife, like being witty. Sahil’s brother explained to him that a key to happy marriage is to be with someone who shares the same values and respect for family. ‘Humour, wit, hotness are all faff no substance’, he said to Sahil. Sahil said, I knew this; it wasn’t some revelation but to have someone like my brother, who is married and experienced, say it to me with that confidence, meant a lot [to me]. The next day I said yes to her [Seema].

Another interviewee revealed how her family played an important role in preventing her from taking a ‘wrong’ decision. I met Deepti on recommendation of another interviewee. Deepti had completed a master’s degree from a foreign university and was working in multinational company in Delhi. Her parents started looking for a suitable spouse for her when she turned 26 and registered her on a matrimonial website. Together she and her family shortlisted a profile of a highly educated man who belonged to a different caste background. They ‘expressed interest’ for this profile, and the prospective groom’s family, who was handling his profile, accepted their interest, and they exchanged phone numbers. Soon Deepti and the prospective groom started chatting on the phone, and as she was beginning to like him, he abruptly stopped replying to her messages. After a week, Deepti’s parents phoned his parents to enquire if everything was all right and they apologised profusely stating that his work is keeping him very busy and that he will contact Deepti soon. After a few weeks, he messaged her again, and they resumed chatting but soon he went ‘quiet on her’ again. This time her parents were furious. They sensed something was foul and advised Deepti to ‘close the chapter’. This entire episode left Deepti with low self-esteem as she started doubting if something was unappealing and unattractive about her. At the same time, she was glad that her parents were a part of this process because they were able to protect her by giving her the right advice and support. She said, People view parents’ involvement as traditional or backward but I think their support is so important. They can really help you by advising which profiles are serious and which are fake. They can judge people better. This is important in this anonymised matchmaking, where you don’t really know who you are talking to. […] I am glad my parents were there to support me and were able to show me that this guy was trouble.

Deepti explained that the world of formal matchmaking can be rather scary. It is full of ‘fake’ profiles that is of people who are not really interested in marriage but only dating or one-night stands. Furthermore, one often has to go through several rejections before finding the ‘one’ and this can affect one’s self-confidence. It is in these situations that the family’s support becomes crucial. Both Deepti and Sahil’s parents claimed a ‘hands-off’ approach in spouse-selection by presenting themselves as only having initiated the process. Yet, they did much more than just creating online profiles. They did not dominate or control the process but engaged in a dialogue with their children, advising them when they were unsure about a profile

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and supporting them when a potential prospect was being insincere. They were managing their children’s emotions and spousal choices by providing care, support, and protection. Their involvement in spouse-selection therefore was much more nuanced than simply dominating the process—it was subtle yet powerful, active yet hidden. This sort of involvement, furthermore, also enabled them to present themselves as being ‘modern’, for they were not dictating choices but engaging in choice-making without being overbearing.

3.3 Meet the Parents Another aspect of matchmaking that brings out the prominence of family is the ritual, as it were, of meeting the parents before finalising a marriage. This ritual was followed both in the formal and informal spaces of spouse-selection. A matrimonial agent explained to me that the future of an alliance is determined by this meeting.4 She described an incident when the first meeting between the families of two prospective spouses went horribly wrong, leading to a rejection from both the ‘parties’ despite it being a ‘good match’.5 It is precisely to prevent any such miscommunication on the first meeting of the parents that their agency offers a higher-priced ‘package’, where a seasoned matrimonial agent organises and mediates the first meeting. She explained that it is the job of the matrimonial agent to ensure that both ‘parties’ put their best foot forward by, for example, not discussing any ‘touchy’ issues of property, financial status, or personal problems (as divorce or previous broken engagements) in an unseemly manner. She said, We have to be careful that the boy and the girl are well-presented. See, the thing is our agents get to know the parties very well in the process of finding a girl or boy for them. So, we can advice accordingly—what the other family likes or does not like. The first meeting is always the most crucial one. The parents have to like the girl or the boy otherwise they will not go ahead [with the alliance]. So, it is better that there is a mediator at the first meeting.

The marrying individuals too explained how the first meeting with the parents is the deciding moment in a relationship and that they undergo several weeks of mental preparation in order to impress the parents. In a more formal setting, moreover, the time is short, and the experience more terrifying. I met Keshava, aged 29, at his Gurugram office, who was recently married, and who described his experience of meeting his wife’s parents for the first time as nerve racking much like how he feels 4 The

stress, anxiety, and humour of this ritual has been widely captured by Bollywood movies, television dramas, and written about in books and magazines. This ‘event’ is also important in other cultures, and recent works on South East Asia and East Asian societies too has commented on this, such as Kendell’s (2014) work on the importance of ‘first introductions’. Hollywood movies too have brought exclusive attention to this ritual, as it were, for example, in the movie ‘Meet the Parents’ (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004). 5 Matrimonial agencies tend to use more impersonal terms as ‘parties’ or ‘clients’ for families looking for a suitable spouse. I explain the use of these professional terms and its impact on the professionalisation of matchmaking in Chap. 4.

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at a job interview. His family and he had shortlisted his wife’s profile on a website, and since his parents live in Lucknow, he went alone to meet his future wife and her family. He said, I met them at Le Meridien in Gurgaon. I was so nervous. My mother phoned me 10 times to check that I have ironed my shirt and wearing good shoes. Hell, I even got a haircut a day before. […] You want to make a good impression, you know. The first impressions tell you everything about a person. See, in arranged marriages you get a very small window. It is either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ pretty much in the first meeting. So, you have to do your best.

I met Priya, aged 26, at the MBA institute. Priya and Harsh were labelled the first ‘in-house’ couple, because they met on the first day of the semester and started dating shortly after. Priya confessed to me that she was sure that she would marry Harsh within the first month of them dating. She however was also aware that it might be difficult for her to get an approval from her parents because she belonged to the Sindhi community, and Harsh was a Punjabi, and in her family, there was a strict rule to marry only within the Sindhi community. Nonetheless, she was convinced that her parents will like Harsh because he was not anything like the general stereotype of a Punjabi man, who is spoilt, a mama’s boy, and disrespectful to women, said Priya. After three months of dating, Priya decided to confide in her mother. She said, My mother and I are very close. […]. I told her that Harsh is not like your regular Punjabi boy […]. He is very loving and caring, he helps me with my assignments, looks after me when I am sick. I think all this made my mother’s heart melt. I told her she has to meet him. If she did not like him after meeting him then I will not fight for the relationship and break-up. But first she had to meet him. She instantly agreed to come over for a weekend.

Priya interpreted her mother’s agreeing to meet Harsh as a positive sign. She said, I know my mother very well. She is like a friend to me. It is not easy to marry outside of your community if you are from a close-knit community like ours. The fact that she was willing to meet him gave me the confidence that I have won half the battle.

Priya was sure that Harsh would ‘sweep her [mother] of her feet’, because he is a genuinely nice and caring man. At the same time, she was very nervous at this first ‘meet the parents’ event, she said. Therefore, she started ‘preparing’ Harsh—she did not want him to only be his goofy self by cracking incessant jokes (something that she otherwise admires) and wanted him to be more politically correct and courteous. When her mother arrived, Priya and Harsh went to receiver her at the airport, and the three of them spent the entire weekend together. Before leaving back for Delhi, Priya’s mother asked to speak with Harsh privately. Priya was nervous, thinking that perhaps her mother did not like Harsh. But after the talk, Priya’s mother seemed happy and ‘smiley’. Priya said, She said nothing to me. I still don’t know what they talked about, but before entering the airport my mother said “You have chosen the brightest star in the sky”. We both had tears in our eyes and we hugged each other tightly. Mummy told the entire incident to Papa as soon as she went back, and my father said he had no problems with this rishta [proposal] if my mother was okay with it. I was so happy and so proud of Harsh that he managed to impress my mother in the first meeting […] We will get married next year.

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Whilst Priya, as a sign of her commitment to Harsh, immediately introduced him to her mother, at times when one partner delays introducing their chosen spouse to the parents, it is interpreted as a hesitation on their part to transform the relationship to marriage. Such was the experience of Alisha, aged 27, who had been dating Lakshya for two years. They first met at college, but lost touch only to meet again at a college reunion. This time they connected instantly and soon entered a romantic relationship. In describing their relationship, Alisha said that all was well, except that Lakshya had not introduced her to his parents, and this made her question his intentions regarding their relationship. She was concerned because she had already introduced him to her parents and the fact that he had not done the same made her think that he is not interested in having a ‘serious’ relationship with her. She said, I just think it is strange that I have still not met his parents especially when everyone in my family knows about us […] During bad days I just wonder if he is scared that they will reject me and he will have to agree to them, and so he is avoiding the meeting or maybe he is not that into me? […] I just don’t know what to think of all this. I just want this mystery to be over. I would really like to meet his parents to know where we stand.

I met Alisha again about three years after this interview, and she told me that she and Lakshya were recently married. She said that she did not meet his parents for about a year after our chat. The reason Lakshya was not introducing Alisha to her parents was that he was planning to change his job and wanted to be ‘settled’ in his new life because he believed that his parents would have pressured him to marry if he formally introduced a girl to them. These accounts reveal that meeting the parents remains an important rite de passage in the process of matchmaking, no matter if the spouse is selected through a formal or informal process of matchmaking. This is not to suggest that if parents disapprove, the chosen spouse is immediately abandoned (see Chap. 7). Rather that if such a situation arises, the marrying individuals will put in a greater effort to win their parents’ support. Nonetheless, this ritual certainly highlights that the family’s opinion on the suitability of a spouse remains an important consideration for marriage.

3.4 Muted References to Dowry An aspect of matchmaking with which the family is inevitably associated is that of dowry. Whilst it is beyond the scope of this book to delve into the histories and varied contemporary forms of this practice, let me provide a brief sketch of its characteristics and the ways in which it has affected women in particular and society at large. Broadly, dowry is a set of gifts for the bride (and by extension also to the groom and his family) given by her family, which does not invoke any reciprocity from the groom’s family. A classic interpretation for this is that since dowry is a daan or dakshina, which serves as an accompaniment to Kanyadan (the gift of a virgin) made by the parents, it does not incur any reciprocity from the groom’s family (Fruzetti 1982;

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Madan 1965; Vatuk 1975; Van der Veer 1972). The functional perspective of dowry, on the other hand, delineates its importance in maintaining certain key principles of kinship such as hypergamy (Das 1993; Srinivas 1966). Others, as Goody and Tambiah (1973), consider dowry as a pre-mortem inheritance of the daughters; that is, it is their property given to them at the time of marriage. This particular viewpoint has come under most criticism because research has shown that the property does not really remain with the daughter and is taken (at times forcibly) by the groom’s family instead (Madan 1965; Sharma 1993). As a result, some consider dowry to be better described as ‘groom price’ (Caplan 1993). Dowry is also a cause of violence against brides (acid attacks, murders, beatings) especially if her family is unable to provide the demanded dowry. In fact, dowry is one of the foremost reasons for female foeticide.6 The abuses suffered by women and their families on the count of dowry lead to the passing of Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961, with subsequent amendments in 1984 and 1986 (Sheel 2008). Concomitant to these legal changes, there have been ongoing efforts to popularise women’s education and employment, which it is hoped will provide them with financial independence and willpower to stand against these demands of them and their family. Yet, these efforts do not necessarily make a direct or immediate impact. Indeed, this practice has an insidious presence even amongst the educated and financially well-off classes.7 During my fieldwork, however, marrying individuals, parents, matchmakers, all unequivocally denounced the practice of dowry. At the same time, they also clarified that they did not consider all kinds of giftgiving as dowry. Gifts given by the bride’s family to the bride (especially jewellery and clothes) and to the groom’s family, I was told, were not always dowry, as dowry implied a demand by the groom’s family, whereas in these cases the bride’s family was supposedly willingly engaging in gift-giving, borne out of affection and respect for their daughter and her in-laws. In due course, I also noted muted references to dowry, particularly with regard to financial contribution of organising the wedding ceremonies. An aspect that stood out furthermore was that the brides too expected 6 Works including by Dube (1988, 2001), Patel (2007b), and Sagar (2007) have explained the social

causes and particular mindsets causing discrimination against young girls, leading to sex-selective abortion or different socialisation practices than for boys. For a comprehensive account on this issue, see Patel (2007a). Oldenburg (2002) provides an additional perspective on dowry and critically analyses citation of dowry cases in courts as foolproof way of mapping increase in the practice of dowry. She argues that often the dowry prohibition law was the only legal recourse to express a marriage grievance. As a result, women filed for a dowry harassment case as a means to get out of the marriage, for the legal system, had no other way in which she could assert her unhappiness in her marital life (such as emotional trauma or incompatibility). In that regard, simply analysing dowry-related legal cases (in the twentieth century that is) may not provide a realistic picture of the practice of dowry. Of course, this situation has now changed with amendments to divorce law by which wives can demand a separation on the basis of sexual and emotional incompatibility, for example. 7 The sex ratio in South Delhi was 862 per 1000 males in 2011, whilst the national average was 940 per 1000 males (Census of India 2011). Data from round 55 of NSSO 1999–2000 (see Appendix F) reveals that female sex ratio is favourable to women in poorer families (1004/1000 FMR) and unfavourable for the richest of households (836/1000 FMR) both in urban and rural areas (Agnihotri 2003; Sagar 2007).

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their family to provide them with a grand wedding, as well as contribute to their new household arrangement or desires of consumerism—holidays, expensive bags, watches, jewellery.8 To that extent, whilst previous literature on dowry has focussed attention on the role of the family, especially the groom’s family in demanding dowry, in my work I noted how dowry is now also inextricably linked to the professional middle class’ own aspirations of status, appearances, and consumerism. The idea and practice of dowry in this way assumes a language of ‘practicality’, ‘fun’ and celebrations, rather than of duty. To elucidate, one of the aspects in which dowry contributes is in actualising the bride’s desire to have a ‘perfect’, in that, glamourous wedding. As the wedding industry is expanding so are the various avenues of professionalism, one of the most popular being wedding photography.9 As part of the fieldwork, I attended six weddings, and in one of these weddings, the mother of the bride was discussing with me how her daughter is insisting one hiring one of Delhi’s most expensive photographers, who charges INR 5,00,000 per event, and the bride wanted to hire her for all the three events organised by her family. Her parents eventually managed to convince the bride to hire the photographer for two events. The bride’s demands however did not stop at this: she wanted to buy designer clothes for all the wedding events. Her sister revealed that the brides’ clothes for each of the wedding event (six in total) was no less than INR 1,00,000, and her wedding dress costed INR 3,00,000. She further added that though her family is upper middle class, they considered the bride’s demands to be unreasonable and considered her to be the perfect ‘victim’ of the wedding industry. In a part-facetious and part-serious manner, she said, Usually it is the groom’s side that is torturing the bride’s family for spending more at the wedding. In our case, it is the bride who is squeezing us!

Later, I had a chat with the mother of the bride, and I asked if she thought the current generation to be tad bit ‘spoilt’ with their demands for a ‘perfect wedding’. She smiled and said, I think you are all spoilt by Bollywood and all this media […] I don’t want my daughter to be unhappy on her wedding. I tried to talk to her and she did reduce her expectations but ultimately it is her day, and it is our duty as parents to make her happy.

Indeed, a recent series on Amazon Prime, ‘Made in Heaven’, which traces the complicated personal lives of two wedding planners, whilst providing a glimpse into the real dynamics of weddings in India (each episode is dedicated to a particular issue 8 Whilst

recent scholarship has not undertaken a sociological investigation of modern Indian weddings as such, in my other works (Bhandari 2017, 2019), I have discussed certain salient features of weddings amongst the elites of Delhi. 9 There is limited scholarship on the role of photography in weddings, except for Uberoi’s study on Taiwanese wedding photo shoots (2008), and Abraham’s (2010) analysis of wedding photography and videography in Thiyya weddings. International media, though, has captured Indian couples’ increasing obsession with couple photoshoots as evident in a recent (July 2019) short BBC video news clipping https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-india-49071912/the-rise-of-india-s-viralwedding-photoshoots.

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such as dowry, marriage of convenience, sexual assault), too commented on this new pressure on the bride’s family, namely, to organise a tasteful and glamorous wedding. Episode 8 depicts a bride-to-be’s obsession for a ‘perfect’ wedding, beginning with making a pre-wedding dance video featuring her and her friends. The cost of this video-making is very high, and her father takes a loan from the bank to pay not only for the video but her other wedding-related demands. The makers of this series certainly grasped the contemporary situation well, as even as I browsed through wedding blogs, which have increased in number and are indeed very popular amongst young brides, I noted the brides’ desires to have a ‘perfect’ wedding. Several of the blog posts advised brides-to-be not to compromise on hiring a good wedding photographer and buying a good (preferably designer) wedding outfit, for it is their ‘special day’, and the pictures will cherish the memories forever. There is no doubt that this form of peer pressure to have a ‘perfect’ wedding leads to greater expenditure on weddings, and the cost is not borne by the prospective brides themselves but taps into her parents’ savings or forces them to take bank loans. Another muted expression of dowry seemed to be property. Though most of the professionals I spoke with, denied having taken any assistance from their parents to buy a property and certainly did not accept it in dowry, it was nonetheless peculiar to note that many of these couples were buying a property soon after their wedding. Real estate prices are at an all time high in Delhi, and when I enquired on how they managed to invest in a property at this young age, they always explained that they had taken bank loans and were paying EMIs (Equated Monthly Installments). A few also claimed that they had high savings and had taken a loan from their parents that they planned to return. It is not my suggestion that these were all lies, yet at the same time, it was hard to ignore the timing of these purchases. It is difficult for me to infer conclusively that these purchases were related to dowry, yet, given the history of dowry, it would not be unfathomable to assume that these property investments could be a form of dowry. Thus, in these ways, the expressions of dowry seem to be related to the professional middle class’ desires of consumerism and personal aspirations. As the professional middle class distances itself from the more problematic connotations of dowry, it also engages with this practice, in a form that speaks the language of desire rather than duty. This is of course not to say that there were no obvious expressions of dowry at all. Indeed, I noted unsurprisingly that it was in the wedding preparations that dowry made the most obvious appearance. Typically, the financial strain of an extravagant wedding is borne by the brides’ family. I interviewed wedding planners to better understand how the finances for the wedding are distributed between the two families, and it was confirmed by all wedding planners that the greater burden of expenditure inevitable falls on the bride’s family. A typical middle-class Hindu wedding, explained the wedding planners, lasts 3–4 days, wherein the groom and bride’s family host two events each. The asymmetries in spending appear firstly regarding the scale at which the bride’s family is expected to host an event, and secondly, on the gifts, they are expected to give to the groom’s family. The wedding planners admitted that there is a tacit understanding between the two families that the bride’s family will end up spending more for the wedding. At the same time, the groom’s

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family does not want to present themselves as ‘fleecing’ the bride’s family, said one wedding planner, so they prefer to have equal number of events for the wedding, and the discrepancies lie in the details of these events, as the bride’s family ends up hiring a more expensive venue, putting up more lavish decorations and inviting higher number of guests. The wedding planners further explained that if a marriage is ‘a love marriage, there are chances that these things can be negotiated’, but if the couple met through more formal channels, such as matrimonial websites or bureau, then there is pretty much a set template of organising the wedding, whereby the bride’s family spends more. This astute observation is in accordance to research that explains that one of the reasons for opposing ‘love’ marriages is that it makes it difficult for the groom’s family to demand dowry (Chowdhary 2009; Tenhuen 2009). Indeed, I too noted in my fieldwork that in situations where the couple was known to each other from before, the bride-to-be found it easier to negotiate any expectations of gift-giving or organisation of the wedding events, than it was for couples who met through the formal spaces of spouse-selection. One such case was of Namit and Divya who after dating for two years decided to marry. They both belonged to different castes and communities, and whilst their parents did not object to their marriage on this ground, there soon emerged conflicts regarding the wedding ceremonies. Whilst Namit’s parents wanted a ‘big’ wedding (of up to 500 guests) financed by the bride’s family, the bride’s family preferred a small wedding of less than 100 people, where the costs will be borne equally by both families. Furthermore, Namit’s father expected Divya’s family to give gifts to his five siblings and their families (spouses and children), which Divya was strictly against. When I met them both over lunch, Divya was visibly furious on these weddings negotiations and said that she has drawn the line on the demand for a large wedding. Luckily, said Divya, Namit supported Divya’s views and had convinced his parents of organising a relatively small wedding of up to 150 guests, with costs borne by both the families. Divya added, As if this was not enough, his father also expected me to give gifts to all his uncle and aunts, and their families! […] This is madness. If this is not dowry then what is!

Namit sat patiently listening to Divya’s rant and even supported her opinions. Yet, he also tried to explain to her and me that his father belongs to a different generation and therefore is unable to consider these gifts as dowry but views them merely as tokens of respect to his family. Namit was in principle against gift-giving, yet he also did not want to further offend his father so he proposed that he will bear the cost of all gifts to his own family, but keep this hidden from them, so it appears that the gifts are indeed from Divya’s family. Whilst Divya was able to reason with Namit, this was not the case for other couples, particularly Malika, who met her husband Chandan through a matrimonial agency. I was introduced to Malika just after three months of her wedding, and we met at a coffee shop close to her work. I first broached the topic of her wedding, and she provided one of the most candid interviews to me. She described her wedding as ‘fun’ but said that there was a lot of tension ‘behind the scenes’. It all began when at first Chandan’s family declared that they did not want even a penny from

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her family as dowry. Their only request was that the wedding should be ‘good’, and their guests be treated well—good food, return gifts, decorations, and so on. However, as the wedding approached, they started finding faults in Malika’s family’s organisation and gift-giving. For example, for shagun (token of luck) her family gifted two silver coins each to Chandan’s aunts and uncles. After the ceremony, Chandan’s father remarked that they should have gifted gold coins instead in order to maintain Chandan’s family’s status. One of the most unpleasant experiences was when Malika’s family wanted to gift a watch to Chandan, which at first the family refused out of politeness, but after much insistence Chandan agreed to go for watchshopping. He however did not buy a watch on that specific day, and the next day, his family sent a message through the matrimonial agent (who suggested their match) that Chandan’s gift should match his family status and therefore should not be less than 2 lakhs, rather than of Rs. 1 lakh, which was Malika’s parents’ budget. At the same time, they had categorically denied accepting a car that Malika’s family wanted to gift to the new couple. She said, Car is really the main symbol of dowry. They probably refused it [the car] because they did not want others to think that they demanded dowry. But let me assure you they had other ways to make my family spend.

These conversations and observations reveal how dowry continues to be a part of contemporary Indian matchmaking. Its expressions are not just bound in the language of duty but are more varied now, including the demands and desires of the marrying individuals themselves, and also get subsumed in the upkeep of the image of being modern. Crucially, the family of the bride continues to bear the burden of these demands of luxury and aspirations, as well as duties of kinship.

3.5 Reproduction of Class and Status In a famous essay, Béteille (1993) explains how the family ensures the reproduction of its status and class, and more than two decades since this essay was published, I too noted the ways in which the family continues to reproduce its status specifically through the process of matchmaking. One of the central features of this role, as I have also explained above, is that the family claims not to dominate the process of selecting a spouse but instead presents itself as merely guiding the process so that a ‘wrong choice’ of spouse is not made.10 During my interviews with the family, it became increasingly evident that one of the reasons that the family was so comfortable in portraying a hands-off approach was because they were confident that their upbringing had instilled a strong class identity in their children, such that their children’s choice of spouse would not be far removed from their own choice. It was 10 Kaur

and Dhanda (2014) in their study of matrimonial websites, too refer to this role of the family, wherein they are mainly concerned with ensuring that the marrying individuals do not make a ‘wrong choice’ in spouse-selection.

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in these times that Béteille’s argument seemed most resonant for the family managed to ensure that its status is reproduced without appearing dominant. I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Khanna at the matrimonial agent, and they invited me to their home to discuss their experiences of finding a suitable spouse for their son, Ayush. As I sat on a plush sofa in their posh South Delhi apartment, they proudly explained to me how they are not interfering parents. Right since Ayush and his brother were young, they encouraged their sons to make their own decisions. They described their involvement in their sons’ lives as one of providing guidance rather than dictating outcomes. Therefore, they extended this modus operandi, as it were, to Ayush’s matchmaking. When he turned 27, they asked him if he had someone specific whom he’d like to marry. When he confirmed that he was single, they suggested to contact a matrimonial agent. They said that their role in this process of matchmaking was merely to initiate him in this formal process of spouse-selection, and thereafter the matrimonial agent has taken over the process. The agent sends him shortlisted profiles, according to his preference, on a weekly basis. If Ayush likes a particular profile, he discusses it with his parents, but beyond this they are not involved in the process. Whilst I believed this narrative, I was also curious to know if they had discussed their preferences with Ayush. Mr. Khanna responded, Not everything has to be given in written. He is a well-brought up boy. We have given our children the best of things, and they have been brought up a certain way. I am sure they value it and they also feel comfortable in these surroundings. I don’t see him making a wrong choice. I am sure that he will choose someone who can relate to his style of life and upbringing, to our family […] I think upbringing is very important. It really defines you as a person. […] We don’t expect him to choose someone from a Tier 2 city or some lower-middle class background like in Janakpuri or something like that you know. We are sure he will like maintain his and our standards by choosing someone who can relate to all of us. [sic]

I was introduced to Gaurav, aged 32, on recommendation of another interviewee. Gaurav was recently married and was keen to discuss his experience with me. In our three-hour-long conversation, he narrated his experiences of pre-marital relationships and explained how his goals of a relationship have changed since his youth. Earlier, he never paid attention to a girl’s financial or social status but this changed after his relationship with Prerna. Prerna was his junior in college, and they started dating in his final year. She belonged to a middle-class family from Jaipur, whereas Gaurav describes himself as an upper-middle-class South Delhi boy. His relationship lasted four years, and there were a few ups and downs, but his parents were not entirely convinced of this match for they believed that Prerna would never be able to ‘fit in’ with their family’s way of life. Gaurav, however, brushed aside his parents’ concerns. After about a year or so, he realised that they were indeed different in the most ‘basic’ of ways, and according to him, he started to realise that she had an inferiority complex about her background. He described an incident when he visited her in Jaipur, and they went out for dinner to a multicuisine restaurant. Though Gaurav has a preference for Chinese cuisine, he ordered Indian cuisine that day, and Prerna took offence at this and asked if he thought that Jaipur is not a global city like Delhi and cannot serve a decent Chinese meal. Gaurav found these bickerings very frustrating as he had to constantly assuage her anxieties about not being from Delhi or not being as

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rich as him. Later, Prerna moved to Mumbai for a job, and long distance became an added reason for them to break up. After two years, Gaurav met his wife Sonakshi (his wife) at work. He said that he was relieved to know that she too belonged to an upper-middle-class family and resided in South Delhi. He explained how everything with her ‘was just so easy’—there were no fights over different tastes or upbringings. Gaurav arranged for me to also interview his mother, who very kindly invited me home. Mrs. Vohra greeted me in their large living room, looking elegant, wearing diamond and rings and was a gracious host, offering me several kinds of sweets and snacks. As we began chatting about Gaurav’s wedding, I asked what she thought of Gaurav’s past relationships. She responded, We are not a conservative family. Right from school, I encouraged Gaurav and my daughter to bring their friends home, and introduce us to their boyfriends or girlfriends. […] I believe you know a little bit about Gaurav’s past. Let me tell you we never stopped him from dating anyone. He figured it all out himself. He has seen the way we are - our uthna baithna [dining and socialising], and I am sure he was smart enough to judge if a girl can fit in our ways.

As our conversations steered to other topics, I asked if she considered there to be a formula for two people to ‘click’. She said, I doubt there is a formula. I think it just happens. But I also think that you are most comfortable being with someone who is like you. Someone who can understand your life style, values, and can adjust with you. […] A match is when you don’t have to struggle too hard to understand each other, and personal likes and dislikes, financial and social status all play a role in this. […] Sonakshi and Gaurav are very similar, and that’s why they are together.

It seemed fairly clear that Mrs. Vohra and the Khannas were confident that their upbringing, particularly one that shaped their class and status identity, would play an important role in helping their children choose a suitable spouse. It was also clear that they believed in class homogamy and desired for their children to marry someone of the same class. This was certainly motivated by their desire to ensure that their class identity and status are carried forward to the future generations. In this process, they were confident that the style of life they had provided for their children will serve as a qualifying bar for them to choose a spouse. With this surety, they perhaps felt comfortable in adopting a ‘hands-off’ approach in matchmaking. At the same time, this approach enabled them to claim being modern. In this way, it also becomes clear that the idea of the modern entails a reproduction of class. *** This chapter has traced the different ways, stages, and strategies with which the family influences contemporary spouse-selection amongst the middle class in Delhi. In doing so, the chapter has demonstrated how the family interacts with pre-marital intimacies as well as the more formal spaces of spouse-selection. One of the main characteristics of these specific workings of the family is that it does not claim to control the process of matchmaking. Rather, it positions itself as merely guiding the process of spouse-selection and engaging in a dialogue with the marrying individual on the suitability of the spouse. Indeed, even practices that are explicitly seen as the

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domain of the family, such as dowry, are repositioned as an engagement with the individual—specifically their desires and ambitions. In presenting these accounts, thus, I have argued that the role of the family in matchmaking cannot be exhaustively explained by categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriages, or by curating new conceptualisations around these categories. Rather, it is of utmost importance to devise other frameworks, such as of the formal and informal spaces of matchmaking, which lay bare the diverse ways in which the family encounters individual desires and ambitions, changes in social customs, and imaginations of love and romance, whilst ensuring that its primary role (of class reproduction) continues to find resonance. In this way, I explain how the family remains an important ‘actor’ in contemporary practices of matchmaking (formal or informal spaces of spouse-selection).

References Abraham, Janaki. 2010. Wedding Videos in North Kerala: Technologies, Rituals, and Ideas about Love and Conjugality. Visual Anthropology Review 26 (2): 116–127. Agnihotri, Satish Balram. 2003. Survival of the Girl Child: Tunnelling out of the Chakravyuha. Economic and Political Weekly 33 (41): 4351–4360. Béteille, André. 1993. The Family and the Reproduction of Inequality. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, 435–451. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bhandari, Parul. 2017. Pre-marital Relationships and the Family in Modern India. South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (16). Bhandari, Parul. 2018. Makings of Modern Marriage: Choice, Family, and the Matchmakers. In Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices, ed. Leila Choukroune and Parul Bhandari, 131–149. New Delhi: Springer. Bhandari, Parul. 2019. Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects. London: Routledge. Caplan, Lionel. 1993. Bridegroom Price in Urban India: Caste, Class and ‘Dowry Evil’ among Christians in Madras. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, 357–382. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chowdhry, Prem. 2009. Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Das, Veena. 1993. Masks and Faces: An Essay on Punjabi Kinship. In Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, ed. Patricia Uberoi, 198–224. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dube, Leela. 1988. On the Construction of Gender: Hindu Girls in Patrilineal India. In Socialisation, Education and Women, ed. Karuna Chanana, 166–192. Orient Longman: Hyderabad. Dube, Leela. 2001. Anthropological Explorations in Gender: Intersecting Fields. Delhi: Sage. Fruzetti, Linda. 1982. The Gift of a Virgin: Women, Marriage and Ritual in a Bengali Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Goody, Jack, and S.J. Tambiah. 1973. Bridewealth and Dowry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. India, Census of. 2011. Census of India 2011. http://www.census2011.co.in/sexratio.php. Kaur, Ravinder, and Prit Dhanda. 2014. Surfing for Spouses: Marriage Websites and the ‘New’ Indian Marriage? In Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World, ed. Ravinder Kaur and Rajni Palriwala. New Delhi: Orient Black Swan. Kendell, Laura. 2014. “Marriages and Family in Asia: Something Old Something New? In Gender and Family in East Asia, ed. Siumi Maria Tam, Wai Ching Angela Wong, and Danning Wang. London: Routledge.

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Madan, Triloki Nath. 1965. Family and Kinship: A Study of the Pandits of Rural Kashmir. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Majumdar, Rochona. 2009. Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. Durham, London: Duke University Press. Oldenburg, Veena Talwar. 2002. Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime. New York: Oxford University Press. Patel, Tulsi. 2007a. Sex-Selective Abortion in India: Gender, Society, and New Reproductive Technologies. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Patel, Tulsi. 2007b. The Mindset Behind Eliminating the Female Foetus. Sex-Selective Abortion in India: Gender, Society, and New Reproductive Technologies, 135–174. Delhi: Sage Publications. Patel, Viresh. 2017. Parents, Permission, and Possibility: Young Women, College, and Imagined Futures in Gujarat, India. Geoforum 80: 39–48. Radhakrishnan, Smitha. 2011. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham, London: Duke University Press. Sagar, Alpana D. 2007. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Social Context of the Missing Girl Child. In Sex-Selective Abortion in India: Gender, Society, and New Reproductive Technologies, ed. Tulsi Patel, 175–202. New Delhi: Sage. Sharma, Ursula. 1993. Dowry in North India: Its Consequences for Women. In Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, ed. Patricia Uberoi, 341–356. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sheel, Ranjana. 2008. Marriage, Money and Gender: A Caste Study of the Migrant Indian Community in Canada. Marriage, Migration and Gender, 215–234. New Delhi: Sage. Sirisena, Mihirini. 2018. The Making and Meaning of Relationships in Sri Lanka: An Ethnography on University Students in Colombo. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan. Srinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar. 1966. Social Change in Modern India. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Tenhuen, Sirpa. 2009. Means of Awakening: Gender, Politics and Practice in Rural India. Delhi: Stree. Uberoi, Patricia. 2006. The Family in India. In The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology, vol. 2, ed. Veena Das, 275–307. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2008. Aspirational Weddings: The Bridal Magazine and the Canons of ‘Decent Marriage’. In Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in India and China, ed. Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter Van der Veer, 230–262. New Delhi: Sage. Vatuk, Sylvia. 1975. Gifts and Affines in North India. Contributions to Indian Sociology 9 (2): 155–196. Van der Veer, Klass. 1972. I Give Thee My Daughter: A Study of Marriage and Hierarchy Among the Anvil Brahmins of South Gujarat. Assen: Van Gorccum.

Chapter 4

The Third Wheel: ‘New’ Matchmakers

Another important ‘actor’, as it were, in the process of spouse-selection is the matchmaker, who not only balances the dialogue of marriage between two families but also steers the conversation between the marrying individual and their families. This third ‘actor’ is often responsible for enabling the category of ‘arranged and love marriage’, as it brings into conversation the conventional approaches to matchmaking with the contemporary desires of intimacies. Indeed, my first entry point into the study of marriages in Delhi was through matchmakers, as I first visited a matrimonial agent in Defence Colony (South Delhi), to understand the marriage ‘market’. There are many kinds of matchmakers in contemporary India, from individuals (referred to as ghataks in Bengali language or bicholas in Punjabi dialects) to professional organisations or marriage bureaus, and more recently the internet (matrimonial websites). The primary purpose of a matchmaker is to propose a suitable alliance to eligible men and women, keeping in mind the social and economic status of the families. A matchmaker therefore might further identities based on caste, language, social status by suggesting spouses from similar backgrounds, or they might in unexpected ways, nudge the marrying individuals and their families to break with certain traditional expectations of suitability of a spouse. Despite the important role they play in matchmaking, the matchmakers have received little scholarly attention, except in Majumdar’s (2004, 2009) comprehensive work on the ‘marriage market’ in colonial Bengal. Majumdar describes the rise of matrimonial advertisements (in newspapers) and their growing preference over soliciting services of traditional matchmakers (ghataks), explaining ‘the institutional machinery … At work behind the institution of arranged marriage in the City of Calcutta’ (912:2004). Most importantly, she argues that the rise of matrimonial advertisements did not contest any traditional practices related to marriage, particularly the role expectations of a suitable wife. Rather, it promoted, in new ways, a Hindu patriarchy, based on a ‘novel understanding of caste and an aestheticised image of the bride’ (ibid). In this way, Majumdar’s work critically appraises the role and impact of ‘new’ technologies (print) of matchmaking.

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_4

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In this chapter, I further Majumdar’s argument by bringing attention not to the individual matchmakers, who are still popular amongst the middle classes as well as elites of Delhi, but the ‘new’ matchmakers, namely matrimonial websites and professional matrimonial bureaus.1 I label these matchmakers as ‘new’ not because I believe them to have significantly changed the process of spouse-selection but because their modus operandi has now assumed a new language, particularly of professionalism and formality, which is different than previous approaches to matchmaking that were more informal and familial. Moreover, these matchmakers consider themselves to be different or ‘new’ because they claim to cater equally to the individual’s desires of a suitable spouse as well as to the family’s preferences. This is particularly evident in their promotional advertisements (on television, brochures, billboards) that depict two individuals in close embrace with each other, often with the family in the background or missing from the advertisement altogether. In this way, these matchmakers communicate to especially a young audience (their potential clientele) that they understand the importance of interpersonal connection and ‘love’ in marriage and aim to achieve these desires along with upholding family’s preferences of a suitable spouse. Furthermore, it is these matchmakers that essentially constitute the space of a formal spouse-selection, and in this way, I put forth the conceptual approach to the formal and informal spaces of spouse-selection by explaining that these categories are not built on analysing the level or extent of control of one actor (over the other) in matchmaking, but address the mode of matchmaking. Therefore, in this chapter, I delineate the ‘newness’ of these matchmakers, their agenda and role in matchmaking, and explain how they curate the idea of a ‘modern’ marriage and reiterate middleclass identities. The chapter is divided into two sections each of which caters to the two types of matchmakers, namely matrimonial bureaus and matrimonial websites.

4.1 Matrimonial Bureaus/Agencies Matrimonial agencies’ self-proclaimed unique approach to matchmaking is most evident in their advertisements and websites. For instance, one agency’s website states that marriage is an eight letter word ‘carrying the bond between two individuals, their emotions, rituals, and cultures’. This website displays pictures only of couples (not real couples but models), smiling and standing together, dressed in traditional North Indian wedding wear, seemingly enjoying their intended marriage. As one scrolls down the page, there appear further details of the various services that the agency offers such as horoscope matching and organising wedding rituals. Further ahead the website specifies the different ‘packages’ that the agency offers, beginning from the most basic package priced at INR 45,000 where a dedicated agent sends suitable matches on a weekly basis, moving on to a ‘premium’ package, priced at 1 Part

of this argument appears in my chapter ‘Makings of Modern Marriage: Choice, Family, and the Matchmaker’ (2018).

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INR 2,00,000, which offers most personalised services including organising meetings between two intended families. This website also advertises its ‘success’ stories, that is, matches suggested by them which were successfully transformed into marriage. Strikingly, on this website, amidst all this information, the family of the marrying individuals make no appearance. This is to say, even the pictures of the wedding ceremony mainly focus on the couple, and the families appear in the background, getting ready to bless the newlyweds. It seems that this particular matrimonial agency is very keen to present itself as cognizant and perhaps even catering to individual desires and choices in spouse-selection; yet, the question remains whether these services do in fact let the family take a backseat? Let me provide another example of a television commercial of a matrimonial agency SelectShaadi—the offline branch of a popular matrimonial portal shaadi.com. In this, the agency pitches itself as a ‘bridge’, as it were between the family and the marrying individual, for it has the necessary skills to understand the individual’s specific desires for a spouse and can also comprehend the language of expressing these desires as well as can assist the individual’s family to understand these desires. In so doing, the agency also communicates to its audience that its services are not only designed to cater to the family’s expectations of marriage but also to the individual’s personal preferences, and that the agency can indeed establish a smooth conversation between the individual and their family on matters of spousal-preferences. The opening shot of this advertisement shows a father and daughter in conversation with each other on the phone, whilst both are getting ready for office. The father has a Bluetooth device on his ear and the daughter is on her mobile phone, as she is packing her handbag and dressing up in her western office attire. The mother, on the other hand, is shown in the background, dressed in a sari, preparing the father’s breakfast, and in the adjoining frame, we see a domestic help preparing the daughter’s breakfast. This explains that the daughter is residing in another city for and is not in charge of the domestic sphere particularly the kitchen, like her mother is. For the matrimonial agency, then, this image seems to depict a ‘modern’ woman who is professionally employed and self-independent, and by catering to her matchmaking, they seem to communicate that they are aware of the ‘new’ or modern social settings and desires of women. The father asks the daughter if she had spoken to either of the shortlisted prospective spouses, and if she liked any one of them. The daughter replies that she liked them but, ‘not like. You know what I mean?’, she asks rhetorically to her father. Her father seems perplexed but pretends to understand at first, and later seeks further clarification on what she really means. The daughter seems frustrated and says, ‘I don’t know! We [she and the prospective groom] should be like minded also’. She then keeps the phone down as she is in a hurry to get to the office. This conversation leaves her father confused because he is unable to understand why her daughter did not like either of the prospective grooms. He immediately phones the SelectShaadi professional (matrimonial agent) assigned to them and tells him that he is unable to understand what exactly his daughter is looking for in a husband. He explains his confusion by saying that earlier his daughter said that she wanted to marry someone whose personality is different than hers because she believes that ‘opposites attract’.

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Now, that they shortlisted such candidates for her she is rejecting them for not being similar to her. Whilst the father found this baffling, the matrimonial agent seemed to immediately understand the situation and reassured the father with a smile, ‘Don’t worry, Sir! It is normal. I will look into it’. The father was relieved after talking to the matrimonial agent for it seemed that the agent understood exactly what his daughter wanted. He then turned to his wife to enquire if she at all got a sense of their daughter’s preference, and the mother seemed equally confused. This advertisement best captures the agenda and self-presentation of professional matrimonial bureaus because these agencies claim to ‘know’ and understand young individuals’ preferences, but do not restrict their services only to catering to these individual desires. Rather, they also give due importance to the family and ensure that it too is involved in the process of spouse-selection.

4.1.1 Acting as a Bridge Curious to further explore how exactly do matrimonial agencies balance or act as a ‘bridge’ between the family and the individual, I contacted five popular agencies in Central and South Delhi via phone, to seek permission to visit them. I provided basic details about myself, that I was a doctoral student, researching on marriage and requested a meeting with a senior manager, and to my pleasant surprise was immediately granted a meeting at all five agencies. More or less these agencies catered to a similar client-base—middle-class and upper-middle-class families living in Delhi. There were a few differences between them regarding the range of ‘packages’ they offered to clients (some had a larger range, whereas a few others mainly offered two packages) and some were more popular amongst certain specific communities, for example, one agency was well-known amongst the Marwari community. Nonetheless, overall, the approach of all five agencies towards matchmaking and purported ethos was similar, especially as all emphasised on the need to find a ‘balance’ between individual preferences and family values in the selection of a spouse. Mrs. Nanda is one of the senior managers of a matrimonial agency that has been in business since the late 1990s. I was invited to meet with her in their office in South Delhi. The office is spread over one large floor, with several open cubicles that serve as workstations for junior agents, and four large rooms, occupied by senior managers. Mrs. Nanda was welcoming and enthusiastic to respond to my questions. As we began talking over a cup of tea, I requested her to comment on any changes in trends of matchmaking. Mrs. Nanda rested back on her chair and said, See, there definitely are changes since the 1990’s. Back then, we got enquiries from parents, who had very specific requirements on caste, community, financial status of a boy [prospective groom]. For a boy, they would ask for his professional qualification, and for a girl, they would ask for someone who is homely and kind. Things have changed now. Now, there are far more detailed requests, like they want to know hobbies, how well-travelled the person is. For the boy, his professional status is not enough but they want to know how much he is earning, and for the girl they want to know if she is modern but not too modern[…] Most

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importantly, we now also have the youngsters contacting us on their own so that we can find a spouse for them [sic].2

Since I met Mrs. Nanda in the early days of my fieldwork, I found it fascinating to know that the professional middle class were contacting the matrimonial agencies themselves and enquired on why would the marrying individuals solicit their services when they could sign-up for matrimonial websites instead. Mrs. Nanda attributed this to the desire to have a ‘human medium’ of matchmaking. She explained, As you would know it is not easy to find someone just like that. Also, your parents and you might not share the same wavelength on what a right spouse is really like. Also, these websites don’t really give you any guarantee and some might think of it as a very impersonal medium. So, youngsters want a third party, who they can talk to about what exactly they want, and who is neutral […] We offer a great solution for this because we have a very experienced staff, and that is what distinguishes us from other agencies. We have people who have been in this business for several years, and we also have new staff who know what the young generation wants, who understand how things are changing but also know the importance of family. Our agents have also been trained to handle difficult clients and situations. We can cater to the needs of young modern Indians, and so I think the youngsters are contacting us themselves.

She further explicated how their agency is a better way to find a spouse than a matrimonial website. She said, The biggest difference is that you can talk to us, you cannot talk to a computer [said with a laughter]. We have dedicated matrimonial agents for each client, who advice you throughout the process. See, sometimes you can’t openly tell your parents what you like or not like about someone [prospective partner]. So, you can just phone them and discuss your concerns and preferences. You cannot do these things online. There, there is only a direct contact between two parties. We can provide a buffer or I would say a bridge between parents and children. We have been trained to handle difficult and delicate situations [sic].

I requested her to give some examples of ‘difficult’ clients or situations. At first, she was reluctant, but without giving out names, she explained some tough situations her agents have had to handle. She said, Often, when parents come to us, they have no idea about what their child wants in a spouse. They come with a set of their own preferences and want us to find someone suitable according to that. [but] The way we proceed is that we arrange a meeting with the [prospective] boy or girl, at their home. This is when we get to know their personal preferences, and these may not be the same as what the parents told us. For example, it is common that parents will say that they don’t want a boy or girl who drinks or smoke. It is a big no-no for them. But when we meet the boy or girl, they say that they are perfectly fine with someone who drinks and smokes! So, what do we in this situation? We actually pay attention to the individual’s preferences. We might find a suitable profile and convince the parents that other things like caste, social status match, and that even if the person drinks or smokes they should not think too much about it. Now we approach this very carefully as we don’t want the parents to feel 2 In all the conversations on matchmaking especially with the matchmakers and the families, and at

times, the marrying individuals as well, the prospective groom and bride were referred to as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ irrespective of their age. This perhaps signals that one is seen as a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ only upon marriage, or is a carry-on from past days when marriages were finalised when the man and woman were still children.

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4 The Third Wheel: ‘New’ Matchmakers that their preferences are not important. We have to find a balance in the way we approach this sensitive issue to not offend anyone […] Ultimately, this is the Indian society and culture we are operating in: parents will always remain important. They are the ones who have brought us up, taken care of us, we can’t just ignore their wants and wishes. So, sometimes it is just a matter of convincing them which can be done if you have several years’ of experience doing all this.

It turns out that Mrs. Nanda was not the only matrimonial agent, who took pride in being an able ‘bridge’ of communication, as it were, between the marrying individual and their family. This sentiment was also echoed by Mrs. Shalini Sharma, who is the CEO of another matrimonial agency, with its office in the upmarket area of Greater Kailash-2, in South Delhi. I spoke with Mrs. Sharma on the phone to schedule a meeting and she immediately agreed to see me and asking me to drop by any time. Mrs. Sharma’s agency had a slightly different vibe than Mrs. Nandas’, wherein the latter seemed more professional, mirroring an office of a multinational company with staff working on their desktops, Mrs. Sharma’s office had a more relaxed and colourful ambience. The junior matrimonial agents were all dressed in bright yellow Indian wear, and there were pictures of couples on their wedding day on the walls. I was ushered in a waiting room, which had a red-coloured couch, a centre table, on which were spread out several wedding magazines, and the walls of the room had paintings and photographs of men and women dressed in fineries, almost as though dressed for a wedding. The ambience was more akin to a wedding planning company than a matrimonial agency. Mrs. Sharma joined me in this room and asked me to ‘shoot’ questions, and I clarified that I intended for our meeting to be more of a conversation. I enquired on the history of the agency, and she explained that the agency had been in operation since over 12 years. It started off as a small initiative that she ran out of her house, as she collected biodatas of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in her residential area. Soon, she matched a few good families and word spread that she has a good ‘network’, and she decided to transform her budding expertise into a serious business by renting an office. In the past ten years, she has expanded this venture into a reputable name and has recently extended her matrimonial services to other cities. I enquired if she felt that her business might be affected by matrimonial websites, and like Mrs. Nanda, she was of the opinion that matrimonial agencies will not be replaced by internet matchmaking services anytime soon, because they provide a ‘personal touch’ that the internet cannot. ‘You cannot easily replace human with a machine’, she said. One of the most distinctive features of a matrimonial agency, she explained, is that they have the specific skills to enhance communication within family members to resolve any potential conflict in choices and preferences of suitability of a spouse. She said, Most of our clients are from the Marwari community. I don’t know if you know much about this community but they have a very strict code of conduct amongst parents and children. We see at times that parents have one idea of how a girl or boy should be and the children have a different image in their mind but they don’t say it to them because they don’t want to offend their parents. See, things are changing now. Children know what they want. They have gone to good colleges, [they] are working, and are more independent. Gone are the days when parents will say haan, bas, isse shaadi karo, [marry this person] and they will do

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it […] It is our job as professionals in this field to get the parents and the children to agree on basic criteria of a spouse. Sometimes the disagreement is about something very silly, or the children are just scared to openly tell something to their parents. We come in these situations and handle all communication. Now, how can the internet do all this?

I took this opportunity to ask a bold question: whether her agency is more catered to the individual. She replied with a laugh, No. I don’t mean that we cater only to the boy or girl. Of course, we also have cases where the girl or boy contact us themselves and not their families, but see ultimately we are all Indians where family means everything. It is our job to ensure that everyone is happy: that parents are happy and so are children. […] This is Indian society, not western society, where the individual is everything [all important] and family takes a backseat. Even the professionals that come to us want us to include their parents in the process, and it is our duty to take forward these values and morals.

The matrimonial agents certainly had a good sense of their place in this vast space of matchmaking, for some of the prospective brides and grooms I interviewed, were drawn to the matrimonial agents precisely for the reasons explained above: their ability to bridge gaps of communication and expectations between them and their parents. I met Bina, aged 29, who moved to Hyderabad for work after completing an MBA degree at the age of 27. Years of living away from parents had made her fiercely independent, she said, so much so that they were unable to see eye to eye on small things. Two years ago, her parents enquired if she was dating anyone and if not, then they were keen to look for a suitable match for her through the formal channels of spouse-selection. She agreed to their suggestion of registering a profile on matrimonial website. ‘All hell broke loose’, she said to me over a cup of coffee, as her parents and she were unable to shortlist even one prospective candidate due to innumerable arguments. She said, Emotions are running high in this time. Everyone believes that their point [of opinion] is right. They don’t want to listen to the other one. Then there is the danger of bringing back the past. You know things like, oh remember the last guy you chose turned out to be fraud, or the last person you liked was lying, and so on. I am a very opinionated person, and so are my parents. So, the shortlisting process ended up causing lot of tension in our house.

In order to avoid these arguments, they decided to solicit the services of a matrimonial agent who could act as a ‘referee’. The presence of the agent proved helpful, when Bina approved of a profile sent to her by the agent and her parents did not. They rejected this prospective groom because he had recently left his high-paying multinational company job to build a start-up company. For Bina’s parents, this was ‘professional suicide’, she said, as for them a start-up implied that the prospective groom is not financially stable. Bina, however, was attracted to his educational qualifications and enterprising nature. She phoned the agent to tell him that she understands the start up culture and does not view it as a bad professional decision, but is unable to explain the viability of this ‘trend’ to her parents. She requested the agent to intervene to explain her parents why this prospective groom is not a bad choice. After a few conversations with the agent, Bina’s parents eventually came around, and when I met Bina she had been ‘seeing’ this prospective groom for over a month and was

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optimistic about the future. She was impressed by the matchmakers professionalism, she explained, who acted as an arbitrator dealing with the situation with the right degree of familiarity and sensitivity. Similar was Bharat’s experience, aged 29, a recent MBA graduate, whom I met on recommendation of another interviewee. Bharat had chosen employment in a multinational firm over working for his father’s business because he wanted to make a mark for himself without the patronage from his father. His zeal for building his own identity separate from that of his family’s was amply evident in our three-hour long conversation at a coffee house next to his plush office building in Gurugram. Bharat was in love twice before, but both the relationships could not convert to marriage and this left him heartbroken. He had lost faith in love, he said, and just wanted to move on with his life. On recommendation of family friends, he and his family decided to visit Mrs. Nanda’s matrimonial agency. He was highly satisfied with their services and in fact met his wife within the first two months of registering with the agency. The entire experience, he said, was smooth and easy, particularly since the matrimonial agent assigned to him was particularly good. He said, I am not saying that I don’t get along with my parents, but we have always had different views on life, like they wanted me to join the family business, but I wanted to work with a company […]My parents and I share a great communication but I thought it is best to avoid a situation of fighting and approach someone else, a professional, to help us look for a girl [spouse]. Also, I really don’t have the time to just be on the internet all night long and look for someone. Some of my colleagues and friends are on these websites and it is just too much hassle. They keep browsing profiles, getting messages at odd hours. With agencies it is simple. You meet them once every week, and they show you all profiles. You shortlist and then they proceed to contact the other party. If they also show interest, then the agents organise a meeting. Everything is so professional and methodical.

I requested Bharat to elucidate further on how he and his family might hold different views and why he felt the need to have a ‘good’ mediator between them. He explained that since everyone had an opinion of their own on what a marriage should be like, it is best to hire a mediator who can bring everyone on board. He said, I am not saying that my parents and I have completely different choices but that sometimes everyone is so emotional on this topic that it gets difficult to communicate your differences. So, it is best to have a good agent. In my case, first the agent went to my parents. Once they shortlisted, he sent me the profiles on email. Then I would tell him of my preferences. At times, I had differences with my parents like when I said that I definitely wanted to choose someone who had studied in a good university in Delhi or abroad, and not someone who went to a second-rate university, whereas my parents thought that university is not that important but social and financial status is more important. The agent was very helpful in this situation because he first heard my preferences and made sure that he sends profiles of only those girls who have a good education from Delhi or abroad. And as you know, I found my wife who has studied in DU, and is very intelligent and smart, within the first few weeks. So, you know, the agents can cater to small things like these, and prevent arguments with family on these matters.

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4.1.2 Professional Ethics One of the other reasons that Bharat recommends soliciting the services of a matrimonial agency is their highly professional outlook on the entire process of spouseselection. He explained that he could relate to the agency’s ethos of professionalism, which was in sync with his own methodical approach to things in general and solving issues in particular. Indeed Bharat was not the only one to praise the professionalism of matrimonial agencies, and as I spent time with matrimonial agents I began to note specific differences with, for example, individual matrimonial brokers, akin to ghataks and bicholas referred to earlier. One of the significant differences between a matrimonial broker and matrimonial agent is that the former is a ‘one (wo)man’s show’ built on the reputation of one individual who suggests matches, whereas the latter is attached to an agency which operates with a professional ethos, as it were, of matchmaking which involves signing contracts, hiring several matrimonial agents in order to build a company. Another difference is that a matrimonial broker tends to ‘specialise’ in finding matches between particular caste groups or communities as of Punjabis, Marwaris, or Sindhis, whereas matrimonial agencies have a more ‘expansive’ reach as it were, as they suggest matches across castes and communities.3 A matrimonial broker operates on a ‘personal’ approach by building ties with families and suggesting a suitable proposal not just for one but other eligible men and women too. In that sense, as Majumdar (2009) also notes, they are not simply as matchmakers but repositories of family histories. As such, this also serves as a form of ‘guarantee’ as the broker is able to vouch for the family’s social and economic status. Matrimonial agencies, on the other hand, do not claim to possess in-depth knowledge of a family’s genealogy. They do offer ‘checks’ or ‘verifications’ for families to establish their own opinion on facts provided, but they do not take any ‘guarantee’, as it were, of their clients beyond cross-checking basic information of residence, professional status, and so on. Indeed, this difference in their mode of operation—more professional for one than the other—is obvious in various stages of the process of spouse-selection. For example, a matrimonial broker undertakes the entire process with a degree of informality relying on verbal contracts, whereas a matrimonial agency enters into a written agreement (signing of contract) with its client before proceeding with the process. Furthermore, matrimonial brokers do not necessarily have a fixed fee. An unsaid rule is that if they are successful in arranging a suitable match, their fee is a percentage (1% from each of the two families, for example), of the total that the family is spending on the wedding. In some other cases, especially when the family is wealthy or generous, they decide on gifting a piece of jewellery or watch or car to the matrimonial broker. The matrimonial agents, on the other hand, begin the process of spouse-selection only upon receiving a pre-decided full payment, depending on the package opted by the family. A typical basic package includes services of an agent who will weekly 3 There are also matrimonial agencies that cater to one specific community or caste group; however,

for now I am focusing on those websites that had a wider reach across caste and community identities, and claimed to be ‘pan-Indian’.

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send a specific number of shortlisted profiles to the family and a higher package includes a dedicated agent who not only shortlists prospective candidates but also arranges the first meetings between two families, and in some cases, also negotiates the details of the wedding (from venue, money spent, to gift-giving). Another aspect of the difference between these two is the language used to address the agents and the families. A matrimonial broker is often referred to by a fictive kin nomenclature such as mama (mother’s brother) or masi (mother’s sister), or more generic terms of aunty and uncle, thereby signalling a familiarity. Matrimonial agents, on the other hand, are referred to in more formal ways, usually by their first or last names. Moreover, whilst the matrimonial brokers often address the families by their first names, the matrimonial agents inevitably use more formal courtesies, and whilst referring to them in private inevitably described them by their residential address, for example, ‘Safdarjung Enclave party’ or ‘Jor Bagh party’. Overall, the language used by the matrimonial agents is professional in the sense that they describe the families as ‘party’ or ‘clients’ and their matchmaking venture as ‘business’. This language communicates a more impersonal approach, according to which, the families are not seen as relations or part of a community (which could be tapped into again for suggesting more alliances) but as a contractual client with whom business comes to an end once the aim is achieved. Indeed, it was this professionalism that particularly appealed to the marrying individuals. Akanksha, aged 27, working in a private multinational company, was looking for a suitable match after having realised that she always falls in love with the ‘bad boys’ who break her heart and are not ‘marriage material’ she said. Akanksha explained that she suggested her parents to contact a matrimonial agent rather than solicit help from their community networks. She said, I feel the matrimonial brokers are more traditional in their outlook. All they do is match horoscopes and see if family status matches. I have witnessed some of my cousins go through this [matrimonial broker] nightmare! The brokers don’t even consult them to ask what they want in their husband or wife. The agencies are more professional. They are built on a service industry model and they know that they have to serve their clients or else they will go out of business. So, they make sure that the choices of the girl and boy are also taken into consideration [sic].

She further explained that this professionalism of the agencies means that they are not interested in looking for gossip but simply ‘meeting targets’. She said, See, the thing is that agencies are more focussed. It is different than those aunties who visit your house and bring matches. All they seem interested in is getting money or gifts, and drinking tea and look for gossip. They unnecessarily get into your past and snoop around. These agencies are very different. They don’t really care what your past is, they are only interested in finding you a match of your choice. They have a goal and an entire machinery that is trained to achieve that goal.

Other interviewees who had registered with matrimonial agencies also explained that these agencies were more efficient and professional in their approach. This ethos was akin to the work culture they are used to, and in contrast to the ethos of the matrimonial brokers who were more personal in their approach; an aspect

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that did not appeal to the young professional middle class. They added that perhaps their parents felt more comfortable in dealing with marriage brokers because they are used to red-tapism, bureaucracy, and informality in their work cultures, whereas the contemporary work culture is more efficient, impersonal, dictated by ‘meeting targets’. I entered into one such conversation with a group of friends working at KPMG in Gurugram, and they explained to me how a feed-back and professional culture has not only taken over work environments but also leisure cultures, as evident in fast food joints that rely on quick and efficient services to customers with little room for personal relations. They considered matrimonial agencies to be more akin to this culture and therefore, preferred to go to a ‘professional’ place for matchmaking, than reaching out to broker aunties and uncles. When I went back to visit Mrs. Nanda, a few weeks after our first meeting, I discussed the positive feedback of the prospective spouses on the efficiency of matrimonial agencies. She was pleased to know of my ‘results’ yet at the same time she exercised caution and said, It is good to know that the young people can appreciate our efforts. But I think it is also important for me to clarify the misconception that we are impersonal. When you will talk to other agents and the families you will see that we are also very personal in our approach like the brokers. Yes, the thing is that we do not judge or interfere in decision-making. We are professional so we know how to keep distance but this does not mean we are like machines that have no emotions and don’t care about our clients.

4.2 Matrimonial Websites After spending time with the matrimonial agents, I pondered on the role of matrimonial websites in this complicated space of matchmaking: were these websites by and large ‘neutral’ or perhaps even more individual-friendly, or were they, much like the matrimonial agencies, also providing space for the family to participate in the process of spouse-selection. These questions seemed to be particularly pertinent to address because I noted that registering oneself on a matrimonial website was seen as an initiation into the process of spouse-selection. Indeed, every individual I interviewed, regardless of how they met their spouse, had at least for a short whilst registered with a matrimonial website. Moreover, matrimonial websites were described by marrying individuals and their families, as more ’individual-friendly’, that is catering to individual desires and preferences, and largely controlled by them. Articles in newspapers and magazines too comment on the matrimonial websites’ potential to transform matchmaking practices in India, as they enable individuals to look for a suitable spouse away from the constant surveillance of their family and peering eyes of extended family, as they browse through options online in the privacy of their rooms. This view was corroborated by some of my interviewees who described matrimonial websites as providing them with more space to, for example, initiate private chat with a particular person or browse profiles at their own pace without necessarily having to consult with parents or a ‘third’ party, as that of matchmakers.

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This, they explained, was diametrically opposite to previous ways of matchmaking where a suitable spouse was introduced through networks of kin, where the family (and extended kin) was also involved in the decision-making process leaving little space for the individual to ponder over a suitable prospect. Given this practice of matchmaking, matrimonial websites were seen as a welcome change as they were considered to provide more space to the individual to think, choose, and even converse with potential prospects without the constant pressure of the family looming over them. With this image in mind, I decided to explore matrimonial websites and set up a profile for myself on two of the three pan-Indian matrimonial websites. Keeping in mind the ethics of research, particularly of not giving out wrong information or message, I ensured to provide only the most basic information—which is mandatory to complete the registration process and did not upload a picture. I kept my profile as vague as possible so that people would be dissuaded from ‘sending interest’. It was indeed right during the registration process—the gateway to these websites that it became evident that contrary to popular opinion, these websites have not diverted attention from the family or any other collective identities that define an individual. Indeed, even on these websites, the family continues to make a strong presence.

4.2.1 Registration Process The registration process is the first entry point into the world of matrimonial websites, and it was rather evident at this step itself that the websites are definitely not catering only towards individuals’ desires of a suitable spouse. In fact, though these websites through their advertisements present the families as playing a background role in spouse-selection, their structure and working significantly includeds the family, as the website provides extensive information on the family of an individual and allows the family to control (and create) the profile. For example, upon clicking ‘register now’ the website specifically asks if the profile is being created by parents, sibling, self, or any other. From here on, every step of the registration process creates space for family’s involvement. As a result, it is easy to note that the website does not cater mainly to the individual’s preferences but also includes the family in the decision-making process. Let me explain this by describing the steps of registration: the first section, entitled ‘Basic’, requires mandatory information on the marrying individual: their name, and the name that will appear on the website (there is an option of not divulging one’s name on the public profile and allocating only a number to the profile), age, height, body type, skin colour, religion, and blood group. This section seeks further mandatory information on the marrying individual’s religious and community background, also providing the option of specifying their sub-caste. The next two sections focus on the family (which are also mandatory to be answered), beginning with enquiring on the ‘family type, and occupation of the father, with the options of: Employed’, ‘Business’, ‘Professional’, ‘Retired’, ‘Not-Employed’, ‘Passed-away’,

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and the mother, who has an added option of ‘Housewife’. The next set of questions, also mandatory, seek information on the number, gender, and marital status of the siblings. Successive questions, which are optional, are on birth details of the marrying individual, parents, and siblings. Having detailed questions on the family, within the first two steps of the registration process, clearly indicates that the matrimonial website considers the individual as embedded in his/her networks of family and kinship. It is of course upto the individual to involve their parents or share information about family in the ‘about me’ section (explained below), yet, when the individual registers on the website he/she is reminded that their identity is inextricably linked to that of their family’s. Successive sections, seeks further detailed information on the family, beginning with ascertaining the social and financial status by asking a mandatory question on whether the individual will describe their family as middle class, upper-middle class, or lower-middle class. Conspicuous here is the absence of the options of ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ class, thereby signalling that the website mainly caters to the middle class.4 The next mandatory question in this section enquires on the ‘values’ by which the individual would like to describe her/his family, and the options included ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’. The next set of questions are optional and are on astrology, beginning with enquiring if the marrying individual is a manglik or not. A person is labelled manglik if according to astrology (and a reading of their birth chart), they are considered to have a ‘strong’ presence of mangal the planet Mars, which is believed to create obstacles in one’s marriage (at times adversely affecting the spouse) and profession. Astrological wisdom thus suggests that a manglik marries another manglik or wait a few years before entering into a bond of matrimony.5 Though this information is optional, the fact that it is included in the registration process does indicate that the websites give importance to those aspects of matchmaking which will appeal to the parental generation or the more conventional customs of matchmaking. This is not to say that all marrying individuals unequivocally derided this practice, yet whilst I met very few individuals who upheld these beliefs majority claimed to follow this custom only because their parents were interested in horoscope matching. Of course, this remains to be ascertained if this self-presentation was indeed true but my aim is not to ascertain the truth, as it were, but understand how the websites cater to both individuals and their families. By including a detailed section on astrology 4 Sometime after conducting the fieldwork, I noted that dedicated matchmaking portals for the upper

classes, such as Elitematrimony, are on the rise. Indeed, whilst writing this book, I noted that several websites and professional bureaus position themselves as matchmaking for the elite class. One such website claims to suggest transnational matches by boasting of a database of rich Indians around the world. 5 I have elsewhere commented (2019) on how educated Indians too have a strong belief in manglikdosh and are ready to perform any rituals to overcome these astrological obstacles. During fieldwork, however, there was a mixed reaction towards this, wherein whilst some were strict on not marrying a manglik (clearly specifying so on the matrimonial websites), some others explicitly stated not being concerned with such astrological fears. Nonetheless, all matrimonial websites provided an option for users to specify if they are a manglik (and might prefer to marry another manglik) or upload their birth chart.

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and horoscope matching, it was clear that family’s involvement in the process of spouse-selection was expected and approved. The last section of the registration process turns attention to the marrying individual, as it seeks detailed information on the individual’s educational and professional qualifications, and hobbies, followed by detailed descriptions on their preferences for a spouse. Whilst most of the information provided in this section is about the individual yet in crucial ways it indicates the individual’s family and class background. For example, information on the school and colleges that the individual attended, their hobbies (such as travelling) all enable users to ascertain the prospective spouse’s ‘pedigree’ or upbringing, thereby allowing to judge his/her family background.6 The final set of questions seeks specific information on desired qualities or characteristics of a spouse, including their age, height, skin colour, body type, religion, and educational background. In this way, the registration process reminds the individual at every step that their identity is embedded in their family—its values, status, and positioning in society, and whilst they might prefer to not include their family in the process of spouse-selection other users would perhaps like to locate them in familial frameworks, and therefore, they might want to know detailed information on the family. Whilst most of the questions in the registration process are close-ended, the final section, entitled ‘About me’, allows a ‘freehand’ to the profile user to explicate any further details on their personality or any other information they would like to provide within a certain world limit. As I read the ‘About me’ section of several profiles online, I was surprised to note that this section provided even more detailed description of one’s family and in fact, ‘middle-class values’, and specifying the user’s desire to marry someone who had similar family background and value system.

4.2.2 ‘About me’ Though the ‘About me’ section appears at the end of the registration process, once the profile is up on the website, it is the first set of information on the profile displayed right below the users ‘basic’ information of age, height, and professional status. As such, this section is the first entry point, as it were, into the marrying individual’s life. Given that there are no strict guidelines or prompting questions to help fill up this section, I presumed that it would be used to provide more personal information or added information on the individual and their specific expectations on a spouse. Yet, as I read through several profiles of men and women, I found that this space is used to reiterate the information that has already been provided on the social and financial status of their family. A few examples of these descriptions are:

6 For

a further discussion on family’s upbringing and importance of school in shaping character see Nita Kumar ‘The Middle-Class Child: Ruminations on Failure’ (2011), and Sanjay Srivastava, Constructing Post-colonial India: National Character and the Doon School (1998).

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Posted by a Father: Our daughter is a perfect match for someone who is looking for beautiful, homely, wellmannered girl. She is loving, caring and concerned of others…Our family includes my wife and our sons, a daughter in law and my daughter. The son is an engineer… I am looking for a boy who is good looking, loving, caring, and has good family values. Our daughter works as a manager at an MNC and we are looking for a preferential match for her, preferably from North India, though rest are welcome as well.

Posted by Mother: Our son is handsome, respectful, and well-placed. He completed his engineering from a top college in India and MBA from top 10 schools in the UK. He is currently living in the UK and has plans to return to India. His father is a retired government officer and mother is a housewife. His younger sister is married and settled in the US. His brother-in-law is an investment banker and they have a daughter. We belong to an upper middle class family and stay in Delhi. We are looking for a nice well-educated girl from a well-to-do family preferably from North India… I am handling this profile on behalf of my son. The main decisions will be made by him.

Posted by a relative: Praveen Srivastava is a polite, down to earth, and responsible person. An IT professional currently working in Bangalore. Born and brought up in Bhopal. Having two elder sisters (both are married). Belongs to a joint family. Looking for a girl having Indian morals and values, tradition and culture with a broader vision and comfort level for modern life. A working girl of the same caste would be preferable.

Posted by an individual herself (a prospective spouse): Hi this is Neha Arora…God-fearing, religious and family oriented person. I am understanding, thoughtful, easy to get along with, fun-loving, have moderate values… About the family- Father has a business, mother a home-maker, and brother an MBA from the US and working with the father. Ours is an affluent, yet disciplined and religious family… Looking for a boy of pleasing personality, well to do family and decently educated…

An aspect that stands out in these descriptions is that this section is often used by users to link their middle-class identity with specific moralities, as of hard work, education, respect to family and tradition. Indeed, it is also this space in which they express their desire for a ‘modern yet traditional’ spouse (usually used to describe the suitability of a bride) or someone with Indian values but ‘global outlook’, for example, someone who follows religious traditions whilst also feeling comfortable living in a cosmopolitan environment. Furthermore, the ability to straddle between these two worlds or rather bring them together is considered to rest on a ‘good middleclass upbringing’ which encourages experiencing the ‘new’ (and being ambitious for work, for example) without giving up on the ‘old’. As such, the ‘About me’ section seemed to me as the most poignant space of self-expression for the middleclass professionals, wherein they were able to construct and imagine their modern identities. Another aspect of this section is that it is appropriated by users to express a togetherness, as it were, between themselves and their family. This is to say, individuals use

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this section to provide more details on their family so that they can communicate to a potential spouse that though they (the individual) have created the profile and are handling (controlling it), their family too is important in the process of matchmaking. Similarly, profiles managed by the parents often specified that they are merely ‘handling’ or ‘managing’ the profile, and the final choice will be of the marrying individual. Therefore, the ‘About me’ section enabled the family and the individual to communicate that they are both involved in this process of matchmaking, and in this way they challenged any perception that matrimonial websites are catering mainly to the individuals. In other words, this section epitomised or rather best externalised a ‘dialogical’ approach between the family and the individual on matters of spouse-selection.

4.2.3 Making of ‘Choice’ Eager to know more about the aims and ethos of matrimonial websites, I visited the Delhi head office of Bharatmatrimony.com and Shaadi.com. In the interview with the North India head, Mr. Srivastava, he explained to me that websites are increasingly popular not only in the big cities but smaller cities as well. He said, We are also very popular in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. I think parents there are not net-savy and want to meet a person, you know like a broker, to talk to about matchmaking. So, in order to cater to this demand we have now opened offline centres, where you don’t have to make a profile yourself but our agents will make an online profile for you, and shortlist candidates online and show the options to the parents who visit the offline centre once every week.

This made it clear that the websites are not entirely pitching their services as ‘individual-friendly’ but have also made provisions for the family to be more involved in the process, especially if they are unable to navigate the internet technology. Mr. Srivastava opined, See, we are not westerners. Family remains important to us. When we started [the website] our main aim was to get young individuals to be more involved in matchmaking without fearing the tag of ‘arranged’ marriage. Our aim was that young men and women have a greater say in choosing their spouse but this did not mean that we want to push out the family from the scene.

I enquired if it was with the intention of involving the family in this process and space of matchmaking that the websites seek details on the family. Mr. Srivastava said, It is not like we are forcing this. Think about it yourself. When you get married wouldn’t you want to know more about the family background of the boy? Wouldn’t your parents want to know where the boy’s family is from, whether they have a good reputation, what their financial status is? These are basic questions. You cannot separate the individual from the family, and we understand that. So, we have made provisions for the family to be a part of this new medium of matchmaking.

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I asked similar questions to Mr. Pande, a senior manager of another matrimonial website. He explained to me that their website is built to cater to the needs of the middle class who, he explained, adjudge a prospective spouse mainly on the basis of family values particularly of being modern or traditional. This, he explicated, is no different than what prospective grooms and brides want. He said, When people write a profile for themselves they will say they want a good looking person, with this or that profession and education and hobbies, but see they also write that they are a good son or daughter, hardworking professional, respectful to their elders. Why do they write all this? Because they want to communicate their values; that they are attached to their family, they have a good upbringing, and that they are ready to start their own families […] In some ways even these questions are about your family. See, marriages in India is about two families and not two individuals, and everything that the individual does or like is somewhere linked to their family. […] When we started our website we wanted that a boy or a girl find a husband or wife of their choice but this does not mean that their choice is their choice only [sic].

I asked Mr. Pande if there was a ‘formula’ as it were to write a successful profile. I explained that my question is also motivated from the fact that when I was registered on the matrimonial profile as a participant observer, I was regularly advised by the website (in the form of email reminders or pop-ups whilst visiting the profile) to add more information to my profile, to add my picture, and so on. Mr. Pande replied, No there is no set formula really. But I think it is good if a person is able to communicate that they are both modern and traditional. That they are open to the modern or urban ways of living but also hold their middle class values close to their heart. You know like you might want to live away from your parents due to work but that you also care for them. […] I think a profile has higher chances of being shortlisted if it can explain how it has both modern and traditional values [sic].

Mr. Pande explained that when their website was launched, they were aware that it will be popular amongst the youth because of their knowledge and ease with using the technology of the internet. Yet, at the same time, they were aware that the individual’s desires and preferences are shaped by their social setting, and especially their family. Therefore, their ‘selling point’ is that these websites enable the individual to control the process of spouse-selection, and that the websites are more conducive to the individual’s ‘choice’, but this does not mean that the family is excluded from the process. In fact, as I too noted in the previous sections, the structure and content of websites clearly reveal that the family continues to be involved in the process of spouse-selection, and in this way, are able to achieve a ‘balance’ as it were, between the preferences of the marrying individual regarding suitability of a spouse and the desires of the family to be involved in the process.7 Indeed, other recent works too explain how technologies of matchmaking have enabled a space of dialogue or ‘balance’ between differing expectations of matchmaking and suitability of a spouse. Titzmann (2011), for example, has brought attention to the ways in which women appropriate websites to present themselves as a ‘balance’ between being 7 I have argued elsewhere (2018) that the idea of ‘choice’ indeed crucially includes parental consent

and approval.

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‘modern’ and ‘traditional’, and in this way curate an image of being a ‘new Indian woman’ (ibid:244). She specifically brings attention to the advertisements of these websites to explain how they depict ‘traditional “Indianness” and progressive, global technology, signifiers of medial mobility’. (ibid:245), thereby appealing both to a family-conducive and an individual-oriented clientele, promoting what she describes as a ‘family-oriented individualism’ (2013). Another paper, by Kaur and Dhanda (2014) explicates how matrimonial websites are a perfect portal to bridge the gap between ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriages, as parents assist their children in making ‘informed choices’, that is to say, not select partners from the ‘wrong’ caste, class, or community background. Agrawal (2015) takes this argument further by stating that websites enable ‘doing kin work’, as profiles are shortlisted after analysing extensive details on the social background of the marrying individual, much like a search undertaken by family and kin. My work adds to these arguments as I note the specific ways in which the marrying individual and their family interacts and engages with each other to create the idea of ‘choice’. Pushing this argument forward, I explain how these websites enable a moralising discourse on being middle class as each profile user (whether the individual or a family member) describes themselves as a ‘good’ family member—an obedient son, dutiful daughter, loving sibling; a ‘hard worker’, and someone who is comfortable with a cosmopolitan culture whilst also being ‘rooted’ to Indian traditions. Furthermore, the individual links these qualities to their middle class upbrining, as throughout the profile they emphasise how their middle class values of hard-work, respect to elders, enabled them to be a ‘good’ family person and a successful professional. In this way, the websites further a moralising discourse of being middle class such that due importance is given to the family, and indeed every achievement of the individual (professional, character) can be attributed to the moralities associated with being middle class. In so doing, the websites ensure that the family finds a space of expression, approval, and control within an individual-friendly space of the websites.8 *** Since centuries, matchmakers have played a crucial role in matchmaking practices of India. Traditionally, they are seen as the most potent symbols or enablers of ‘arranged’ marriage, yet, in contemporary times, they have altered this image by now also positioning themselves as catering to individual desires of a potential spouse. Moreover, they have transformed their modes of operation by making use of advanced technologies and espousing ideals of professionalism, which certainly appeals to the young professional middle class. In these ways, matchmakers are undergoing transformations and reinventing themselves to appear more ‘individual-friendly’ in matters of matchmaking. At the same time, they do not consider themselves as 8 Around the time that I was wrapping up my fieldwork, there also emerged several caste, community,

and religious specific matrimonial websites. The popularity of these portals indicates that new matchmakers too cater to expectations of matching caste, community, and other collective identities.

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revolutionaries in the sense of obfuscating the family from the process of spouseselection. Rather, they have devised intelligent ways to include the family in the process without allowing it to completely control the process. This is to say, they have provided the family the means to exercise a more decentralised control (at times via the matchmakers themselves) and make an intermittent presence throughout the process (e.g. ‘meet the parents’ as discussed in the previous chapter). This allows a modern self-fashioning to the individuals as well as the family, who can claim to be minimally involved in the process yet also achieve their preferences of a suitable spouse. Moreover, though they claim to leave the process of matchmaking entirely to the ‘individual’ and the family, these ‘new’ matchmakers do exercise considerable influence in the decision-making of a spouse by, for example, explicating the ‘new’ standards of a ‘good’ spouse (e.g. changing trends of work and start-up cultures), or convincing the parents to overlook a potential spouse’s drinking or smoking habits. As a result, marrying individuals view matrimonial agents as collaborators or arbitrators and not as dominating aunts and uncles who mainly replicated their parents’ desires of matchmaking. In that regard, there is a certain ‘newness’ to the matchmakers, which has certainly eased their acceptance amongst the professional middle class. Crucially, these new matchmakers are furthering a moralising discourse of being middle class. They promote and encourage certain qualities as respect to family, hard work, and belief in traditions, as the domain of the middle class. To them, an appealing (and successful) profile is one that can demonstrate its comfort in being ‘global’ and modern as well as upholding family values of respect towards elders and traditions. In this way, they construct the ideals of being modern and middle class. In this chapter, I thus argue that the role of the new matchmakers, that is, matrimonial agents, is not simply of suggesting suitable matches. Rather, they bridge any gap between the marrying individuals and their family, acting as arbitrators or communicators. Significantly, they weave into this tapestry of matchmaking, the resilience and appeal of middle-class values, along with individual desires and preferences, and the surveillant presence of the family, and in doing so, establish themselves as an important ‘actor’ in contemporary matchmaking.

References Agrawal, Anuja. 2015. Cyber-Matchmaking Among Indians: Re-arranging Marriage and Doing ‘Kin-Work’. South Asian Popular Culture 13 (1): 15–31. Bhandari, Parul. 2018. Makings of Modern Marriage: Choice, Family, and the Matchmakers. In Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices, ed. Leila Choukroune and Parul Bhandari, 131–149. New Delhi: Springer. Bhandari, Parul. 2019. A Wharton Graduate Marrying a Tree. ThePrint. https://theprint.in/opinion/ a-wharton-graduate-marrying-a-tree-in-made-in-heaven-is-no-anomaly-in-india-shows-studies/ 214778/ (August 13, 2019). Jodhka, Surinder, and Aseem Prakash. 2016. The Indian Middle Class. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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Kaur, Ravinder, and Prit Dhanda. 2014. Surfing for Spouses: Marriage Websites and the ‘New’ Indian Marriage? In Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World, ed. Ravinder Kaur and Rajni Palriwala. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Kumar, Nita. 2011. The Middle-Class Child: Ruminations on Failure. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 220–245. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Majumdar, Rochona. 2004. Looking for Brides and Grooms: Ghataks, Matrimonials, and the Marriage Market in Colonial Calcutta, circa 1875–1940. The Journal of Asian Studies 63 (4): 911–935. Majumdar, Rochona. 2009. Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Srivastava, Sanjay. 1998. Constructing Post-colonial India: National Character and the Doon School. New Delhi: Taylor and Francis, Routledge. Titzmann, Fritzi-Marie. 2011. Matchmaking 2.0: The Representation of Women and Female Agency in the Indian Online Matrimonial Market. Internationales Asienforum: International Quarterly for Asian Studies 42 (3–4): 239–256. Titzmann, Fritzi-Marie. 2013. Changing Patterns of Matchmaking: The Indian Online Matrimonial Market. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 19 (4): 64–94.

Chapter 5

In Pursuit of a ‘Good’ Match

The fixation of finding a ‘good match’ was famously described in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (1993). A narrative of post-partition India, the novel revolves around Rupa Mehra’s obsession of finding a suitable spouse for her youngest daughter Lalita, from amongst four ‘candidates’ or prospective grooms. Interweaved with the unfolding of post-colonial India, dynamics of feudalism, Hindu-Muslim politics, land reforms, and familial relations, A Suitable Boy is the tale of negotiation and decision-making on Lalita’s spousal choice.1 Set in the 1950s, written in the 1990s, this novel continues to resonate with the twenty-first century, as the professional middle class too concerns itself with finding a ‘suitable’ match. One of the most common utterances in matchmaking is the desire to find a ‘good match’. My fieldwork made me see that a ‘good match’ is more than just a phrase; instead, it is a concept in itself which encompasses desires, ambitions, traditions, family expectations, and individual aspirations. Prospective spouses, their parents, and matrimonial agents, all explained to me that it is ‘easy’ to get married, but the real challenge is to find a ‘good match’. A ‘good match’ is a ‘complete package’ I was told, to acquire which, it is imperative to have patience, a dedicated focus, and ability to negotiate with one’s own expectations and desires. Soon, the permutations and combinations that constitute this concept became apparent to me. In this chapter, I thus unpack the sociological underpinning of this often-used word in matchmaking, tracing its four main constituents—caste, class, ‘exposure’, and good looks—in four sections. These of course are not exhaustive characteristics, but as I found out, they are the most talked about characteristics and in a sense the constant variables, as it were, that define a ‘good match’. Often works on matchmaking delineate characteristics of a desired spouse as rigid, for instance, when they discuss the criterion of caste endogamy. Yet, I noted that the criteria comprising a ‘good match’, including of caste, can undergo changes (with the intervention of technology for example), especially in changing circumstances (age of the spouse, migration). A few recent works have brought attention to this, for example, Majumdar (2009) argues that the onset of a new matchmaking technology, 1 Vikram

Seth is soon publishing another novel, A Suitable Girl. © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_5

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namely, the use of newspapers, lead to the emergence of a ‘new’ criterion for a suitable man, namely a ‘civic’ man. Chuki, in her study of Bhutan, explains that though a cross-cousin is considered a ‘good match’ for marriage, if this cousin has not migrated to the city for work and continues to live in the village, she/he is no longer seen as a ‘good match’ (2014:54). My research too noted that constructs of a ‘good match’ are not entirely rigid (especially related to caste identity). Indeed, the fact that these criteria are flexible, and open to change, forms the basis of the professional middle class’ ‘new’ identities as this flexibility allows them to claim being modern and global, and not constrained by rigid expectations of matchmaking. These changes to the constructs of a ‘good match’, moreover, often occur during the process of spouse-selection itself. This is to say that one might begin the process of finding a suitable match with a certain notion of an ideal spouse but in due course of spouse-selection this ideal might undergo changes. One of the most compelling reasons for this is the age of the marrying individual—as an individual’s age increases, she/he is unable to find a suitable partner, and so the individual decides to ‘compromise’ on certain criteria. At the same time, this is not to state that the constructs of a ‘good match’ are ever-changing because a few cardinal principles remain. For example, I noted that there is a clear preference for class homogamous marriages and hypergamy, as potential spouses match their incomes and styles of life, at times over caste or community caste or community identities. Men tend to choose a suitable bride who has a ‘lower’ status than them, and women prefer to marry men who have a ‘higher’ status—financial, social, or cultural, thereby achieving upward mobility through marriage. Moreover, an unpacking of the concept of a ‘good match’ also reveals how an individual’s sense of self is impacted in the process of matchmaking. This is because it is in this process of finding a ‘good match’ that the individual is compelled to navigate the labyrinth of caste identities, class aspirations, global statuses, honour, and duty towards family, and personal experiences of romance and intimacy, as she/he decides which aspects matter the most to her/him. This leads them to turn the gaze inwards, onto themselves, and in turn, shape, realise, and question their desires, ambitions, and ideals of love and marriage.

5.1 Caste Endogamy and Its Flexibility Much scholarship has explained the importance of the rule of caste endogamy (marriage within caste) for marriages in India.2 Some other works have discussed the tragic consequences of not following these rules (honour killings, for example). A few recent works, however, have also brought attention to the acceptance of inter-caste marriages. For example, Abraham (2015), in her study of Kerala society, describes marriages between Thiyya women and British men and, in doing so, brings attention to the ‘histories of the shift in the ideas about the breach of endogamy, in 2 Classical Indian sociology, particularly works by Béteille (1969, 1991), Dumont (1970) and Ghurye

(1991), explain how endogamy is a cardinal rule of the caste system.

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order to challenge the stability of the idea of caste endogamy’ (Abraham 2015:162– 163). Abraham thus explains that caste endogamy is not immutable, and its practice depends on the time and context of marriage and society at large. Indeed, my work too reveals that one of the aims of matchmaking is to maximise one’s economic opportunities and reproduce class status, and whilst caste endogamy might set the pace of matchmaking in due course, the professional middle class are willing to negotiate with it, especially to instead give preference to a class homogamous union.3 The criterion of caste endogamy, as I noted, was often the first one to be ‘compromised’, especially when the marrying individual’s age was increasing. At the same time, it is to be stressed that even in situations where an inter-caste union is considered, the caste ‘distance’, as it were, is not very large. This is to say that as long as the other person’s caste position is more or less similar to one’s own, the union is acceptable, but marriage with someone of a substantially ‘lower’ caste identity is never a viable option. I met Sriram, a 29-year-old electric engineer, working at a multinational consultancy, at a coffee shop. He confessed that he was reluctant to register on a matrimonial website, as he found the entire process ‘awkward’ and ‘odd’ but ultimately agreed on the insistence of his parents. At the beginning of his process of spouse-selection, his mother had a long list of criteria, he said. She wanted a fair-skinned, well-educated, upper middle-class Delhi girl, from their caste group—the Kayasthas. A year passed by, and he and his family had only shortlisted three profiles, none of which workedout. In order to increase the chances of finding a ‘good match’, they decided to ‘relax’ their criteria particularly of caste. I enquired on what made him compromise on caste and not other criteria as education or profession. He said, It is not that important if you think about it. I have so many friends from different castes and we get along just fine. I also have friends who have had inter-caste marriages, and they are doing fine. Also, since I was not meeting anyone from my caste, I thought maybe the options are better outside of my caste? […] I was running out of time. I didn’t want to be 30 and unmarried. I think with time, you mature, you realise that it is important to get along with the person at a personal level. I did not think that marrying a Kayastha girl would be a guarantee that the marriage will be good. So, why not be more open-minded. I mean, if I happened to find someone from this caste then great, but it is not the main thing.

On the matrimonial websites, Sriram no longer specifies that his spouse should be from the Kayastha caste. Instead, he conducts the search on the basis of education and profession, and he reiterates the importance of these criteria in the ‘about me’ section so that prospective brides see him as an open-minded person. Sriram clarifies that it is not that he is against same-caste marriages but that he considers a ‘good match’ to be made of other criteria that are more important, especially education and moral 3 The

relationship between caste and class has been a popular topic of research. One of the earliest forays into this field was by Srinivas (1996), who traced how caste-class dynamics may undergo transformations in a modern India. More recently, works by Chakravarti (2014), Deshpande (2003), Upadhyay (2014), Sheth (2014) have explained this link, especially in the context of middle class and IT employment, as well as agrarian the sector—some arguing that lower castes are increasingly entering the middle class, whilst others explaining how the middle class continues to be dominated by the upper castes.

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values. Indeed, he felt that this was precisely what the ‘modern’ generation should do—overcome their obsession with caste. He was though also quick to clarify that he would not marry someone from a ‘lower’ caste. To that effect, he was portraying a fractured modernity. Time, as Sriram observes, was the main motivation that lead him to reconsider his list of desirable characteristics for a spouse. Perhaps, had he found a suitable match within the first year, he would not have considered negotiating with the criterion of caste. This account made me note the relevance of a temporal dimension of spouseselection. This is to say, not only can spouse-selection be a long process but that it has the potential of altering even important criterion as that of caste endogamy. This is to say, not only can the process of spouse-selection be spread over months or years, it can also impact the contours of a ‘good match’. Furthermore, ‘time’ appears in matchmaking in two ways: firstly, in the more straightforward understanding of one’s age. As time passes by, that is a marrying individual’s age increases, she/he is more open to change their criteria of a suitable spouse. Secondly, time appears in the sense of an era, or existence, which in turn demands and also shapes social attitudes and personal desires. This is to say, the ‘modern times’ beckon a critical appraisal of criteria traditionally associated with a ‘good match’. To that effect, questioning caste-based marriages is a way of claiming to be modern. This is because in foregoing the criterion of caste, other criteria—education, profession—are given preference, and in so doing, these criteria are associated as the identifiers and signifiers of being middle class and seen as important middle-class moralities. Mr. Dahia, the North Region Head of one of India’s leading matrimonial website too noted a shift in ‘the requirement of caste’, he said. He explained that in the past eight years their users’ preference is more inclined towards education and profession than caste identity. He said, Earlier we [the website] had very basic criteria like caste, education, profession, family. But what we found that at least in the big cities people did not care about caste so much. Of course, there are still some absolute no-nos. For example, the Punjabis prefer not to marry Marwaris and vice versa, but over all, if other things are matching people are willing to reconsider caste. That is why we also introduced the option of ‘Caste no bar’. […] We also now offer ‘advanced’ search, where you can simply type in keywords, like if you want a boy from IIT or MIT or Harvard, then only those profiles will appear.

Mr. Dahia further explained the appeal of the ‘advanced search’ option on his website, and how it helps to find a ‘good match’. He said, Now, everyone wants a ‘package’ [said with a laughter]. They want that other things should match like taste, likes, hobbies, family status. Boys and girls also have a long list, as you may already know from your research. So, we have designed ‘advanced’ searches where you can search a profile based on your very specific needs.

This distinction between ‘then’ and ‘now’, ‘old’ and ‘new’ times, was also often invoked by parents of marrying individuals who delineated how matchmaking in their generation is different from contemporary practices. Mrs. Srivastava, a homemaker married to an Indian administrative officer, discussed the experience of registering her daughter on a website. She said,

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Times have changed. I am from Kanpur and my husband is from Lucknow. A distant relative suggested our match, and we got married. It was pretty simple back then, education, family, and caste. But not now. There are so many parameters on which you judge someone. My daughter is brought up in Delhi. She has interacted with people from all cultural and caste backgrounds. Of course, our community is important to us, but when you look for a match, it is not the only criterion. […] She is quite cosmopolitan, so we are not expecting her to marry someone from our caste. As long as he is also cosmopolitan and keeps her happy, we don’t have a problem.

Mrs. Srivastava went on to explain that her daughter is a ‘modern Indian girl’, and they are a modern family (and not traditional), which is to say, that they will not insist on traditional ideas of compatibility which is mainly based on caste similarities.4 Whilst Mrs. Srivastava justified her support for inter-caste marriage on the basis of an appeal of a cosmopolitan match, Mrs. Mathur explained how in contemporary times caste endogamy and (class and status) hypergamy do not necessarily go together, and if a choice has to be made between the two, she will definitely choose the latter.5 Mrs. Mathur’s daughter completed a Master’s in Law from a prestigious Indian university and is working in a legal firm in Delhi. It has been over a year since Mrs. Mathur registered her daughter’s profile on a matrimonial website, but her search has not been successful as ‘there are no educated men in our community’, she declared with utter pessimism. She lamented, What do I do now? I am absolutely ready to look for someone outside the community. Our requirement has seriously come down to very basic things – Hindi speaking family, and a well-educated boy from a good background.

Mrs. Mathur’s concern was that if they insist on marrying within their caste, then it is possible that her daughter will have to marry ‘down’, that is, to a man who is not as educated as her daughter or whose financial and social background does not match theirs. She explained that for her, the rule of hypergamy (marriage of daughter into a higher family) was more important because to live a good life, good status and secure income are most important, and caste cannot give you these things’, she said. Moreover, she added, if a man marries ‘up’ (especially a woman who is better educated or well-off than her), then he develops an inferiority complex, which is not good for marital harmony, she explained. It is to be clarified that my contention is not that caste is no longer an important criterion for contemporary matchmaking amongst the middle class. Rather, I found that often for the urban professional middle class caste is the factor that is most open to negotiation. At the same time, it is to be kept in mind that the willingness to negotiate this criterion only develops if one’s age is increasing. Furthermore, there are two clear advantages of negotiating with this factor: firstly, it enables the family and 4 The next chapter (Chap. 6) further discusses the meaning and essence of the term ‘modern Indian’ bride/woman. 5 There are several classical works on hypergamy in Indian society, including Madan’s work on Kashmiri Pandits (1965); Pococok’s work on the Patidars (1954). More recently, a few works explain the consequences of hypergamy, such as Alice Tilche’s (2018) ‘Marriage and the crisis of peasant society in Gujarat, India’.

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the marrying individual to claim being ‘modern’, as they give preference to that set of criteria which is most obviously seen as a marker of progress and modernity; and secondly, these new criteria in lieu of caste endogamy are a means to reproduce one’s middle-class status. Good professional status, financial standing, and cosmopolitan cultures are all indeed class expressions, and to that effect, it seems that the primary ideal of a ‘good’ match is of class homogamy.

5.2 Class Homogamy: Lifestyles and Professional Choices A common theme in conversations with the professional middle class was their ambitions and aspirations to be successful and happy. They explained that the journey to fulfilling these desires is far from easy as it is marked by struggles and extreme hard work. It is only sensible, therefore, to marry a person who can understand and relate to this journey, they explained, and that is possible only when the other person too has had a similar trajectory in life. This is to say they preferred to marry someone who is understanding and shares their life-view, qualities, which in turn are rooted in feelings of empathy and relatability. As such, the language of ‘understanding’ is an idiom of class—of experiencing its struggles, anxieties, and ambitions. This sentiment was most clear when they ‘othered’ those who did not belong to the middle class. In general conversations regarding their ambitions and struggles, the middle class often presented a caricature or stereotype of the ‘other’ class, in order to articulate their own distinctiveness and class identity, particularly, their moralities of class. The most popular of this caricature was the ‘South Delhi’ boy/girl. Several of my interviewees expressed caution in marrying a ‘South Delhi girl’. As I found out the stereotype referred to a woman born to a wealthy family, residing in plush South Delhi areas, who by virtue of her class position, has little understanding or experience of financial struggles. She is seen as someone who did not have to work hard to achieve the comfortable life that she leads and who spends her time shopping and spending money. A similar image was of a ‘South Delhi boy’, who drives expensive cars, gets into midnight brawls at bars, is heir to an established business, and therefore is considered to have little understanding of hard work, competition, and building a career from the scratch. By invoking these stereotypes, the intention was to distinguish themselves from those (even if upper-middle/middle class like them) who did not ‘earn’ their class position but were born into one. For them, their success was a direct result of their middle class upbringing and values associated with it particularly of hard work, a disciplined lifestyle, and education. They wanted to distance themselves from the ‘privileged’ lot as they could not relate to a lifestyle of abundance and luxury. This claim was intriguing and revealing as the professional middle class had high-paying jobs and seemed to quite enjoy frequent night-outs, expensive holidays, and others such experiences enabled by their income. On deeper analysis, it became clear that they associate certain moralities, as it were, to money. A financial status acquired by birth did not hold the same value as one achieved through hardwork and struggles. In other words, for material possesion to invoke values of

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respect and dignity, it had to be interwoven with middle class moralities of struggle, hard work, ambition, and success. They, therefore, desired to be with someone who shared this moral approach to money and being middle class.6 A proxy, as it were, of judging the value of money and hard work in their life was their professional status. In fact, education was not guarantee enough; this is to say, a good educational degree was not enough for prospective grooms to be high on the preference list of a prospective bride or her family. Rather, in order to demonstrate that they are serious hard-working middle class men, who value money (and therefore are professionally ambitious), the groom had to be in a respectable job. Matrimonial agents too discussed how one of the main criteria for a suitable spouse is his professional status. Mr. Singh, a senior matrimonial agent said, See, sometimes people are not that interested in studies or have high educational degrees, like an MBA from a good university, but they might land a job in a reputable company. Maybe through hard work or some connections. So, a lot of people don’t care where you studied from but where you are working and how much you are earning.

Indeed, not having a good job, as I soon found out, was a compelling reason to break-up a romantic relation, and in this way, this criterion also influenced the informal space of spouse-selection. I met several young professional middle-class women who prided on being independent and self-sufficient, enjoying the benefits of their professional life. At the same time, they candidly admitted to their desire of augmenting their status or gaining upward mobility by marrying someone who was professionally well-placed and earned a higher income, especially than them (discussed further in the next chapter). Some women explained to me how they actively play a role in shaping their boyfriends’ interest in building a strong professional career. This is to say they encourage their boyfriend to be ambitious, to work harder. In cases, where they realise that their boyfriend is not ambitious enough they took the painful but pragmatic decision to end the relationship. I had a long interview with Prashant, a graduate of India’s premier engineering institute, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. When I met him, he was recently engaged to a woman whom he met on a matrimonial website and who was not from Delhi. Before entering into the formal space of spouse-selection, he only had one serious relationship with his classmate. He described her as a bright and smart girl, ‘topper of the class’, who had a line of suitors. She chose Prashant over other suitors for she appreciated his interest in theatre and creativity. ‘Women like the artistic kind of men, you know, so I received a lot of attention in college’, he explained. He said that they were considered the ‘it’ couple on campus as they had it all—intelligence, creativity, and love. Their relationship was going well for about a year and a half. 6 Select readings on the moralities of middle class include Sara Dickey’s The Pleasures and Anxieties

of Being in the Middle: Emerging Middle-class Identities in Urban South India (2011); Henrike Donner’s Being Middle-Class in India: A Way of Life (2011); Sanjay Srivastava’s Urban Spaces, Disney-Divinity and the Moral Middle Classes in Delhi (2011), and in the non-Indian context, a pioneering work in this field is by Michel Lamont’s Money, Morals, and Manners. Works on the affective makings of the elite class include Parul Bhandari’s Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects (2019) and Rachel Sherman’s Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence (2017).

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As they entered their final year of undergraduate degree, they began preparing for ‘placements’, that is job interviews for companies that came to their campus for recruitment, and that is when trouble brew. His girlfriend, unsurprisingly, got one of the most coveted jobs with a high salary. He, on the other hand, got a lower-paying job at one of the lesser preferred companies. This strained their relationship. He said, She told me very bluntly that she wants someone who is smart, ambitious, and can earn good money, and can match up to her. She said, “You used to be good, but now all you care about is theatre. You are messing your life and I don’t want to be a part of it. I want a hardcore professional who is serious about his life”.

Prashant explained that he was not the only graduate who chose a creative field over a cushioned corporate job, and so, he was shocked at his girlfriend’s reaction for he believed that she appreciated his passion for art, theatre, and social development. Eventually, she broke up with him and found a more eligible spouse in her office. Prashant became sad and nostalgic whilst describing this relationship to me, though he had now rationalised his girlfriend’s behaviour. He explained that his ex-girlfriend came from a typical middle-class family—her father was a government employee and mother a homemaker. Whilst they lived a decent life in Delhi, she always had ambitions of ‘doing better’. He said, She wanted a big house, a good car, travel business class, and holiday around the world. This was her dream. In fact, this is the dream of most consultants, bankers and engineers. She was no different. I don’t blame her. She wanted someone who had a similar dream as hers; who also had these ambitions in life. The thing is I am different. […] When I decided it is time to look for a wife, and registered online, I was very open to marrying someone who is not from Delhi or studied at good institutions. I did not want an ambitious girl. I wanted an educated girl but someone who can relate to my way of life. I thought it is better to look for someone outside Delhi because I think people outside are more simple. For them, coming to Delhi is only a big deal, an ambition, which I can fulfil […[] My fiancé is from Haryana and she studied from an engineering institute there. I think she gets me better than my ex-girlfriend did.

Prashant’s experience was in no way a unique one, and I increasingly noted how one’s educational qualifications was a strong factor to start romantic relationships but that the switch to marriage depended on how well that educational qualification can be translated to a stable and respectable job. It was therefore, not surprising that both marrying individuals and their families thought it wise to begin a formal process of spouse-selection only once the prospective spouse (man or woman) is ‘settled’, that is, has a job.7 Indeed, at the MBA institute, all prospective spouses began spouse-selection only once the ‘placement month’ had come to an end. To explicate, in the seventh and eighth month of the MBA course, multinational companies make campus visits for recruitments. There is a hierarchy, as it were, wherein the ‘best’ companies that is those which are highly reputed and offer high salary packages (such as McKinsey, Boston Consultancy Group, Google) visit the campus first. This is followed by the ‘medium’ segment, that is, companies that are not as 7 For

further discussion on ‘new’ cultures of work and the ‘new’ middle class see Gooptu (2013), Radhakrishnan (2011), and Upadhyay (2011).

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reputed as the first category but also offer high salaries, and finally the third tier of less reputed companies that are offering lesser salaries. All students aspire to get a job at the top company. In the months from February to April, the atmosphere on campus is very tensed, and emotions are running high, as these are seen as the ‘deciding’ months for MBA graduates. I was strongly advised by my ‘gatekeeper’ not to visit in these months, and only visit after the placement weeks have ended. A running joke on campus was that the gruelling professional recruitment process is immediately succeeded by a matchmaking recruitment process, which is far more gruelling and strenuous. It was also widely believed that those who can ‘crack’ the first-tier companies will sail through their marriage recruitment process as well, since they will receive the most lucrative offers in the ‘marriage market’. Having noted this, I also found that professional status, and in turn financial status were not always a guarantee of attaining lucrative marriage proposals. Some interviewees explained that class is not determined by money but is gauged by one’s style of living, social networks, and especially attitude towards money (miser, spendthrift, careless).8 Often this opinion reveals itself through one’s experiences of romance and matchmaking, as one realises that one is more comfortable with a partner who shares their style of life rather than being with someone who is for example, financially superior but tends to live more frugally. To that extent, one’s self-awareness and self-fashioning is unfolded and realised in one’s process of spouse-selection. Sitting on the lush green gardens of the university where she completed her Master’s degree and experienced several romances, Smriti explained that her sole aim was to find a ‘good’ match. Smriti, aged 27, is working in a marketing firm since the past three years. She lives in Delhi in a nuclear household with her parents and a younger sister. Her mother is a homemaker, and father is a government employee, and her sister is pursuing a Master’s degree. Smriti’s first ‘serious’ relationship was in the final year of her undergraduate programme. The relationship lasted just over two years. ‘Distance’ she said, was the primary cause of the break-up, as her boyfriend moved to another city upon getting a job post his graduation. As we discussed the relationship further, Smriti said that now that she looks back, she realises that the relationship would never have worked out because they belonged to different class backgrounds, and as a result, their ambitions and life-goals were very different. Smriti elaborated that her boyfriend was not very good at studies, and this made her sure that he will not be professionally successful.9 He now owns a small shop in North Delhi and is still living with his parents in their two bedroom-flat, whereas she is earning much more than him and dreams of buying a four-bedroom apartment in Gurugram soon. After this relationship, Smriti dated a few other men but nothing was ‘serious’ until she met a colleague at work when she was 25. Smriti was hopeful that this relationship would transform into marriage as her boyfriend had a high post in the company, and was smart, well-spoken, exuding ‘class’, she said. Yet, after a year and 8 Classical sociological works as of Weber (Weber 1978) and Bourdieu (1984, 1987) have explained

how class is not determined only by money or economic standing but extends to social status and tastes. 9 For further discussion on the link between education and success, see Nita Kumar (2011).

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a half, their relationship broke up. Smriti seemed reluctant to elaborate but after a few questions she finally revealed that though they had a similar class background, there were ‘other things’, differences, which did not allow the relationship to grow. I enquired if by ‘other things’ she meant his personality or character traits, and she clarified that she meant ‘other things about class’. She explained, My mother is a housewife, she is very well-educated and my father has a good job. We have lived in Delhi for almost 20 years and have a certain lifestyle. But he was brought up in a very different environment. […] Like, his mother doesn’t speak English but my mother speaks fluent English. His father has a small business and their social circle is very different from ours. Also, they were very kanjoos [miserly]. In my house, my parents don’t think twice about spending. […] See, it is not only about money. I am sure they are well-off, but they are the non-urban, Hindi speaking type, and we are the proper Delhi type […] I did not think these things would matter until I encountered this situation and realised that differences come up in little things.

Smriti had brilliantly captured the nuanced articulations of class—it was not just about money, she explained, but the differences in their class position were evident in their expressions of lifestyle and attitudes towards money. These were the lived realities of class and became the heuristic bar along which she now assesses a prospective spouse. She explained that before this relationship, she did not have such a nuanced view of class; her ‘calculations’, she said, were very simple and revolved around finding someone who is smart and professionally successful. After this romantic experience, she realised that other aspects—leisure, social networks— also make up one’s class position, and that class is not just determined by money but by one’s family, social circles, manner of speaking, and attitudes towards money. She explained, I did not think about these things in the beginning. When it all started, it was only about us. How we made each other feel, how we were with each other. And it was really good. We really connected well. […] I am close to my mother, so I confided in her. I told her everything about his family and his lifestyle. She did not reject him but cautioned me. She said that no matter what, at the end, it is the woman who has to adjust to a man and his family. She asked me point blank if I would be able to adjust with his family, interact with his Hindi-speaking relatives, be a part of that small business community, visit his hometown in Uttar Pradesh, and be ready to be scrutinised for all my spending habits […] She did not say all these things because she hated him or anything but she was concerned about me and wanted me to make an informed decision and not overlook these things.

A similar observation is made in Dickey’s (2002, 2011) works on the middle class, where she explains the importance of performing class. In a similar vein, the above narratives also bring attention to the fact that class homogamy is a central constituent of a ‘good match’, but the expression of class is not limited to numbers or material possessions (money, property) and incorporates actions and affections; income and status; moralities and privileges. In other words, the professional middle class not only wants to marry someone as well-off as them, but their ideal of a ‘good match’ also includes someone who has similar affections of class, particularly similar struggles, and shared desires and ambitions of everyday living.

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5.3 Exposure as Class Reality and Ambition Another characteristic that dominated the discussion on what constitutes a ‘good match’ was that of ‘exposure’. I noted in my conversations with matrimonial brokers, parents, and the marrying individuals that there were fewer references to a ‘cultured’ individual or family and greater reference to finding someone who has ‘exposure’. This term immediately communicated an imagining of a global world, that an individual was expected to inhabit. It seemed to imply preference for specific experiences usually related to an international culture—of work, food, travelling, leisure, and by virtue of this, it communicated a certain class position, namely of someone who has had the opportunities to have ‘exposure’, such as someone who is employed in multinational companies. In other words, the term ‘exposure’ implied a certain way of life, or experience of life, which is only enabled and accessible through a particular class and professional position. This is to say that the language of ‘exposure’ has been enabled by a particular social and economic space, which has provided opportunities to young professionals to travel widely, participate in emerging global cultures of work, and engage with the wide-ranging social and leisure varieties that the hyper-connected global world offers.10 To explicate, ‘exposure’ is gauged, for example, by one’s knowledge (and access) to British and American television soaps, music, movies, ease in speaking English, and taste in international cuisines. Furthermore, it is not expected that ‘exposure’ is ‘passed down’ through one’s family, as perhaps is implied in the term ‘cultured’, which seems to refer to a more collective disposition—knowledge of arts and culture, family status, genealogy, and so on. Rather, ‘exposure’ is seen as an individual trait, developed in the process of one’s professional success, for example, by travelling (work or holiday), interacting with members of different cultures (as enabled by work, specifically), and also having the financial ability to experience these leisure and work activities. This is to say the ideal of ‘exposure’ is interlinked to one’s personal trajectory of growth, professional achievement, which, in turn, has been made possible by India’s changing work cultures, advent of social media, and an increasingly interconnected world.11 In this way, ‘exposure’ is interlinked not only with India’s path of modernity but also the individual’s self-fashioning of the modern. I was made aware of the importance of ‘exposure’ in my very first interview with Pranav, a 30-year old, who was recently married and is employed in a multinational company in Gurugram. Pranav suggested we meet over brunch, at an American diner in a South Delhi mall. Pranav patiently talked about his meetings with prospective 10 This in turn is linked to the trajectory of development of the Indian State, which in post-colonial era focused on development and in the subsequent years has turned attention to building a global identity (for example, by opening its economy). For further discussion, see Jodhka and Prakash (2016) and Varma (2007). 11 I found that social media is used by the individual to communicate their experiences of ‘exposure’, as they actively share pictures of holidays, display their ‘likes’ and ‘interests’ (music, films, political figures, and so on), dining out and other leisure practices, and so on. Indeed, marrying individuals confessed that they check a prospective spouse’s social media profile to get a better sense of who they are.

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spouses, describing his first encounter as ‘shocking’. Until meeting this prospective bride, he said, he had not realised that people in Delhi ‘can also be living under a rock’, because the first prospective bride he met, seemed to be completed disconnected with the global world, he explained. Pranav’s friends were all employed in multinational companies; they spoke good English and grew up watching American television, and when he met the first ‘shortlisted bride’, who was recommended to his parents via their Marwari community networks, he was shocked to see that there were people in Delhi who completely lacked ‘exposure’. She was extremely good looking, he said, but nothing about her personality appealed to him. He said, What I tell you might sound very shallow, but I hope you don’t judge me. A rishta was recommended by a friend of my parents. They said the girl is very pretty and they have their own house in North Delhi, and she is an MA. So, I thought to myself, why not, let’s try this out. We went to their house and they were very nice, offered us lot of sweets and things. After a few minutes she entered the room, and she really was very pretty. Then, as you know, the tradition is, we were asked to chat in the adjoining room. She was very shy, and I began the conversation, and the first thing I asked her was what kind of movies she likes. And I was so disappointed because she said she likes Salman Khan! I mean, sure his movies are masala [entertaining] but who likes them […] I was shocked to know that she had never watched FRIENDS. How can this be? She grew up in Delhi not some village. How can she not know of the most popular series of our time. She simply did not know anything! I was really put off. Also, she did not speak very good English. She was a nice girl, don’t get me wrong, but I think she was meant to fit a traditional Marwari setting. I was not looking for that. I wanted someone who can relate to me, who has exposure…

Another interviewee further delved into the makings of ‘exposure’, as she explained that simply having a multinational company job does not imply that one has ‘exposure’. I met Shamita, aged 30, at a restaurant in Khan market. Shamita is working at a marketing strategy company and completed her Master’s from Mumbai. She began our conversation by stating that her friends lament her for having ‘high standards’, which they believe is the reason that she is single. On constant berating by her friends to ‘lower’ her standards, she agreed to go on a date with her friend’s friend, whom she met at a party. He was not terrible to look at, she said, and had impressive educational qualifications—an MBA from one of India’s most reputed institutions and was on a high-paying job. Yet, at their very first meeting, she concluded that she would not be able to spend the rest of her life with him. She explained that there was nothing ‘majorly off’ about him, but it was really the ‘small things’ that ticked her off. She described their first date when they went to a multi-cuisine restaurant. When they were placing their order, she was a bit disconcerted when he enquired from the waiter, the difference between spaghetti, linguine, and penne pasta. She was shocked that he was unaware of these ‘basic’ things about Italian cuisine, and this was a big turn off for her. When she retold this incident to her friends, they reprimanded her for being ‘snooty’ and convinced her to give him another chance. She reluctantly agreed. This time they met at a Mexican restaurant. She said, We were having a decent conversation and all the while I was telling myself, “okay, this is not as bad, I can deal with this.” But then, he called the waiter and asked him what a tortilla is, and what guacamole is. This was so embarrassing for me. Any person with exposure, and especially one who has lived in Delhi and in fact, South Delhi, knows what these things

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are. […] But then then worst happened– the food arrived, and he started eating burrito like it is roti-sabzi. You know, like breaking it like a roti. I know it sounds horrible, but I lost my appetite. I could not believe someone could massacre a dish like this!

She continued, I know it is not a big deal as such, but for me it is. It is important that the man I marry knows how to conduct himself and eat properly and has exposure. I like to eat out and have a good time, imagine if I have to keep instructing my husband on how to eat, behave, talk. Also, he was very shy and reserved. […] He told me that he had never been abroad. […] Don’t get me wrong, he was not a bad guy, but he was just not my type.

Shamita explained that prior to this incident, she did not place much importance to ‘exposure’. Like most people, including her parents, she was of the opinion that a ‘good match’ is someone who is well-educated and has a good job. It was with this experience, and indeed her own experiences of leisure, travelling, which made her realise that it is important for her future husband to have ‘exposure’ and a cosmopolitan personality, like her. After this incident, Shamita specified that she only wants to date men who have travelled widely and have either studied or worked abroad, even if for a short period of time. These accounts made me see the links between profession, global outlook, and a modern self-fashioning, which is increasingly enabled and perhaps ‘normalised’ by India’s ‘open’ economy and the employment of the middle class in this new private-global work cultures. To that extent, ‘exposure’ is associated with a ‘new’ middle-class identity. Fuller and Narsimhan (2007, 2014) too find the salience of ‘exposure’ in their study of the IT sector employees in Chennai. They explain how the highly educated IT employers of Brahmin identity practise caste endogamy, yet they also emphasise on marrying someone with ‘exposure’. This is because their employment status has led them to lead an urban way of life (in Chennai), and they desire to marry someone who too has experience of living in urban cultures and therefore can relate to them as well as ‘fit in’ to their new middle-class status life. In this way, ‘exposure’ not only shapes the definition of a ‘good match’ but also becomes an important dimension of one’s modern middle-class ‘self’.

5.4 A Good-Looking Spouse A cursory read of newspaper matrimonial advertisements immediately brings out the importance of outer beauty in the construction of a ‘good match’. These advertisements, especially for prospective brides, clearly state a preference for a good-looking spouse, often described as ‘fair-skinned’, tall, and slim. The advent of photography has certainly worked in favour of this characteristic, as now, a prospective spouse may be instantly rejected or accepted solely on the basis of their photograph. The matrimonial agencies that I visited, completed their registration process only upon receiving a few photographs of the prospective bride/groom. Indeed, matrimonial websites too require the profile users to upload a few of their pictures. At the same

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time, in order to protect the privacy of their user, they do not necessarily display the pictures to all other website visitors. Instead, they let the user decide how and when they would like to reveal their picture. This is to say the websites offer an option, whereby a user chooses not to display their picture but reveal it only once they have accepted an ‘interest’ from a prospective suitor, and the other option is when the user signs up for a ‘higher’ pay-package and allows only other ‘high’ package (or as they name it ‘premium users’) to be able to view the uploaded picture. Also, in some websites, putting up a profile picture is not mandatory, yet the user is constantly reminded by pop-up messages or emails that they will receive a higher ‘interest’ only if their profile also contains their picture. To that extent, there is little escape from the expectations of physical beauty in the process of spouse-selection. During one of my conversations with an ‘offline manager’ of a matrimonial website, Mrs. Dhingra, she explained to me that she always encourages her clients to upload at least 2–3 pictures of the candidate, each displaying a different characteristic, for example, one picture in an Indian attire, another in a western attire, and a third one depicting their leisure interest (hiking, playing a sport). According to her, the pictures, more than the information on the profile, are the first entry point, as it were, into the profile, and therefore, the pictures have to be most appealing and attractive to garner interest from the ‘right’ candidates. She commented, ‘one’s face speaks a thousand words’, and therefore, it is of utmost importance that the clients upload ‘good’ pictures on their profiles. Indeed, I noted that marrying individuals and their families have long deliberations over which pictures to upload on a matrimonial profile. Such was the case with Antara, aged 29, who works at a leading publishing house in Delhi. Antara lives with her parents, who are both employed at private companies, and her younger brother is working in a multinational company in Mumbai. We met over coffee in Connaught Place (CP), where she discussed how her parents have been worried about her marriage prospects to the extent that they have now registered her on three matrimonial websites in order to maximise her chances of meeting someone suitable. Yet, they have been unsuccessful in finding a ‘good match’. Her mother, has therefore, decided to ‘revamp’ her profile, she said, particularly by updating her pictures by putting up more attractive ones. At first, Antara took great offence at this suggestion and got into an argument with her mother, for she did not find anything unattractive about her pictures. Her mother however insisted that she should display her personality, especially her ‘modern’ self through her pictures. When she discussed this with her best friend, she too advised Antara to change her pictures. She said, My mother thinks my current pictures don’t do justice to my personality and I come across as very ordinary. She wants me to upload better pictures that are more appealing. She wants me to go to some picturesque background and get pictures clicked especially for the website. In fact, at one point she suggested I go to a proper photographer. I find all this so odd. But I have agreed to get ‘special’ pictures clicked but I am not going to a photographer. I have simply asked my friends to click nice pictures of me in some flowery gardens. […] We have also decided to put some pictures from my holiday in Europe […] I am wearing shorts in one of those pictures and my mother was shocked when I suggested that we put it up. She thinks it will make me look too modern (says with a laughter).

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Pictures, therefore, are the fastest way of ascertaining a prospective spouse’s good look as well as personality. Indeed, pictures and their omnipresence (on account of mobile phones with camera, and social media platforms) have also become the ideal medium through which the professional middle class expresses their personality and moralities. At a get-together with some of my interviewees, a few of them started sharing stories of ‘weird’ and ‘good’ profiles that they have seen on matrimonial websites and explained how they judge the profile user on the basis of these pictures— to ascertain if the user is a ‘wannabe’ or docile or pretentious or pompous. They all agreed that it is important to communicate ‘who you are’ through these pictures, though, as one commented, it is also best ‘not to reveal too much of yourself’. As the conversation shifted to what sort of pictures should be put up to make one’s profile more appealing, the verdict was to upload those pictures, irrespective of a ‘cool’ background (foreign location, seaside, and so on) that flatter one’s physical features, that is, where one’s complexion is bright, hair is looking healthy and thick, and a sweet smile and smart clothes.12 Indeed, these were the most popular characteristics of accepted standards of beauty, which were reinforced in almost all my interactions with marrying individuals. I interviewed a recently married man, Karan, aged 30. Instead of beginning with his romantic experiences, Karan decided to begin the story of his romantic life by describing his meeting with his wife, as he commented ‘marriage is about compromise’. When he entered the formal space of spouse-selection, his primary requirement was that the girl should belong to Delhi and has a ‘good’ education, that is, from reputable institutions, just like him. He wanted an equal partner, he said, so that they can build a life together. One day, his matrimonial agent requested that he has a look at a ‘party’ from Jaipur, but Karan refused the option because the girl was not very educated (she had studied only in Jaipur) and was working in a small firm there. Karan’s mother, however insisted that he at least looks at the biodata and the girl’s photograph. When Karan saw her photograph, he was ‘bowled over’, he said. I thought to myself, wow, what is in Jaipur’s water! (said with a laughter). We decided to meet the family immediately. So, my parents, elder brother, his wife, and I met with her parents, and a café in Green Park. The moment I entered, I first met her mother and she was so beautiful and elegant. In my head, it was a ‘yes’ [to the prospective alliance] then only because I believe a woman eventually looks like her mother, so if her mother looks beautiful at the age of 60 then she will also look like that when she grows old. […] After a few minutes, she joined us, and I thought to myself that photographs don’t lie. She was as beautiful and impressive as in her picture. […] At the end of that meeting we both agreed to marry each other.

During a conversation with a matrimonial agent, she explained to me that profiles of ‘girls’ who are good looking are easiest to match because people are ready to 12 This

is not to say that beauty standards are set in stone. Munshi (2001), for example, explains that the notion of Indian beauty has shifted from a voluptuous, long-haired actresses of the 60s and 70s, to Baywatch style short hair, toned bodies. Though this research did not delve deeper into this aspect, yet it was apparent that there are certain specific expectations or characteristics that define a woman’s beauty, and these characteristics were invoked by marrying individual, their parents, and the matrimonial agents.

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compromise on any shortfalls of the girl (education, family background) as long as she is fair-skinned and beautiful to look at. Karan had done precisely that as he had willingly compromised on two criteria that were initially important to him (education and profession) to marry a good-looking woman. In fact, some interviewees went on to argue that not only do pretty women have it easy in the ‘marriage market’, but their professional journeys too are easier than their not-so-good-looking counterparts. One evening, I was out for dinner with some of my interviewees, all women. Our conversations were on sexual harassment at workplace, strategies that women have to adopt to get their voices heard in workplace and the omnipresent problem of mansplaining. Only one woman of the four was married, and soon the discussion steered towards the difficulties faced by ‘strong’ and successful women in finding an eligible man. They vehemently argued that men might appreciate woman’s success and good educational accomplishments in the public space but when it comes to choosing a wife, their only criterion is that she should be good looking. They complained that men gauge a ‘good match’ on the basis of physical beauty than emotional or intellectual compatibility. Neha, aged 30, said, Good looking women have it easy in life. They find it easier to get a job. I remember when I completed my Master’s it was all the pretty women who had campus recruitments for HR department jobs. It was women like us, with greasy hair and dark complexion who had to struggle hard to get a job […] let’s admit it men like to have good looking women around them. And this applies to marriage also. If you are good looking you don’t have to be intelligent, men would love to marry you.

The other women affirmed this point of view, and though they all considered themselves to be attractive, they did not consider themselves ‘good looking’, or slim, or fair-skinned. Renu, aged 31, another single woman in the group, commented A good looking woman does not need to ‘compromise’ in finding a husband. Everyone thinks that she is a catch, and so the best guys go to them. […] Look at me, I don’t have long legs like Deepika Padukone, or a figure or smile like Katrina Kaif. I know I am short and fat, and that it won’t be easy to find someone for me. A matrimonial agent very bluntly told my mother ‘compromise to karna padega’ (you will have to compromise in finding a suitable match). I mean let’s be serious, do good looking women ever have to ‘compromise’?

Men too were not completely free from the pressures of looking good in order to be successful in the marriage market. Some men I interviewed explained that they (or people known to them) are constantly rejected by women due to physical shortfalls such as being bald, of a short height, or overweight. One such daunting account was given by Dhruv, who has an appealing ‘profile’ but has not yet been able to find a ‘good match’. He is highly educated, runs his own company, is the only son, and his father a senior government bureaucrat. Aged 30 and standing at 5 ft 5 inches, with all the right social networks in place and a respectable educational background, Dhruv has been looking for a suitable spouse for over four years now but to no avail. He said, I think my short height is the main problem and the fact that I am balding doesn’t help. I know that women have a lot of pressure to be good-looking to get a good guy, but so do men. I have been looking for so long but women I like don’t like me back. Most of the

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rishtas suggested to me are of women who are much lower than me in education and social background or are not good looking at all. I don’t feel like marrying them. […]

Other men too discussed the pressure to look good and be presentable. In fact, a few also confessed to have undergone hair transplant surgeries as they had begun to bald in their late 20s as they believed that their balding was hindering their chances of finding ‘good looking’ women. It was indeed ironic that average-looking men were not too pleased with proposal from average looking women and openly expressed their desire to marry ‘good looking’ that is, fair-skinned, women. Having acknowledged men’s tribulations in spouse-selection on account of their ‘average’ looks, it is also to be said that they certainly had more leverage in by-passing this otherwise integral constituent of a ‘good match’. One of the reasons why this criterion was not binding on them was due to the widely held rule of hypergamy, according to which, a prospective bride’s family desired for their daughter to marry into a ‘higher’ family, either in relation to caste, financial, or social status. Therefore, if a man was not physically attractive, but occupied a respectable social and economic position, he had a good chance to marry a good-looking woman. This was evident in several of my conversations with professional women who explained that whilst at a younger age, they were filled with the desire of marrying a ‘hunk’, as they grew older they realised that a man’s real worth is in his ability to provide for his family (discussed further in the next chapter). This was the case with Disha, aged 28, who after completing her MBA from a reputed institute in Hyderabad, moved back to Delhi as she got a high-paying job in a multinational company in Gurugram. Disha is recently engaged to be married to Prayut, whom she met on a matrimonial website. She describes Prayut as ‘average looking’, a hard worker, who is ambitious. She explained how she was a ‘different person’ when in college, as back then she just wanted to go out with the ‘cool dudes’. These relationships, however, never lasted long. She said. When I was in college, I was like a typical girl who is easily impressed by good-looking hunks. We all have that phase you know. Tall, fair, handsome, Jat type. I too dated men likes these in college. But as you grow older you realise the importance of other things, and don’t just want to look for a Greek God!

She explained that with time she became more aware that marriage is a practical decision and should not be based only on physical and sexual attraction. When she first registered on a matrimonial website, she would shortlist people on the basis of their photograph and was easily put-off by less attractive men. She did meet a few ‘good looking’ profiles, she said, but nothing worked out. After a few months, she decided not to judge on the basis of looks but focus on education, and as she started looking for an educated groom, she found her husband’s profile who was educated at IIT Chennai and works in Hyderabad. She said that she felt ‘something was right’ with this profile and sent him an ‘interest’, and he immediately reciprocated. He flew to Delhi to meet her one weekend, and the evening was very engaging and pleasant. They spoke regularly on the phone thereafter, and after three months, they decided to marry each other. He is not attractive, she said, but he has a loving and caring nature, and a respectable professional status and an enviable salary. ‘What more can a girl ask for?’ she commented.

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These accounts thus explain that physical beauty is an important construct for a ‘good match’, and where the person (man or woman) is not good looking, the match is immediately deemed as a ‘compromise’. It is of course not my contention that this criterion is a ‘new’ one. Rather, I want to bring attention to the ways in which it occupies the imaginings and realities of being a professional middle class. This is to say, whilst the middle class is aware that there are a range of qualities that constitute a ‘good match’ including professional success and exposure, all of which are related to the ‘new’ work and leisure cultures, yet an attractive person continues to draw in advantages. Though independent and confident, especially due to their professional success, women still seem to doubt their ‘self’ on account of not matching beauty standards set by the society at large, and fashion and film industry specifically. Indeed, the bourgeoning beauty industry with its unmeetable beauty standards is certainly furthering the importance of this criterion by constantly reminding women and men to ‘improve’ their body by undergoing treatments, using beauty products, and by and generally emphasising on the merits of ‘presentability’. In some ways, this seems to be a symptom of the modern world which insists on the activity of ‘viewing’. This is to say, with the use of mobile apps, social media as Instagram and Facebook, the current generation seems to be defined by its ability to ‘view’ and be ‘seen’. Whilst photography enabled a quick decision on matchmaking, the contemporary world’s obsession with ‘viewing’ (viewing if someone has read your message or not, viewing people’s activity live on social media, or viewing their photographs) has certainly enhanced the importance of ‘looks’ in the construction of a ‘good match’. *** One of the most important concepts, as it were, in matchmaking is that of a ‘good match’. The aim of matchmakers, parents, and marrying individuals is not simply to find a spouse, but a ‘good match’. I noted that the characteristics of a good match are not always set in stone, nor are they easily adjustable. In this chapter, thus, I have not only discussed some of the salient features of a ‘good match’, but also explained how some of these features might be flexible (especially regarding caste), and how some other criteria (hypergamy) find new ways to articulate themselves (class). On the basis of this, I argue that the journey of spouse-selection promotes negotiations especially between criteria that have historically been relevant (such as caste endogamy) and those that seem more pertinent to contemporary identities of being middle-class times (such as exposure). Unpacking the constituents of a ‘good match’, in such a way, encourages to adopt a new lens to understand both the practices of caste and the strategies of marriage in the context of class mobility and modernity. Furthermore, as is evident from the discussion in this chapter, the construction of a ‘good match’ aims to maintain and reproduce class boundaries, as the constituents of a good match primarily relate to articulations of class—income, professional status, taste, style of life, thereby ensuring that people of the same class—achieved or aspired—intermarry. The consumer culture and changing aesthetics of the city (Brosius 2010; Mazzarella 2002; Srivastava 2014) allow the middle class to imagine themselves as one community, and thus, they desire a partner who can also relate

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to these symbols of middle-class identities. Moreover, as the professional middle class travels to different parts of the country and the globe, in pursuit of education and professional advances, they are exposed to different tastes, styles of life, and experiences. They pride on these experiences of ‘exposure’ and desire to find a spouse who too has similar experiences or aspires for them. In the process of deliberation on choosing a spouse, and through one’s own romantic experiences, the individual realises their affiliations to new contexts and identities—being global, Indian, urban, middle class, or ‘traditional’—and translates them into their desires of a suitable match. In that regard, we note that it is in the process of realising the contours of a ‘good match’ that the individual is also able to construct and realise their own sense of ‘self’ and self-fashion themselves as being modern, global, and middle class.

References Abraham, Janaki. 2015. Contingent Caste Endogamy and Patriarchy. In Conjugality Unbound: Sexual Economies, State Regulation, and the Marital Form in India, ed. Srimati Basu and Lucinda Ramberg, 160–189. New Delhi: Women Unlimited. Béteille, André. 1969. Castes: Old and New. London: Asia Publishing House. Béteille, André. 1991. Caste in a South Indian Village. In Dipankar Gupta, ed. Social Stratification, 146–162. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bhandari, Parul. 2019. Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge Kegan and Paul. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Experiences of Groups. Berkeley Journal of Sociology 32: 1–17. Brosius, Christiane. 2010. India’s Middle Class: New Forms of Urban Leisure, Consumption and Prosperity. London and New York: Routledge Kegan and Paul. Chakravarti, Anand. 2014. Caste and Agrarian Class: A View from Bihar. The Problem of Caste, 129–140. Orient BlackSwan: New Delhi. Chuki, Sonam. 2014. Marriage in Bhutan. In Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Deshpande, Satish. 2003. Contemporary India: A Sociological View. New Delhi: Viking. Dickey, Sara. 2002. Anjali’s Prospects: Class Mobility in Urban India. In Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. Dianes P. Mines and Sarah Lamb, 214–226. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Dickey, Sara. 2011. The Pleasures and Anxieties of Being in the Middle: Emerging Middle-Class Identities in Urban South India. Modern Asian Studies 3 (August): 559–599. Donner, Henrike. 2011. Being Middle-Class in India: A Way of Life. London and New York: Routledge. Dumont, Louis. 1970. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Fuller, Chris J., and Haripriya Narasimhan. 2007. Information Technology Professionals and the New-Rich Middle Class in Chennai (Madras). Modern Asian Studies 41 (01): 121–150. Fuller, Chris J., and Haripriya Narasimhan. 2014. Tamil Brahmins: Making of a Middle-Class Caste. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ghurye, G.S. 1991. Features of the Caste System. In Social Stratification, ed. Dipankar Gupta, 35–48. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gooptu, Nandini. 2013. Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India: Studies in Youth, Class, Work and Media. Oxford: Routledge.

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Jodhka, Surinder, and Aseem Prakash. 2016. The Indian Middle Class. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kumar, Nita. 2011. The Middle-Class Child: Ruminations on Failure. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 220–245. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Madan, Triloki Nath. 1965. Family and Kinship: A Study of the Pandits of Rural Kashmir. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Majumdar, Rochona. 2009. Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Mazzarella, William. 2002. Cindy at Taj: Cultural Enclosure and Corporate Potentateship in an Era of Globalization. In Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. Mines Diane and Sarah Lamb, 387–399. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Munshi, Shoma. 2001. Marvelous Me: The Beauty Industry and the Construction of the ‘Modern’ Indian Woman’. In Images of the “Modern Woman” In Asia: Global Media/Local Meanings, ed. Shoma Munshi. Surrey: Curzon Press. Pocock, David Francis. 1954. Hypergamy of the Patidars. In Professor Ghurye Felicitation, ed. Kanaiyalal Morilal Kapadia. Bombay: Popular Press. Radhakrishnan, Smitha. 2011. Gender, the IT Revolution and the Making of a Middle-Class India. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 192–219. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Sherman, Rachel. 2017. Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sheth, D.L. 2014. Secularisation of Caste and the Making of the New Middle Class. The Problem of Caste, 119–128. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Srinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar. 1996. Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avtar. New Delhi: Penguin. Srivastava, Sanjay. 2011. Urban Spaces, Disney-Divinity and the Moral Middle Classes in Delhi. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray. New Delhi: Routledge. Srivastava, Sanjay. 2014. Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Tilche, Alice. 2018. Marriage and the Crisis of Peasant Society in Gujarat, India. The Journal of Peasant Studies 45 (7): 1518–1538. Upadhyay, Carol. 2011. Software and the ‘New’ Middle Class in the ‘New India’. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 167–192. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Upadhyay, Carol. 2014. Employment, Exclusion and ‘Merit’ in the Indian IT Industry. The Problem of Caste, 141–151. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Varma, Pavan. 2007. The Great Indian Middle Class. New Delhi: Penguin. Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society, vols. 1 and 2, ed. G. Roth and C. Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chapter 6

The Gendered Makings of a Modern Couple

A common site in Delhi is of couples holding hands, sitting next to each other, engaged in deep conversations, or even quarrelling. This site of ‘togetherness’ in the hustle–bustle of the city is certainly indicative of the increasingly open discourse, if not complete acceptance, of pre-marital romance in modern India. In crucial ways, moreover, the freedom and ability (spatial and affective) to be ‘seen’ together; to be ‘viewed’ as a couple, is regarded by several professional middle class as one of the defining features of their generation as well as their ‘new’ middle-class status.1 Furthermore, they explained to me that not only is their generation or the ‘modern’ times different in the sense that it allows the ‘display’ of one’s relationship more openly in public but also that their private, interpersonal dynamics are more equal than the previous generations’. Men proudly proclaimed that their girlfriend is a working and independent woman, and women expressed happiness in their boyfriend’s open and unabashed support to their lifestyle, especially regarding her going out, drinking, partying, and having a career. Indeed, the starting point of many of my conversations with the professional middle class was them describing the distinctiveness of their modern coupledom.2 ‘Equality’, couples explained to me, is the cornerstone of a ‘changing India’, as it demonstrates that men and women are basing their relationship on love, companionship and ‘connection’, and are not blindly following the rules dictated by their family.

1 This

narrative or opinion is not devoid of contingencies, as for example, Brosius (2013) draws our attention to the interventions in celebrations of love in public, especially the celebration of Valentine’s Day. 2 Facebook was an apt medium to witness the representations of a modern couple as the couple would routinely put up pictures of their leisure trips outside Delhi, enjoying beer or wine together, fine dining to celebrate their anniversary, and so on. © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_6

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Recent works (Dickey 2011; Donner 2002, 2016; Twamley 2014) have discussed how love (individual, companionship, interpersonal) has come to be an important marker of modern identity for the middle class.3 In due course of this research, I found that the idiom of love—one that becomes a basis of claiming a modernity—is not only about being able to realise a desire or fantasy (of companionship, sexual relationship) but is also based on certain imaginings, expressions, and practices of gender egalitarian relationships in coupledom. This is to say, the ideal of ‘modern’ love also implied more gender equal dynamics between the couple, regarding sharing household work, supporting each other in testing times, and enjoying leisure activities together. These narrations were indeed appealing, and almost every couple I interacted with clarified that their interpersonal dynamics are far more ‘equal’ than their parents’. Yet, as I spent more time with these couples and discussed the makings of a ‘good wife’ and a ‘good husband’, I noted how gender asymmetrical expectations shape their interpersonal dynamics, which were not necessarily starkly different than the dynamics of the previous generation. In this chapter, therefore, I deconstruct and unpack the widely promoted imagery of a modern couple, by revealing the marrying individual’s gender-related expectations of an ideal spouse. I begin the chapter by delineating the image of a ‘modern’ couple. In the next section, I critically appraise this image by bringing exclusive attention to the role expectations of a ‘good wife’. I explain that a ‘modern’ woman is doubly burdened as she is expected to make a successful professional career as well as manage household duties and is also subject to new regimes of control and regimentation regarding her dressing, speech, and dietary habits. In the final section, I discuss the expectations of a ‘good husband’, which unequivocally assert a gender asymmetry between a man and a woman, as the man is expected to be the main breadwinner, and in this way, the rule of hypergamy (as also discussed in Chap. 5) is maintained in ‘modern’ marriages and coupledom. I thus argue that behind the talk of gender egalitarianism, the modern couple desires a hypergamous arrangement, as for example, men feel in control by being ‘better’ than their girlfriends/wife and women explicate the benefits of ‘marrying up’. Interestingly, this sentiment is not justified by the rationale of class mobility but explained in the language of ‘respect’. I thus demonstrate that though there are certain visible changes in the experiences of coupledom—couple-centric events, promotion of romance by the advertising and hospitality world, and Bollywood—the qualitative experience is not starkly different from earlier times as is often the claim. Indeed, it is possible that to some the ‘modern’ couple’s dynamics are more encumbering especially, as women are subject to more pressures to perform and excel.

3 Fuller

and Narsimhan (2008, 2014) cite the rise of what they call ‘companionate’ marriages amongst the IT sector employees belonging to the Vattimas caste in Chennai. Having moved to Chennai to pursue their professional aspirations, the IT sector employees experience ‘exposure’ of the urban and global ways and desire similar outlook of their spouse. However, they also continue to give importance to the principle of caste endogamy as they choose a suitable partner based on their values of companionship from within their caste. They also note that whilst women are encouraged to work and are educated, they are expected to prioritise family over their job (2014: Chapter 4).

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6.1 The Imagery of the Couple In the last decade or so, there have emerged annual surveys explaining changing trends towards romance and marriage, according to which young couples desire to marry for love and seek a ‘connection’ in marriage (Kapila 2011; Uberoi 2011). This supposed trend of change also seems to be reflective in the new storylines of Bollywood movies, whereby the recent movies tend to focus more on the interpersonal dynamics of the couple as opposed to the movies of 80s and 90s that mainly depicted a couple’s struggle in getting their union accepted by their respective families.4 These recent movies trace the vicissitudes of modern romance, as the couple puts efforts to overcome long distance, break-ups, different professional ambitions, and so on (Bhandari 2017).5 An exclusive focus on the interpersonal dynamic of a couple, where the family is rarely in the narrative of their romance, or in fact is supportive of the romance, is symbolic of a particular self-fashioning and self-making of the professional middle class. These films, television or web series, in a way speak to the desire or reality of urban romance, wherein the couple intends to focus only on themselves—that is, how they get along with each other, what makes them stay together in a relationship, and what reasons lead to a break-up. Whether reflective of reality of not, such a depiction certainly speaks to the desire of the professional middle class to be seen as ‘modern’. In some respects, this is not entirely a new phenomenon as Majumdar, in her study of colonial middle class of Bengal too notes that in order to present themselves as ‘modern’, married couples tended to display their photographs (as a couple) in their homes, leaving out the extended family (2009: Chapter 4). These photographs communicate the bhadralok couple’s desire and imagination to be recognised as a nuclear family, in a bid to assert themselves as being modern as they did not want to completely embed themselves in the structures of kinship and larger family. A similar observation is made by Uberoi (2008) in her study of bridal magazines, and how they promote a fantasy world of marriage for the brides. Uberoi cites Bonnie Adrian’s ethnography on Taiwanese weddings, wherein Adrian argues that a bridal photo shoots present a very different image of the wedding, or marriage at large, as 4 For further discussion on the interaction between media and social action, particularly of romance

and Bollywood, television, and advertisements see Bhandari (2017), Brosius (2013), Mazzarella (2003), Uberoi (2006a). Brosius in explaining the growing significance of Valentine’s Day, writes, ‘for the first time in postcolonial India, romantic love became part of a rhetoric of a seemingly unrestricted way of life in which decision making is allegedly based on two people in love with each other… Valentine’s Day promoted an individual’s choice for a partner, legitimated the desire to be ‘in love’ without necessarily wanting to be married to the same person… (2013: 256). 5 One such movie was Love Aaj Kal (love nowadays) released in 2009 directed by Imtiaz Ali, a director most well known for his realistic depictions of contemporary experiences of love and longing. The movie traced the journey of a ‘modern’ couple living in London who decided to breakup to pursue their professional ambitions in different parts of the world. Another movie, though not a ‘hit’ as Love Aaj kal, was Break ke Baad (After the Break-up), which depicts the ‘back and forth’ in a long-distance relationship couple. This is to say, recent movies have brought attention to the deliberations and negotiations of the interpersonal dynamics of a couple, especially not relating to parents or caste or community identities at large.

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the brides get photographed only with the groom, leaving out the extended family in order to present their ‘marriage as if it were about affect and personal pleasure, not about kinship and reproduction’ (Adrian 2003:66 as cited in Uberoi 2008: 250). The absence of kin groups from these photographs, explains Adrian, does not imply that contemporary marriages in Taiwan are more couple-centric, rather they communicate that the extended kin still has a ‘complicating presence in the couples’ real lives’ (Uberoi 2008:251). Uberoi comments, ‘In the Taiwan case, and in China too, the tension between the bride/couple, on the one hand, and the kin network, on the other, is expressed in the institution of the bridal photo shoot which is quite separate from the wedding itself’ (ibid:253). The professional middle class of Delhi too seem to engage in a similar discourse as often on social media they display pictures of their coupledom—in each other’s embrace, enjoying moment of leisure, food, and holidaying, to exaggerate the fact or imagination that their relationship is indeed all about interpersonal dynamic; away from the encumbering presence of family or extended kin. Moreover, this image also emphasises that they are ‘equals’ in their partnership. I was introduced to Nikita by one of my other interviewees who insisted that I meet her as she is a ‘cool girl with a cool relationship’. After a telephonic conversation, Nikita suggested that I meet her and her boyfriend, Shantanu. On the day of the interview, Nikita and Shantanu were already present at the coffee house in Khan market, sitting close together, comfortably and proudly displaying their physical connection by holding hands and occasionally pecking each other. I complimented them on their ‘togetherness’, as it were, and asked a few questions on their very palpable ‘connection’. Nikita explained that they are always together even when apart physically. She said, We are constantly in touch via phone, or when either of us is travelling we Skype regularly. […] We are in the same profession, so we have so much to discuss. We take each other’s advice regarding work […] Our parents know about our relationship and are absolutely fine with it. We do spend a lot of time together, don’t we [says smilingly, looking at Shantanu].

I asked Shantanu what he found attractive about Nikita and he replied, I like smart, independent women. I have grown up around such women. My mother has a small business and my father always supported her in it. Nikita is well-educated and a sorted woman, who wants to make a career, I don’t think I will ever be able to be with someone who doesn’t have the drive. Nikita knows what she is doing, is confident, and that’s what I like about her. She is your modern Indian woman.

Nikita smiled and nodded proudly at Shantanu’s description of her and went on to provide her reasons for dating him. She said, I am sure you know how men can be. They can be controlling, making a woman feel inferior. But Shantanu is not like that. He is a very secure man. He has no issues with me drinking [alcohol], only when I get drunk [says with a laughter]. He has never stopped me from going out with friends or partying. He cares about my safety of course, so he will pick and drop me when he can, or will ensure that I am at home at the right time as you know Delhi is really not a safe place, but he is not the jealous types. […] We are on the same page about most things. I think that makes it all easy.

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In due course of time, I was introduced to Shantanu and Nikita’s other friends, and as I spent more time with their group of friends and colleagues, I noted the potency of the image of a ‘modern couple’—they all claimed to have a ‘connection’ with each other, which they said proved important in overcoming minor fights and disagreements. At times, the men joked that their girlfriend wears the ‘pants’ in the relationship, implying that she is the controlling one, and women proudly explained that their boyfriend is a ‘modern’ man who supports her professional ambitions and shares her dreams. These narratives were well presented on social media as couples routinely uploaded pictures of themselves, on Instagram or Facebook, enjoying sunset dinners, travelling across the world, sipping wine, playing adventure sports, and so on. The women often posed in western attire, as the men held them close. In several ways then, these pictures seemed to espouse elements of gender equality and a strong ‘connection’, and experience of romance. At the same time, it also became evident that these connections were shaped by gender scripts. Upon scratching the surface of what constitutes companionship, I found unwavering expectations of appropriate femininity and masculinity. It is of course foolhardy to assume that a ‘modern’ couple will base itself on a tabula rasa, for as scholarship has explained that the modern is not necessarily a disjuncture from a genealogical past (Bhandari 2018a; Dube 2012) and is in fact an engagement with the past. To that extent, a ‘modern’ couple too will build its principles on previous idioms of coupledom. As such, I realised that the expressions of love and companionship and ideals of ‘modern’ coupledom remain entangled with the social histories of being Indian middle class, especially as reiterated through the gendered role expectations of a ‘good wife’ and a ‘good husband’—terms that were routinely used by the ‘modern couple’ to ascertain or reinforce that their choice of spouse is indeed ‘marriage material’.

6.2 The Good Wife: Establishing Respectable Modernity Joshi (2001) in his study of the middle class in Lucknow noted that an ideal middleclass woman is one who is ‘educated yet veiled’. An educated woman was a desirable spouse for not only did her education signal an embrace of modernity (in promoting women’s education) but it also ensured that the next generation is well-education and well brought-up, thereby reproducing middle-class privilege.6 There was also the belief that an educated woman can be a threat to established codes of patriarchy and family conduct, as she may make use of her education to critically appraise her subordinate position. A few studies, including Jeffery and Jeffery’s work (1994) on the rural North Indian women, Lakshmi’s research (1988) on Tamil literature, and Chanana’s study (1988), however, explained that education can also be used to

6 For further discussion on the role of woman in reproducing middle-class values through domesticity

see works by Donner (2011a), Kumar (2011), Papaneck (1979).

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inculcate subversive gender roles, as a result of which, an educated woman is not necessarily always a threat to the established order of family or society.7 For the contemporary professional middle class in Delhi too, an educated woman remains the most compelling sign of modernity and therefore, a suitable option for a spouse. An addition to this desirability is that she also be employed professionally. In conversations, men always specified that they want to marry a ‘working woman’, and matrimonial agents as well as parents of marrying individuals too reiterated the growing acceptance of ‘working women’. This requirement was directly linked to a middle class identity, as the matchmakers clarified that business families do not prefer working women.8 For middle class families, a working woman was a desirable ideal on largely two counts: firstly, a double-income couple household would make living easier in an expensive city as Delhi, and secondly, it allowed men and their families to claim being modern, as they were not opposed to women working outside of home. At the same time, this desirability is not unlimited and is accompanied by controls. For example, I discovered that though prospective grooms wanted an ‘educated girl’, she should not be more educated than them, and though they desired to marry a working woman, her professional rank and income should not be higher than theirs.9 In fact, she should not be professionally more ambitious than her husband. Furthermore, the modern professional women were subject to several other restrictions regarding speech, dressing style, work–home balance, and a few works such as by Belliappa (2013), Donner (2008), Radhakrishnan (2011a), trace these mechanisms of control. In my conversations and encounters with the middle class of Delhi, I noted that one of the most important expectations of a modern working woman was the ability of exercising ‘moderation’ (a middle-class morality) in matters of professional ambitions, leisurely activities, and spending, for example. This characteristic, as discussed later in the chapter, is seen as a virtue on the basis of which she is deemed a ‘good wife’ and through which she establishes a respectable modernity.

7 A recent study (Andrist and Desai 2014) based on a survey across 25 states in India, argues that the

gap between marriage and consummation (gauna and when the woman goes to live with husband), is used to educate the betrothed women, for education is seen as a marker of modernity and upward mobility. This study further reveals that the groom’s family does not object to the girl’s education for by supporting the bride’s formal educational journey, they can lay a claim to being modern. 8 For further discussion on women in business families see Bhandari (2018b, 2019) and Ponniah (2018). 9 Lukose (2009) too notes a similar gender asymmetry, whereby a suitable groom is one who has higher educated than the woman. Indeed, one of her informants remarks that if a woman holds a Bachelor’s degree then the man must at least have a PhD. Lukose also explains that obtaining education does not necessarily lead to companionate marriage, as in fact, education for a woman is seen as a ‘danger’ for it is believed that an educated woman will try to assert her romantic desires.

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6.2.1 The Working Woman For the professional middle class, a woman’s ‘working’ status is a direct representation of her and her family’s modernity, independence, and progressive attitude. So much so that almost all the people I interacted with had a disparaging attitude towards a ‘housewife’. Education, I was told especially by prospective grooms, was not enough; a woman also needs to ‘do something’. This was explained in the most direct words by Nitin, a recent MBA graduate, who considered educated women who are not in paid employment as ‘anti-feminists’. He said, All these well-educated women keep talking about empowerment, but they still bank on their fathers and then husbands to provide for them! You will be shocked to know how many educated women I have met who say that ultimately they want to be housewives […] why are you educating yourselves if you don’t want to work and if you want your husband to provide for you? It makes no sense to me […] I cannot marry someone who wants to be a housewife.

Though this did seem to be a popular opinion with the men I interviewed, ironically, they were also of the opinion that a woman must give her career a break upon childbirth. Another merit to marrying a working woman, men explained to me, is that it would keep her busy, and lead to fewer fights and adjustment issues. This view was most candidly expressed by Ashok, aged 30, who has been working in a multinational company for four years now. He explained that marrying a ‘housewife’ is not an option for him. He said, An additional income certainly helps but it is not just about that. If a woman is sitting at home doing nothing, she will constantly nag you. She will have all this free time, and will join kitty parties, gossip, then come home and fight with her husband and in-laws.

Women were happy that being professionally employed is no longer seen as a ‘bold’ step and is not a hindrance in getting a ‘good husband’. In fact, any family that expected a bride-to-be to leave her job at marriage was instantly labelled ‘traditional’. At the same time, I also noted that their independence and freedom to work did not necessarily mean that they were exempt from domestic duties. Radhakrishnan (2011a, b) and Belliapa (2013) explain that an important characteristic for women to be respectably modern is by not foregoing familial responsibilities in pursuit of their professions.10 For example, a woman is expected to opt-out of working longhours to take care (manage) of her household and take a break from her career upon childbirth.11 As Radhkarishnan explains, a modern woman has to strike a balance (2011b, 148). Moreover, employing part-time helps or nannies does not necessarily 10 Scholarship has explained that women are seen as the bearers of honour and national identity, and how for example, their bodies are used to draw the boundaries of nation states and caste and community identities. For further discussion on nationalism and women see Menon and Bhasin (1998), Sarkar (1995, 2001), Uberoi (2006a, b) and for discussion on caste, community, and ethnic identities see Chakravarti (1993), Chowdhry (1997), Welchmann and Hossain (2006). 11 Also, noted by Fuller and Narsimhan (2014: Chap. 4).

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free them from these responsibilities as, in fact, there is greater pressure on them to be efficient household managers for they are no longer expected to physically do housework or provide childcare, but simply manage their staff (Qayum and Ray 2011). This expectation became absolutely clear to me when one Sunday, I was out on lunch with two of my interviewees—Khushi and Sapna—both employed in the same multinational company, earning a high-salary, and married for two years. Both Khushi and Sapna live in a nuclear household, and their in-laws live in different cities (Khushi’s live in Delhi, and she visits them at least once a month). On paper, their family and home situation are of a typical modern working couple—independence, money, and fun. As our lunch progressed I noted that though they presented themselves as the ‘cool’ modern couple, where the woman has fewer household responsibilities than a housewife, their household too, in fact, did not seem to run efficiently without the intervention of the ‘modern’ working woman. During the course of our three-hour lunch, Khushi received three phone calls from her mother-in-law who wanted to consult her and give her instructions for a family lunch scheduled for the next weekend. In the first phone call, her mother-in-law wanted to check if Khushi had sent confirmations to a guest. After an hour, she phoned again to inform Khushi that one guest is ‘pure veg’ so Khushi will have to order an eggless dessert. After the second call, I remarked that Khushi’s mother-in-law seems very fastidious, to which she responded, Yea, she is very particular about hosting people nicely. Being the only daughter-in-law, I have to be involved and cannot get out of things. I appreciate what she does but sometimes it gets to me. I am so busy the entire week and I only get time during the weekend, and then I end up with these family responsibilities. I am so exhausted. But I can’t even say no. Kya Karen (What to do) aisi hi hai zindagi (such is life).

As we were paying the bill, her mother-in-law phoned again and seemed surprised that Khushi was still at lunch. She had phoned to remind her to also buy shagun lifafafas (envelopes to give money), and Khushi responded, ‘Yes, I am still out but will go to the shop straight from here’. It was not difficult to sense Khushi’s exhaustion and irritation at this phone call. Whilst Khushi was busy coordinating next week’s family get together, Sapna seemed to be managing her household remotely, as her husband phoned her once and sent her several text messages to ask about the milkman’s payments, instructions to their cook for the evening meal, and so on. Annoyed at her husband’s incompetence to handle the house for four hours that she is away, she said, When I am giving him instructions on how much to pay the milkman, what food is to be cooked by the maid, he is busy watching television or sports. The moment I leave the house he panics and calls me non-stop, and spoils my ‘me time’. I mean seriously, can we get a moment’s rest!

Not only this Sunday lunch but several other conversations with women made me see how working women are doubly burdened. In upkeeping the image of being modern, they are expected to be employed and be financially independent, yet they do not necessarily find time or space to enjoy their freedom. Then there are those who

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feel guilty of not spending enough time at home, and perhaps in order to make up for this feeling, end up devoting their non-work time to their household by either being completely involved or remotely managing their domestic duties. To that extent, I noted that though working outside home did provide a sense of independence and autonomy to women, it also was a dotted feeling as at times they were overpowered with a guilt of not being a good wife or good mother.12 In some ways, this guilt seemed heightened due to the presence of part-time staff, as they felt that all they have to do was simply manage household work than physically perform it—a task that is deemed easy to achieve along with maintaining a job.13 Hochschild and Machung (1989) refer to this as a women’s ‘second shift’, where she continues to play the family’s gendered role expectations. Indeed, this is one of the popular ways in which limits are imposed on a working woman by constantly reminding her of her domestic responsibilities. She is not free from these mechanisms of control even in her workplace, as she is expected to conduct herself in a way that exudes temperance and respectability. Radhakrishnan (2011a, b), in her study of the transnational middle class explains how Indian women are expected to uphold their ‘Indianness’ by for example not getting too friendly to their male colleagues, and wearing badges of ‘Indianness’ and their marital status. In my research too, I noted that men who are looking for a prospective spouse from the informal space of spouse-selection as the office do so by keeping a close-tab on the ways their female colleagues conduct themselves to ascertain if she is a ‘good woman’. For example, they will notice how she interacts with other male colleagues or seniors at work. Such was the case with Kapil, a 29–year-old Chartered Account, who met his fiancé, Ashima, at work. Kapil described himself as a middle-class man, who struggled and worked hard to achieve his now comfortable economic situation. At 27, he moved jobs and joined a multinational company, where he met his fiancé. He found her beautiful, he said, but what he found most attractive was her ‘sweet and reserved nature’. She was not like the other ‘tez (sharp) Delhi girls’. She was never ‘overfriendly and ‘knew her boundaries’, he said, as she talked to the point with male colleagues and did not engage in idle gossip. At a work-trip, he confessed his feelings to Ashima, but she immediately rejected him. He said, She said no to me. She said that her family is facing financial troubles and so her focus is to work hard and earn good money to help them. She was not thinking of marriage. This made me respect her even more. Here was this qualified girl whose only purpose was to take care of her family. I thought to myself that if she can love and sacrifice for her family then she will surely do the same for me and my family. After she gave me this reason, I was all the more sure that she is the perfect match for me.

Kapil suggested that they be friends and after six months of close friendship he proposed her for marriage, and this time she agreed.

12 Fuller

and Narasimhan (2014) note a similar attitude towards women’s working status, in their study amongst the middle class in Tamil Nadu. 13 See Ray and Quaym (2009) for further discussion on the ‘servant’ class.

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6.2.2 Patrilocality Apart from expecting her to fulfil domestic duties, another way in which a woman’s professional ambitions are kept in check is by expecting her to give preference to her husband’s professional growth over her own. This is especially evident in the expectation that she move cities for her husband’s career advancement. Scholarship has explained that a common pattern of residence in North Indian kinship is patrilocality, whereby a wife moves in with her husband and his family (Karve 1953; Uberoi 1993; Vatuk 1972). Another type of household arrangement is neolocality, whereby the couple establishes a new and separate household from the man’s family (Uberoi 1993). The professional middle class of Delhi practise either of these two patterns of residence, and what stood out during this research was that often the decision of neolocality was based on the husband’s convenience—his work place and choice of city. As such, a woman’s readiness to move cities or companies, for the career advantage of her husband, is the most compelling marker of her being a ‘good’ wife; one who is ready to sacrifice and adjust for the sake of her family. This is not to say that women always instantly agreed to move cities, but that this was a source of serious negotiation and conflict between a couple. Often, despite putting up resistance, the woman ultimately agreed to settle in the city of her husband’s preference. This was the case with Shalaka, aged 27, an MBA graduate working as a marketing and strategy analyst in a company in Mumbai. I was introduced to her through other interviewees, and we decided to meet for lunch when she was visiting her parents’ home in Delhi. A self-professed ‘Delhi’ girl, Shalakha had moved to Mumbai three years ago to experience a life away from her parents. Within three months of arriving in Mumbai, she met her fiancé, Mahesh. As their relationship progressed, and they decided to marry each other, Shalakha expressed her desire to move back to Delhi. Mahesh did not reject her desire, but suggested that they continue living in Mumbai for a few years as he was expecting a promotion at work. Shalakha agreed. She said, Delhi will always be home. I am really a Delhi girl. But this time in Mahesh’s career is very important. He too wants to move out of Mumbai because he doesn’t like it there, but he says [that] this is not the right time [to move cities] because of his work. […] We will move to Delhi eventually.

Shalakha and I kept in touch, and after four years of this interview, she invited me to her sister’s wedding. I was happy to see her and one of my first questions to her was whether she had moved back to Delhi. 31 years of age now, and with a child, Shalakha said, Mumbai is also my home now. I am in no rush to leave. Plus, we have a child to take care now.

Without trying to come across as too inquisitive, I asked if she prefers Mumbai over Delhi and if she has completely dropped the idea of moving back to Delhi. She said that until a year ago, she was applying for positions in Delhi but then she got pregnant and Mahesh and she decided that it is perhaps better to not shake-up their

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family setting and comfort zone at this important stage of their life. She joked that her husband owes her a ‘big one’, as despite being a ‘strong educated woman’, she gave preference to his career and ambitions over hers. A similar situation was of Shikha, who met her fiancé, Hari, whilst pursuing an MBA degree. Shikha was considered one of the most ‘modern’ women of the MBA cohort: she had lived abroad as a child, spoke with an American accent, and was extremely opinionated. Her classmates joked that she was the dominating one in the relationship, as her boyfriend (Hari) was more reclusive and also seemed intimidated by her. Shikha provided one of the longest and most detailed interviews to me, as she delineated her romantic histories and the dynamics of the current relationship. She said she was extremely happy with Hari, as he is caring, smart, and sensitive, and she hopes to marry him one day. After three years of our interview, I received a message from her on my Facebook account. It was an invitation for her wedding (with Hari). I replied with a congratulatory message and suggested meeting for coffee as I too was in Delhi, and as was she and Hari. She instantly agreed. When we met, she told me that she got a job in Mumbai after MBA, but Hari had a ‘good’ placement in Hyderabad, and they managed a long-distance relationship for a few years. When they decided to marry, it was clear that one of them will have to move to the other’s city. Though they both agreed that Mumbai is a ‘more happening’ city than Hyderabad, yet she decided to move to Hyderabad because Hari was happy with his job and was earning more than her, and her job profile was such that she could work remotely, that is from home. I jokingly commented that I was surprised that someone like Shikha, who is so headstrong, agreed to move cities, to which Hari replied, Shikha was never too happy with her job but I am very happy with mine. Since she was anyways thinking of changing jobs, we thought it would be easier for her to make the career move.

Shikha supported this explanation, and after a whilst when Hari left us alone for a few minutes to run an errand, she said, I know I am not going to like Hyderabad. It is just not my kind of a city. I prefer Mumbai any day. If I wanted, I could have insisted to stay on in Mumbai because I am actually quite settled in my job and have a good routine and set of friends in Mumbai. But you know sometimes you have to make certain sacrifices to make a relationship work. […] I have a few friends in Hyderabad so it is not like I will feel completely alone. But yes, this is not my first choice, and Hari knows it.

6.2.3 The Moral Project of Disciplining: Dressing, Eating, and Drinking An essential component of being modern middle class is displaying an ease in global/western manners of speech, dress, taste, and so on. In other words, one’s global or cosmopolitan middle-class status is achieved not simply by acquiring a

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job in a multinational company or travelling globally; but by also looking the part.14 A modern couple, thus, for example, is also adjudged on their preference of being dressed in ‘western’ clothes. Some women explained to me that their boyfriends feel a sense of pride if they can carry off smart dresses or western wear, for it means that they are not dating ‘behenjis’ (literally meaning sister)—a colloquial term implying that the woman lacks sensuality and attractiveness and therefore is not desirable as a lover or girlfriend. Men too commented that expecting a woman to only wear Indian attire is ‘extremely traditional’. During group discussions, men would often explain to me that they have grown up seeing their women friends and cousins, and at times mother, wear jeans, dresses, skirts, to the extent that they no longer see these apparels as ‘western’ wear. They were of the opinion that women should have the freedom to dress as they please. These narratives certainly contributed to the image of a modern couple yet during my conversations on matchmaking, and especially the ritual of ‘meet the parents’ (as discussed in Chap. 3), I learnt that couples often fight with each other on the girlfriend’s choice of clothes. Whilst men took pride in their girlfriend looking ‘modern’ and ‘cool’ in western wear, they also expected her to have the discerning ability to know when not to wear western attires. Women, did not always take kindly to these expectations. Rita, aged 28, recently completed an MBA degree, whilst pursuing which she met her boyfriend, Raj. Rita described her relationship with Raj as ‘very positive’: they were ‘partners’ she said, and helped each other with work, studied together, enjoyed watching similar kinds of movies and so on. Whilst everything was perfectly fine with them, with the occasional bickering, there is one thing that gets to her—his impulse to control her dressing style because he considers Rita’s dressing style to be provocative. Whilst usually this does not concern him too much, it becomes an issue when he is not accompanying her and she is wearing ‘revealing’ clothes. Moreover, every time she is to meet his parents, he double-checks on what she is planning to wear. ‘He needs to approve my clothes’, she said agitatedly. She continued, I don’t know why men do this. To be honest, Raj is not the only one. I think all my girlfriends have this problem – some boyfriends are more direct and tell you “don’t wear this don’t wear that”, and other say it more subtly. But they all want you to be dressed in a way that they approve, especially when you are meeting their family. These are double-standards, I am telling you, because we don’t tell them what to wear and even when we do, they never take our advice!

In a formal space of spouse-selection, a woman’s discerning ability regarding her outfits is indeed seen as a reflection of her ability to ‘balance’ the ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’. When I met, Desraj, aged 26, who moved to Delhi four years ago for work and then enrolled in a master’s programme, he explained that after staying in Delhi he has now finally become more ‘accepting’ of women wearing western clothes. In his hometown in Bihar, women are rarely seen wearing jeans, and at first, 14 A

similar observation is made by Dickey (2002) in her study on upward mobility. She writes, ‘…A [educational] degree must be accompanied by other symbolic attributes that make one proper member of a higher class. To be seen as an appropriate addition to a civil servant’s or business owner’s family, Anjali must adapt her dress, grooming, speech and manners…’ (2002: 224).

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he found it odd that women are so comfortably dressed in ‘male outfits’. However, now he finds them attractive—he thinks women look nice in trousers, jeans, and skirts, and he would certainly want his wife to wear these clothes but, she should definitely not wear them in front of his parents, he said with a laughter, Balance zaroori hai. Use pata hona chahoye kaunse kapde kab pehnne hain. Maa-babuji ke saamne to kabhi nahi allow karoonga. Bas sirf mere saamne ya doston ke saamne pehn sakti hai. [It is important that she knows how to balance. She should have the sense to know what clothes to wear in front of whom. I will certainly not allow her to wear jeans-skirt in front of my family. She can only wear it in front of me or friends.

Desraj’s friend, Abhinandan, who was sitting next to him, made a similar comment and explained that a ‘good wife’ is one who can be comfortable wearing both Indian and western clothes. ‘I want a woman who can fit in both US and village’, he said with a laughter. He went on to explain that a woman’s dressing style can reveal if she is ‘wife material’ or not. He said, Women look very attractive in skirts and western wear. Par jo ladkiyan sirf aise kapde pehnti hain wo wife material nahi hain. Jo balance kar sakti hain, wo wife material hain. [but those women who only wear western clothes are not ‘wife material’; those who can balance [different clothing expectations] are wife material.

There are also instances when dressing in Indian clothes can signal a woman’s lasciviousness, as it was the case with Manivannan (2016) who writes of her experiences of moving to Chennai from abroad. She narrates one particular incident of when she wore a sari to a hotel club and was accused of soliciting sex.15 She writes, The undertone was this: women who go clubbing don’t wear saris when they do because doing so would be to insult the garment and corrupt its inherent morality by bringing it into an immoral sphere. Their lifestyles were acceptable so long as they were compartmentalized. To not compartmentalize - to confuse the decorum of the sari with the abandon of the pub was to be profoundly lacking in morality, i.e. a whore (pp 183).

To that extent, simply adorning Indian clothes is not a foolproof way of expressing one’s ability to be a good wife, rather, the emphasis is on whether the woman can discern when to wear which type of clothes. As Mannivannan explains that a woman is expected to appropriately compartmentalise her clothes; of when to wear what. This was also evident in Abhinandan’s remark that he expects his wife to wear both western and Indian clothes, but also with the ability to know that western clothes will be worn only in his company, and Indian in the presence of his family. Similar expectations were set on her alcohol and food consumption, to discern whether she is ‘wife material’. Wine, champagne, whisky, gin, scotch, and popular cocktails as cosmopolitan, Long Island Iced Tea—beverages that have a global presence now increasingly dominate the professional middle-class’ leisure activities, including dining and drinking out, house parties, wedding celebrations. Despite such a widespread acceptance of drinking alcohol, ironically, on matrimonial websites, most profiles chose the option of ‘no-alcohol’ or ‘drinks occasionally’. Perplexed by 15 Recently,

there has been a revivalist project, as it were, of bringing saris back into fashion which includes encouraging women to upload pictures of them wearing saris.

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a mismatch of reality and virtual self-presentation, I asked my interviewees if they honestly reveal their drinking habits on matrimonial websites. Ravi, a Chartered Account aged 28 explained, If you say you drink alcohol then people think you are an alcoholic. […] you have to keep in mind that these profiles are managed by parents who might not be cool with this [drinking]. So, I lie and say that I don’t drink or that I drink occasionally because if I say the truth I will not get any requests!

I asked Ravi if he would mind that his wife drinks alcohol, to which he replied, Of course, I would be fine with it. In fact, it is kind of nice to be able to go out, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, with your woman over a drink […] It would be boring to marry someone who does not drink. What will you cheers with – juice?

This sentiment was popular with several other men too. For them, a woman who enjoys a drink is not only modern but also makes them appear as modern and genderegalitarian. However, this seemingly modern and gender egalitarian practice of alcohol consumption was also guided by strong gendered scripts. Firstly, since the woman who enjoyed drinking was immediately seen as ‘modern’, the one who chose not to drink alcohol was seen as ‘boring’, ‘backward’, or ‘traditional’. In so doing, the woman is given only two options of being: ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’. Most women I interviewed, drank alcohol, and a few who preferred not to said that they felt humiliated for their choice, as they were often labelled as ‘religious’ or ‘too traditional’, and without ‘exposure’—characteristics that run contra to the image of being modern. Secondly, women, unlike men, do not have unrestricted freedom for alcohol consumption. Indeed, much like their dressing choices, they are expected to assert discretion and keep a check on their drinking habits. For example, it is perfectly acceptable for them to drink alcohol, but not in large quantities, and definitely avoid drinking in front of their husband’s family or drink only very little in front of them. Nisbett, in his study of middle-class youth of Bangalore, explains that the middle class have an ambivalent attitude towards moralising booze (2007, 944–945). On the one hand, drinking in public is frowned upon, and on the other hand, it is accepted that men will consume alcohol. Nisbett explained that his young male middle-class informants negotiated this expectation by making use of the bourgeoning pub industry, as now they could drink outside home (restaurant, pub) but also away from the public eye, in the confines of a bar or pub. In a contrary situation, the professional middle class I spent time with, were of the expectation that women should not drink heavily ‘outside’ (restaurants, pubs, or parties) but could drink more freely ‘inside’ (home, house parties). That is to say, women should not be seen drinking too much in ‘public’ spaces but can indulge more in the private spaces of homes. In the repertoire of modern Indian language, a recent neologism is the binaries of food categorisations: vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Perhaps borne with the emergence of a food and service industry that wanted an easy and quick way to communicate food preferences, the categories of ‘veg’ and ‘non-veg’ now dominate the cultural imaginings and commensality practices of modern India (Donner 2011b). These categories have a strong presence in public spaces of restaurants, air travel,

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and train journeys, where diners and passengers are offered the options of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, and now these categories have also dominated the space of matchmaking. Indeed, one of the main mandatory questions during the registration of a profile on a matrimonial website is to specify if the prospective spouse (profile user) is a vegetarian, non-vegetarian, eggetarian and ‘Jain’ (does not eat meat or onion and garlic). Whilst this question is solicited from both men and women, I noted that women came under greater scrutiny regarding their dietary habits, and at times, were expected to change their dietary preferences to match their husband’s or his family’s, in order to be accepted as a ‘good’ wife. This was the case of Bharti and Vishnu, who had been in a relationship for four years, and were soon getting married. After marriage, Bharti was to live with Vishnu and his parents, and whilst Vishnu thought that Bharati would adjust well in his house, his primary concern was that she likes to eat meat (especially chicken), whereas his family is pure vegetarian. I enquired if this meant that she will give up eating meat after marriage, and she replied, That’s not possible. But we have come up with a solution. I will not eat meat at home. I will eat outside[…] Vishnu has promised to take me out twice every week to eat seekh kababs and other non-veg food. Vishnu thinks it is best that we don’t let his parents know that I like eating meat. He thinks this might create unnecessary complications. I am okay with whatever as long as I get to eat meat!

As we chatted, Bharti said that she thinks that women come under greater pressure to live up to an ideal of a ‘good wife’ and a ‘good daughter-in-law’. She explained that had her parents been vegetarians and Vishnu a ‘non-veg’, she would not have expected him to lie to her parents though she would have expected him not to eat ‘non-veg’ in front of them. Donner (2011b) makes a similar observation in her work on Kolkata middle-class neighbourhoods as she notes that women are expected to be vegetarians as they are seen as the custodians of upholding middle-class identities and moralities. She writes, Vegetarianism is one way of adjusting the need for bio-moral truth through gendered personhood in changing times and thus is reinvented. Where previously vegetarianism was for widows, today young married women need to turn into vegetarians; where earlier, fertility proven through the procreation of many children essentially established womanhood and the self, today the female body has to be seen in public as a site of restraint—not for a higher political aim, as Gandhi envisaged, but to produce the ideal middle-class single-child family. Exemplified in dietary restrictions, which are part of a wider need for self-discipline, such body cultures are no longer directed at the discourse of the nation, but at the much-narrower middle-class ideal of the nuclear household. (pp 168).

The ideal of an urban modern Indian couple is certainly based on their shared intimacies, desires, and lifestyle preferences, and in this section, I have discussed three aspects—clothes, alcohol, dietary preferences—which are immediately associated with a modern and global way of life. At the outset, men claim to only encourage women to follow their heart’s desires in the way they prefer to dress, eat, drink. Yet these desires are also subject to restraints and controls, which, furthermore, form the basis for men to adjudge if a woman can be a ‘good’ wife by learning to adjust her personal desires with the family’s expectations.

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6.2.4 Resistance and Agency It would be unfair to assume that women were uncritical of these expectations; that they were oblivious to the asymmetries that defined their modern style of life. Yet, they were also not necessarily posing a challenge to all these expectations. This did not imply that they were not asserting their agency, for, as scholarship has argued women’s agency is not only in complete resistance but also exists in the form of acquiescence and endurance (Jeffery and Jeffery 1996).16 Belliappa (2013), in her ethnography on working women, notes that a crucial way of analysing modernity and modernisation is by focussing on self-fashioning, which is indeed a complex phenomenon (2013: 64). This was also the case of the professional middle-class women I interviewed as their self-fashioning of being modern and articulations of their modernity inherently registered contradictions and contestations, and this was not seen as a source of discontent or frustration by them. For example, some women explained to me that it is important for them to marry a person who allows them to be financially independent and pursue professional dreams, and so they are willing to accept any of his other quirky or unfair requests such as not eating non-vegetarian food in front of his parents, or only wearing Indian attire in the presence of his family. Some others explained that it is unwise to assert all your wishes at the beginning of marriage. They elaborated how it takes some time and work to get a husband’s family to accept your way of life, and so it is prudent to accept their ‘conditions’ or expectations in the beginning and slowly make changes. This was explained to me by Nandini, aged 27, who is engaged to be married to Mohit, aged 29. Mohit is Nandini’s cousin’s best friend, and their love story began at the age of 19. Whilst Nandini’s parents did not object to their relationship, Mohit’s parents were concerned on the suitability of the match because they belong to different communities—Mohit is a Marwari and Nandini is Punjabi. Their primary concern was whether Nandini would be able to adapt to their style of life. For example, in their household women only wear saris, whereas Nandini grew up in an ‘open’ environment, where she and sisters even wore shorts at home. Moreover, everyone in Mohit’s house is a ‘pure vegetarian’, she explained, and do not even consume egg, whereas she is a ‘pure’ Punjabi, she said with a laughter, who enjoys eating meat. Nandini was convinced that these were only ‘small differences’ and believed that eventually, with time, she would be able to lead a life as she did in her parents’ home. She said, I obviously can’t change things the moment I go to their house. So, I will be patient, and with time I will explain to them [Mohit’s parents] that I have grown up wearing salwar kameez not saris. Once I have gained Mohit’s parents’ trust, I will transition into wearing jeans and kurta at home [said with a laughter] […] The biggest problem will be of non-veg, but I have 16 In a study of rural women in North India, Jeffery and Jeffery, state that ‘Women did not speak with a single voice. If they sometimes talked about themselves as victims, they also portrayed themselves in ways that suggested either critique or acceptance’ (1996: 20). They further write, ‘Certainly, women’s agency by no means always took the form of resistance. Women also had many stakes in the system. Their agency might entail endurance as well as acquiescence. It might also entail coercing other women. In brief, women’s agency was rather more complex and rather less rosy-tinted than it is sometimes portrayed’ (ibid).

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decided that whenever I feel like having non-veg, I will go back to my house, which is just 10 min drive away. I can also eat non-veg when we [Mohit and her] go out. When we have our child, I will insist that it is good for the child to be given non-veg, and slowly open their minds to non-veg food [said with a chuckle].

This is of course not to say that all women were willing to negotiate these encumbering expectations and nor is it to say that they blindly followed these expectations. Rather, that they were imaginative in their negotiations, at once contesting and following the gendered expectations of them. Dube too comments on the complicated expressions of women’s agency when she writes, ‘It is within these limits that women question their subordination, express resentment, use manipulative strategies often against other women in the family, carve out a living space and collude in their own oppression. All this is informed by, what we can call after Gramsci, a contradictory consciousness’ (1988: 181). In this research too, I note that the professional middleclass woman’s expression of modernity is far from unilinear or a neat trajectory. Rather, it involves contestations, contradictions which enable her to resist as well as shape the appropriate ideals of modernity and ways of being a suitable wife.17 In due course, at times she reinforces accepted gender roles and at other times, reshapes them to evolve those gender roles and expectations that she considers suitable for contemporary times.

6.3 The Ideal Husband: ‘Higher and Better’ As described above, one of the ways in which modern couples defined their modernity was on the grounds that they support each other in professional pursuits. Several of my interviewees met their prospective spouse (or at least one of their romantic partners) at their workplace, and this, they explained, in itself was indicative of the fact that men and women are increasingly comfortable with the idea of a ‘working couple’. Women, moreover, explained how their boyfriend or husband is understanding and modern, as he allows them to pursue her professional dreams and be more ‘independent’. These self-presentations certainly seemed real, yet it was also evident that these modern couples, prospective spouses, parents of marrying individuals, as well as matchmakers all believed that a ‘good husband’ is one who earns more than the wife and occupies a professionally higher status than her. In fact, simply good educational qualifications did not make a man an appealing prospect, but he came under great pressure to convert these educational qualifications to economic capital (Bourdieu 1984: 246–248). Indeed, works on marriage, relationships, and work cultures in India have brought attention to how the ideal of the male provider is upheld by a large section of the Indian society (Grover 2011; Kaur and Palriwala 2014; Loomba and Lukose 2012; Osella and Osella 2000). 17 For

further discussion on resistances and agency amongst women see Abeyasekera (2016), Hussein (2017), Jeffery and Jeffery (1994, 1996, 2002, 2012), Thapan (2009), Kaur and Palriwala (2014).

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It was prospective brides who first brought my attention to the ideal of the ‘male provider’. Whilst I expected to encounter the preference for a ‘male provider’ in discussing characteristics that describe a ‘good husband’, what was striking was the context in which this criterion was expressed, namely, the desire (of women) to be in ‘modern’ egalitarian relationships. Meena, aged 31, who has been married for over a year, narrated her love story with great enthusiasm. She had been dating Rahul for five years before they married. They were working in the same company when they first met and prepared for MBA examinations together—though they got admission to different, equally reputable, schools. Their scores were similar, she said, and they both got jobs in different companies during the campus placement week. Within two years of graduating, however, Rahul climbed the ladder of professional success quicker than Meena. Meena was not resentful or envious of his success. Instead, she considered his professional success to be a good bargaining chip to get her parents to accept their inter-community relationship (Meena is from the Rajput community and Rahul belongs to the Kayastha community). When I enquired on why, in her opinion, she did not achieve as much professional success as Rahul, given they were both equally qualified, she said, I think Rahul is more focussed than me. He is really a go-getter and gives his all to work. [This] doesn’t mean that I am lazy or something. I really enjoy my work too, but I think after MBA, and getting a good job, my focus shifted to us getting married! [said with a laughter] […] We are both earning-well but frankly, I think it is better if he continues to earn more than me. I have no problem with that.

Meena’s main focus in this discussion was how she is comfortable with their marriage–work situation, wherein Rahul earns more than her, and she contributes more to household responsibilities. After a few minutes, she said, You know, male ego is very fragile. What if he doesn’t like the fact that I earn more than him. In college it is fine, you actually feel proud if your girlfriend is a cool girl, getting good marks, but I think in the real world the situation is different. He might develop a complex. So, I think, why kill yourself by working hard and earning more money [than the husband] and then kill your marriage and peace. I have no problem in taking a back seat in this matter.

After my interview with Meena, I broached this topic with other interviewees—of whether it is acceptable that the girlfriend/wife earns more than the boyfriend/husband, and surprisingly, almost all were of the opinion that whilst in principle it seems like an acceptable situation in today’s times, in reality the ‘male ego’ might be hurt. Prateek, aged 32, who graduated from India’s primer engineering institute and recently registered on a matrimonial website said, It sounds good on paper, and I will certainly be proud if my wife works. But I think even the most progressive and liberal men, such as me, will have a problem if the woman is bringing more money. I think it will be sub-conscious. It might even lead to fights or cause unhappiness in a marriage […] I would definitely prefer to marry someone who does not earn more than me [sic]

A good husband, moreover, was adjudged not only on his ability to earn more money than the wife, but also on the basis of his style of life, social networks, and

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prospects of professional growth. One such case was of Chetan, an HR manager at a multinational company, who had a high salary but was rejected by his girlfriend’s parents because his social status was not as good as theirs and because they did not think he had room for further ‘professional’ (and therefore financial) growth. Chetan was proud of his life history and explained the struggles he faced in life in great detail: his father passed away when he was in school, and his sole focus throughout his undergraduate degree was to earn well upon graduation. Soon after graduation, he joined a call centre, and due to his professional and communication skills he was given quick promotions, and soon after, he got a job at the HR division of this multinational company. After two years, he was promoted to the position of a manager in this company, with a high salary. His mother and younger brother, who live with him, are incredibly proud and happy of his achievements, he said, and it makes him very satisfied to know that he is able to provide well for them. About a year ago he met Nisha, who started as an Analyst in another department at the same company. ‘Sparks flew instantly’, he said, and within two months they started dating. Nisha’s family, however, was not keen on this union, as they belonged to a higher social and economic class. He explained that whilst he studied in a Hindi-medium school, and his mother did not speak English, Nisha was educated at a convent school and college in Delhi, and her father is a renowned doctor. Moreover, Nisha’s elder sister is married to a senior employee (vice-president) at the same MNC, and this meant there would be a direct comparison between the two of them. Nisha’s parents refused to meet Chetan and instead asked their son-in-law (the VP at the same company) to have a chat with him to dissuade him from continuing the relationship. One day, Nisha’s brother-in-law summoned Chetan to his office. He was rude and curt. Chetan recalled, He was very formal with me. He asked me directly “She[Nisha] drives a Honda City. Can you afford such a car?” I obviously cannot afford it right now, but I said that I will save up and do my best to support her. He said that is not possible because my future is not bright “You are on a high post now, but you cannot rise beyond this because you don’t have the education. Do you expect to take care of Nisha with your current salary, all her life? Her sister is married to me. Look at my status. Do you think you can match mine and rise this high in the corporate world?” He was so materialistic in his assessment, but the fact is he was telling me the harsh reality. I could never rise up to his status. Even if I am earning well now and have a good job it was not good enough for her.

When Chetan told Nisha about this meeting, she was furious at her parents and apologetic to Chetan. Yet, he knew that she would not rebel against her family and he did not want her to either. Eventually, communication between them dwindled, and soon they drifted apart and broke-up. Chetan misses Nisha, he said, but this experience made him see how it is best for everyone if a woman marries a man who is higher than her in social status and economic standing. Whilst Nisha and Chetan required a familial intervention to help them face the reality of hypergamy, Aditi was well aware of the importance of marrying within or higher than one’s class status. Aditi recently completed her master’s degree and has been in a long-term relationship. Whilst Aditi belongs to a well-educated family, her boyfriend is from a lesser educated, business family, but is wealthier than her.

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Aditi believes that each relationship will cause pain and suffering, as ‘love fades away’. She is also of the opinion that women are always expected to make more compromises than men in marriage, but the worst type of compromise is when she has too adjust living with lesser money than she is used to. She said, It is not easy to be a wife, a mother, a daughter-in-law. You have to make so many compromises, adjust to their [the man’s] culture, rituals, lifestyle. Now in all this if you also realise that you can’t even spend the way you used to [in your parents’ home], or live a comfortable life that you have been used to, then it makes everything so much more difficult. […] I think it is very important to marry ‘up’, financially at least.

Financial security, she believes, helps women manage better the everyday issues of marriage, in-laws, and adjustments. She said, It is in the fate of women to cry. […] I much rather cry in a Mercedes Benz than an auto rickshaw.

Income was not the only way for women to gauge if their boyfriend or prospective husband is ‘higher’ than them. Rather, they displayed a keen interest to marry someone who could ‘teach’ them new things and introduce them to a cosmopolitan way of life. This sentiment was expressed most candidly by Kavita, whom I met at the MBA institute. Kavita, aged 27, has been married for over a year and met her husband Kabir six years ago at her college’s fest. Kabir was studying at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and Kavita was reading an English (Hons) degree at the University of Delhi. Kavita described her story as ‘love at first sight’ and narrated their struggles to get their relationship accepted by their parents. Kabir is caring and loving she said, and that is what has kept their relationship strong for so many years. I asked what attracts her the most about Kabir and she said ‘his intelligence’. Quite apart from the fact that he is an IITian, she said, she is also amazed at how much he knows about ‘general things’: from cars to politics to international affairs. I asked for examples and she said, Once we were returning from somewhere and I saw a car with a blue number plate and asked him why was the car’s number plate colour different and he immediately explained that it is a diplomat’s car and they have blue number plates. […] He has a good knowledge on every topic form culture, arts, politics, and of all over the world. I really respect that. I am not that knowledgeable; all I know is a little bit about Indian politics and Bollywood (said with a laughter)

Kavita described her relationship with Kabir as one based on friendship: they are like friends who share everything. At the same time, she also mentioned that she looks up to Kabir, seeks his advice, and at times sees his role in her life as of a ‘guide’. Kavita was not the only one who described her romantic (or married) relationship as based on respect, love, as well as guidance by the boyfriend/husband. Often, women provided details of how they are looking for ‘support’ in their relationship. Indeed, I noted that the term ‘companionship’ is not used as often as one might expect from the urban professional middle class or as other scholars explaining the modernity and urbanity of relationships may have noted in their own fieldwork.18 This is not to 18 See

works by Fuller and Narasimhan (2008, 2006) for example.

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say that the middle class of Delhi did not desire companionship in their marriage, but simply that their descriptions of their relationships were not inundated with the term ‘companionship’. Rather, often, especially women, described a desired relationship as one where they can receive support from their boyfriend/husband, can look up to him and respect him for his breadth of knowledge and success. In other words, though in several other avenues—as of professional choice or leisure practices—the modern couple described itself as ‘equals’, whilst describing interpersonal relationships women tended to explain how they look up to or respect the man. In that regard, there emerged a new expression of hypergamy, as it were, as women wanted to marry someone ‘higher’—in class, position, authority, status, and knowledge. *** The professional middle class either claim or aspire to follow an ideal of the ‘modern couple’ and view it as a conceptual cognate of equality, freedom, and gender egalitarian relationships. For them, the basis of modern coupledom is a ‘new’ outlook that encourages women to not just step outside of home for work but also for leisure. These ideals are indeed appealing and well-represented in public spaces and virtual spheres (as of internet, Instagram). Yet, the latent language of asymmetry that guides these seemingly equal romantic and marital relationships is also palpable especially in discussions on how they define an ideal husband and a good wife. These conversations make it apparent that modern women are under immense pressure to conform to certain ideals of a ‘good wife’—especially regarding giving primacy to her domestic responsibilities and exuding temperance and moderation in her desires. The man too is expected to be the primary provider, as the woman delineates the many advantages of marrying a man ‘better’ than her. Scholarship has explained marriages in the context of kinship, with specific attention to the rule of hypergamy, (Dube 1988; Dumont 1966; Madan 1966; Uberoi 1993), and the unpacking of the ‘modern couple’ reveals that hypergamy is a prevailing norm even in class homogamous marriages often expressed in the language of ‘respect’. In this way, it is evident that hypergamy is not elusive to modern matchmaking and in fact constitutes modern coupledom.

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Jeffery, Patricia, and Roger Jeffery. 1996. Don’t Marry Me to a Plowman: Women’s Everyday Lives in Rural North India. Oxford: Westview Press. Jeffery, Patricia, and Roger Jeffery. 2002. Allah Gives Both Boys and Girs. In Everyday Life in South Asia, eds. Diane P Mines and Sarah Lamb. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jeffery, Patricia, and Roger Jeffery. 2012. South Asia: Intimacy and Identites, Politics and Poverty. In The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology Volume 1, ed. RIchard Fardon. New Delhi: Sage. Joshi, Sanjay. 2001. Fractured Modernity: Making of a Middle Class in Colonial North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kalpagam, Uma. 2000. Life Experiences, Resistance and Feminist Consciousness. Indian Journal of Gender Studies 7 (2): 167–184. Kapila, Kriti. 2011. Circulating Intimacies: Sex-surveys, Marriage and Other Facts of Life in Urban India. In Mass Media and the Politics of Change, ed. S. Batabyal, Angad Chowdhary, Gaur Meenu and Phhjonen, 140–165. New Delhi: Routledge. Karve, Iravati. 1953. Kinship Organization in India. Pune: Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute. Kaur, Ravinder, and Rajni Palriwala. 2014. Introduction. In Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World, ed. Ravinder Kaur and Rajni Palriwala. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Kumar, Nita. 2011. The Middle-Class Child: Ruminations on Failure. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 220–245. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Lakshmi, C.S. 1988. Walking Erect with an Unfaltering Gaze: Educated Women in Modern Tamil Literature. In Socialisation, Education and Women, ed. Karuna Chanana, 273–281. Orient Longman: Hyderabad. Loomba, Ania, and Ritty A. Lukose. 2012. Introduction. In South Asian Feminisms, Durham and London: Duke University Press. Lukose, Ritty A. 2009. Liberalization’s Children: Gender, Youth and Consumer Culture in Globalizing India. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Madan, Triloki Nath. 1966. Social Structure and Change. In Evaluation of the Work of M N Srinivas Colume I Theory and Method, New Delhi: Sage. Manivannan, Sharanya. 2016. Karikal Ammaiyar and Her Closet of Adornments. In Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories, ed. Catriona Mitchell. New Delhi: Harper Collins. Mazzarella, William. 2003. Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalisation in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Menon, Ritu, and Kamla Bhasin. 1998. Borders and Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Nisbett, Nicholas. 2007. Friendship, Consumption, Middle-Class Bangalore. The Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (4): 935–950. Osella, Filippo, and Caroline Osella. 2000. Migration, Money and Masculinity in Kerala. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6 (1): 117–133. Papanek, Hannah. 1979. Family Status Production: The ‘Work’ and ‘Non-Work’ of Women. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 4:775–781. Ponniah, Ujjithra. 2018. Reproducing Elite Lives: Women in Aggarwal Family Business. In Mapping Indian Elite: Power, Privelge, and Inequality in Contemporary India, ed. Surinder Jodhka and Jules Naudet. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 217–245 Qayum, Seemin, and Raka Ray. 2011. The Middle Class at Home. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 246–270. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Radhakrishnan, Smitha. 2011a. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

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Radhakrishnan, Smitha. 2011b. Gender, the IT Revolution and the Making of a Middle-Class India. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 192–219. New York and Delhi: Routledge. Ray, Raka, and Seemin Quaym. 2009. Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Sarkar, Tanika. 1995. Hindu Conjugality and Nationalism in Late Nineteenth Century Bengal. In Indian Women: Myth and Reality, ed. Jasodhara Bagchi, 98–116. Delhi: Sangam Books. Sarkar, Tanika. 2001. Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism. New Delhi: Permanent Black. Thapan, Meenakshi. 2009. Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Sage. Twamley, Katherine. 2014. Love, Marriage, Intimacy among Gujarati Indians: A Suitable Match. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Uberoi, Patricia. 1993. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2006a. ‘Beautyfull Wife, Denger Life’: Engaging with Popular Culture. In Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2006b. Feminine Identity and National Ethos in Calendar Art. In Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2008. Aspirational Weddings: The Bridal Magazine and the Canons of ‘Decent Marriage.’ In Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in India and China, eds. Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter Van der Veer. New Delhi: Sage, 230–62. Uberoi, Patricia. 2011. The Sexual Character of the Indian Middle Class: Sex Surveys, Past and Present. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 271–299. New Delhi: Routledge. Vatuk, Sylvia. 1972. Kinship and Urbanization: White Collar Workers in Urban India. London: University of California Press. Welchmann, Lynn, and Sara Hossain. 2006. “Honour” Crimes: Paradigms and Violence Against Women. New Delhi: Zubaan.

Chapter 7

Love in the Time of Middle-Classness

In this book, so far, I have looked at matchmaking through the lens of different ‘actors’ and concepts that define ideals of spouse-selection, all the whilst, eschewing from using the categories ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriage. Indeed, right at the outset I explained that these categories can be reductive of the myriad experiences of matchmaking, and though there are also ‘in-between’ categories of ‘arranged cum love’ marriage, yet these too, at times, are unable to explicate the dynamics and exact workings of contemporary matchmaking. At the same time, this is not to claim that these categories have not gripped the imagination of the middle class or are no longer a part of their language of matchmaking. During my fieldwork, I noted that the professional middle class was not always comfortable in describing their marriage as a type, and preferred to specify how they met their spouse—workplace, introduced by a friend, on a website, or recommendation of a matrimonial agent. Then, there were also those who proudly described their marriage as ‘proper love’. It is these individuals that are the focus of this chapter, as I unpack and analyse these ‘proper love’ marriage stories, which essentially implied that the couple’s parents (at least one set) did not approve their choice of spouse and support their intend to marry, as a result of which they undertook elaborate strategies to get their parents to accept their choice of spouse. I put forth this analysis in the framework of recent scholarship that has argued that contemporary expressions of love in India are not necessarily in opposition to the family.1 Twamley (2014), for example, in her comparative research between Indians in Gujarat and second-generation Gujarati Indians in the UK, explains that for the former cohort ‘love’ is not disjointed from the family and is gauged by the ability to provide support and caregiving to the family. For the Gujarati Indians on the other hand, love finds meaning in an established compatibility between the two individuals, which is gauged by spending more alone time with each other (pp. 101–102). Fuller and Narasimhan explain that the middle class in Chennai look for ideals of 1 In

this book, I am only looking at heterosexual love experiences.

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companionate marriage whilst for them ‘…arranged endogamous marriage remains the norm, in both preference and practice’ (2014: 750). Indeed, I too have explained in previous chapters how love is accommodated with expectations of family. Yet, during fieldwork I also came across these ‘proper love’ stories that premised themselves on going against family expectations. I, thus, examine these stories in this chapter, not because I want to highlight that the ideal of ‘love’ marriage as being in opposition to parents still holds relevance but to argue precisely the opposite: that ultimately these relationships do yearn for parental approval, and that though they present themselves as ‘states of exception’—since often they are inter-caste and intercommunity—they too reinforce middle-class moralities and strengthen middle-class identities and boundaries. This happens when even in their struggle of approval, the couples claims to follow middle-class values of respect to elders and upholding the honour of family (by for example, not eloping to marry), and pleads for the suitability of their choice of spouse on the grounds that the spouse too lives by middle class values. This is not to say that ‘love’ marriages do not challenge any established norms or expectations, or do not eulogise ‘love’ over caste or class identities. Rather, that their struggles for acceptance speak to middle class moralities, and that though this love is transgressive in certain senses it is also embedded in middle class identities. It is important to pre-empt here that this chapter in particular, and book at large, does not claim to provide an exhaustive account of love in contemporary India; it is not a historical account of love, or how love is shaped by religion, social, and cultural processes, or its many renditions as devotion, desire, or passion.2 Rather, the aim of this chapter is to explain that though at times ‘love marriages’ challenge certain expectations and norms associated with being middle class, especially related to caste, by way of inter-caste marriages, nonetheless, these marriages end-up reinforcing certain other middle class values and morals. This is often the case when the choice of spouse is based on similarity of values of hard work or professional and educational achievement. In fact, these characteristics are often used as a plea for bargain with parents, to get them to accept the union of choice. In this way, marriages of choice and resistances too buttress identities of being middle class. I put forward this argument by analysing narratives of three couples, and these accounts have four main themes of analyses: (1) Elopement and Family Honour: These narratives will highlight that these couples never entertain the idea of elopement and instead are clear that they will only marry after gaining parental approval. They explained to me that elopement is 2 These topics have been researched by several other scholars, for example, Lukose’s (2009, Chap. 3)

work that details India indigenous language for love, Lukose and Loomba’s research, which explains how romance is also a form of consumer behaviour—shaped by expansion and commodification of leisure and emergence of heterosexual interactions (2012, 105), Orsini’s (2006) volume on history of love in South Asia—Osella and Osella’s ethnography which amongst other aspects of romance and flirting details how romance ‘only very occasionally leads to marriage’ (0: 200), Trawick’s work which provides an account of how love reverses and undermines order (1990). Other works that detail love’s relation to modernity, social change, and literature include Ahearn (2001), Gold and Raheja (1994), Kaviraj (2006), and Lietchy (2003). Works by Busby (1997) and Swidler (2001), moreover, explain that though a highly personal emotion, love remains a social and cultural experience.

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an option for the lower class and not for them—members of the middle class. This is because, they clarified, the lower class do not lay as much emphasis on upholding family honour and dignity, whereas the middle class is defined by its concern and attachment to the family. An elopement only brings shame and embarrassment to their family, and therefore, they could never even entertain it as an option.3 Moreover, elopement implies that a couple has been unable to convince their parents of the suitability of their choice. This in turn means that their choice is not pragmatic or clearly-thought but guided by passion and lust. However, the couples are convinced that they have made an intelligent choice and the lack of approval from their parents is merely a temporary setback, which they can address by talking to their parents and convincing them that their choice of spouse is indeed suitable. A decision to elope, therefore, will not only bring dishonour to their family but also imply that their spousal choice is based on irrational feelings of passion. This highlights that though the narratives of ‘love’ marriages present the couple as disembedded from the family as they choose a spouse who does not meet the family’s expectations, yet in the decision to not elope or marry without parents’ approval, the couple re-embeds themselves in the family. (2) Defining ‘New’ Middle Class and Modernities: ‘Love marriages’ certainly challenge a few accepted norms of matchmaking, for example, with regard to caste, community, linguistic identity of a desired spouse. At the same time, in their struggles of acceptance, strategies of negotiation, and talks of companionship, these couples inevitably end up invoking middle-class moralities and identities, which have been inculcated in them since their childhood, as well as those that they have come to value with their new middle-class life. This is to say, they justify their choice of spouse by explaining how their prospective spouse fits with their larger vision of life that is based on commonality or shared interests in professional choices (private sector employment), leisure activities (travel and sports), meanings attached to money (saving but also spending appropriately), and a worldview that is appealing to global sensibilities yet also rooted in Indian identities. Therefore, with their choice of spouse, they end up defining the ‘new’ and relevant characteristics of being contemporary middle class. In fact, their strategies of negotiation with their parents are not based on appeals to emotion (e.g. on how they ‘love’ each other, in fact none of the couples discussed below use this term in discussions with their parents) but centre on convincing their parents that their spousal choice is not a hindrance to their professional or material success, or loyalty towards family. Rather, their chosen spouse will only enhance their middle class status and reinforce their middle class value-system. In this way, their narrative of love appeals to the professional, material, and aspirational ideals of being middle class. (3) ‘Togetherness’ in Love: A discussion of the three narratives below, makes it clear that the journey to convince parents of one’s choice of spouse is far from easy. It involves several negotiations with the family, the intended spouse, which in turn warrants acquiescence to certain demands of the family, and the entire process could 3 It

is therefore not surprising that the works on eloped marriages (Chowdhry 2009; Mody 2008) are usually narrating the tales of either non-cosmopolitan spaces or the non-middle class.

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take several years. In all this, as the couple enters into arguments, disagreements, their love and patience are tested. This phase, thus, in crucial ways helps them rediscover and reassert their love for each other, as their shared experiences of struggles and negotiations enable them to develop new meanings or dimensions to their compatibility and interpersonal connection. It is in this phase that they discover, for example, each other’s strength of character and resilience to criticism and threats, which in turn makes them love each other even more. In that regard, this phase of struggle not only enables an analysis of the changing preferences of spouse-selection, but also reveals how the couple articulates, develops, and experiences togetherness. This is to say, these narratives bring out how feelings of compatibility are not just experienced by sharing similar class positions, dispositions, and ambitions (as elucidated in the point above) but are also realised in the journey of getting one’s love socially recognised. As such, the struggles to win parents’ approval are not only telling of the family dynamics and makings of their class, but also revealing of their interpersonal dynamics and makings of love, companionship, and commitment. (4) Agency, Resistance, and Acquiescence: Often, ‘proper love’ stories are presented as dramatic and revolutionary interventions to practices of matchmaking. The perception is that these experiences are used, especially by women, to strongly assert their sense of self and choice. Real as these expectations and perceptions are (especially in the case of marriages that unfortunately lead to excommunication from community or villages, or go as far as honour killings), I am equally interested in bringing attention to those narratives where the women do not openly rebel. Rather, they think it is wiser to adopt ‘small resistances’ (Scott 1985, 1990) instead of achieving complete transformations (Thapan 2009). In such situations, women decide to not openly challenge parental or patriarchal authority or cultural practices, and instead adopt a slow and measured approach to eventually resist any impositions on them, and assert themselves especially in tense family dynamics. One such example, as discussed below, is when the parents reject their son’s spousal choice on the basis that she will not be able to adapt to their culture or follow their customs. In this situation, though the woman is indeed against some of their cultural practices especially (ghoonghat, veil, for example), she convinces her boyfriend’s parents that she is willing to follow these customs, only to question these practices later, once she is established in the family. Her strategy then is to win over her boyfriends’/husband’s family and then slowly negotiate their demands. Thus, in line with the argument of feminist scholars who have explained the value of acquiescence as a form of resistance, the narratives of love in this chapter too discuss how acquiescence and not simply outright rejection, is a strategy and expression of woman’s agency.

7.1 Surbhi: Establishing Status with Professional Degrees I met Surbhi, aged 26, at the MBA institute. Several of my interviewees talked highly of her and recommended that I meet her—a ‘gutsy’ woman, one described her, ‘straightforward and headstrong’, described another. I was given a heads-up that

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she has had a ‘Bollywood type’ love story, which I might find interesting. When I contacted her, she had heard of me already, she said, and was happy to talk to me. We scheduled to meet at a café on campus, and Surbhi explained her journey from being a protected girl living with her parents to an independent woman who stood up for her love. Surbhi is from Jaipur, the capital city of one of Delhi’s neighbouring states, Rajasthan, where her father is a renowned eye specialist. Her mother is a housewife and she has an elder brother who now works in Bangalore. She grew up in a close-knit network of friends and kin. After finishing school, she told her parents that she wanted to go to Delhi University for her undergraduate studies. Surbhi applied for a bachelor’s programmes and secured admission in one of the most reputed colleges at the university. Her parents were proud of her, she said, but were reluctant to send her to live by herself in another city, that too, Delhi, which has a bad reputation, she explained. More than her parents, it was her extended family who were creating problems by convincing her parents that they would ‘lose her’ if she would go away at this young age. By that, they meant that she would pick up ‘bad’ habits such as drinking, smoking, and partying, and transform from a ‘good’ girl to a ‘spoilt’ (bigad jaayegi) one. An underlying worry that was not articulated but implied in conversations on how Delhi is an ‘open’ society and how ‘Delhi boys are bad’, was that in this freedom-oriented environment she might assert her sexuality. Despite all this pressure, Surbhi was able to convince her parents that she will not keep wrong company and will focus only on studies, and they finally agreed. Before leaving, Surbhi’s mother reminded her not to be ‘too friendly’ to boys and refrain from any romantic relationships. Surbhi stuck to this promise, she said, and never had any relationships whilst pursuing her undergraduate degree, she said, What my mother said to me remained in my sub-conscious. She had drilled in me that relationships, dating, are all bad things. I knew my parents trusted me a lot and had allowed me to go away from Jaipur despite pressure from family, and I did not want to let them down.

Surbhi did have crushes she said, but she never acted on her feelings. There was one particular boy that she really liked, and they began to spend a lot of time together, working on assignments, and since he was better at economic theories than her, she would regularly seek his advice for completing projects. During the course of this interaction, he too fell for her, and at first she was excited about their mutual admiration, but when she gave this situation a second thought she realised that their relationship would never work out. ‘He was a Sikh boy, and I am a Brahmin from Jaipur. My parents would have never approved of us.’ Surbhi decided not to pursue this relationship any further and said that this decision made her feel proud of herself as she had upheld her promise to her parents, and did not let anything distract her from her work. Surbhi’s hard work paid off as she secured a coveted job in a multinational company after graduation. It was at work, during her traineeship period of the first six months, that Surbhi met her husband, Ashok. Ashok had graduated from IIT and was also a trainee, which led them both to spend a lot of time together, including for out-of-town official work. Within a few weeks, Ashok developed strong feelings for

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Surbhi, and during a work trip, he confessed his feelings to her, expecting a similar response. Surbhi, however, did not want a romantic relationship as of yet; perhaps because, she explained, sub consciously she felt still obliged to follow her parents instructions of not breaking their trust by getting into romantic relationships. They had entrusted her a great deal, she explained, by allowing her to work in Delhi, and she wanted to keep their trust. She also suspected that perhaps Ashok was merely interested in a physical relationship with her, given the widely held stereotype about ‘Delhi boys’, and so she refused Ashok. Surbhi thought that this would deter him, but Ashok was impressed by Surbhi’s focus on work and approach to a relationship (of not being based only on physical attraction) and offered to be friends, to which she agreed. After a few months, Ashok asked out Surbhi again, and this time she agreed. I was intrigued to know what made her change her mind about him, and she explained, He did many nice small things that convinced me that he really wants to be with me […] He would be available to talk to at any time, at odd hours. He would travel all the way from his house to Gurugram (where she lived), to see me even if for half an hour. I could see the sincerity in his love and quite frankly that is very tough to find nowadays.

Over the next year, Surbhi and Ashok continued to establish their intimacy and companionship. Ashok revealed their relationship to his parents, who readily accepted Surbhi, whereas Surbhi’s parents were outraged. Their main objection to this relationship was that they belonged to different castes: Ashok was from the Rajput community, and they were Brahmins. For her parents, Brahmins are higher than Rajputs and therefore their union would have been a hypogamous one, which they did not approve of.4 Moreover, her parents had certain stereotypes about Rajputs and were convinced that a Rajput man is discourteous to women, is prone to having extra marital affairs, eats meat, and consumes alcohol, and therefore would not be a fit for Surbhi. Surbhi recalled, My dad was not happy at all. He said, “he [Ashok] is a Rajput, and Rajputs are very traditional, they don’t treat their women well. Historically there have been caste differences. It is in their nature to drink and so on. […] There are so many cultural differences.” I found all of this very bizarre[…] Dad said to me that this is like getting married into a lower caste. (sic)

It was evident that her parents were primarily unhappy about the fact that she had chosen a spouse who was from a different social and cultural background, but it seems they also felt despaired and let down by the fact that Surbhi had asserted her choice in the selection of a spouse. This is to say, they perhaps felt that they have lost control over her sexuality, something that their relatives had warned them against, and therefore, had lost face in their network of family and kin. They had never met Ashok but were already against the idea of him. Since Surbhi was not living in the same city as her parents, they could exert little direct control over her, which meant that they could not prevent her from seeing Ashok. Yet, they did adopt various strategies to discourage her from this union. To 4 Caste

hierarchies differ from region to region, and some castes do consider themselves above the Brahmin caste (Demerath et al. 2006; Srinivas 1962).

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begin with, her mother started sending Surbhi profiles of prospective grooms, who were more educated than Ashok (who at that time only had one bachelor’s degree) and from a Brahmin caste. When Surbhi dissed their plea of marrying in the same caste, they began to preach the merits of marrying a well-educated and professionally settled man, especially one who has an MBA degree. They were trying to convince her that Ashok is merely a graduate, whereas in the ‘real’ world who have achieved high professional degrees are successful. They explained to her that though his profile is ‘okay’, it is important to find a ‘good match’, a ‘complete package’, they said, their pleas, however, fell on deaf ears as Surbhi refused to break up with Ashok. At this point, Surbhi’s parents made more aggressive interventions. She said, There was lot of emotional blackmail. My mother’s health deteriorated in this period and they blamed it on me. They said that I was betraying them for a guy whereas they have done so much for me all these years and even supported my decisions to leave Jaipur. But none of this worked on me. In fact, it made me respect Ashok more because he never spoke ill about my parents even once, despite the fact that I told him everything […] When they realised this emotional drama was not working either, they threatened to physically harm Ashok.

Surbhi was shocked and disgusted at this threat made by her family, especially her brother. She was outraged but Ashok was calm even in this situation, requested her to see her parent’s point of view that they were simply concerned about her and, advised her to not be consumed by hatred towards them. Surbhi was amazed that even when they were threatening to harm him, Ashok had the positive spirit and strength of character to see good in them. She said, He was so understanding. If he wanted, he could have said nasty things about my family, but he kept saying that they are hurt, they love you so much and are just scared to lose you, and so are making these threats.

As her parents were increasingly demonising and dissing Ashok, the bond between Surbhi and Ashok was only strengthening. They found solace in each other’s words and presence, and discovered their strength in being together. Surbhi’s parents then adopted another method to thwart their union. One day, her mother phoned her to say that her family is willing to consider their relationship but on the condition that their horoscopes have to match. Surbhi’s mother summoned their family priest who, unsurprisingly, declared that their horoscopes were far from compatible and that if they were to marry, it would bring bad luck to Surbhi and her entire family.5 Surbhi, however, did not give into these fears of superstitions either. Whilst her parents were busy plotting schemes to stall their relationship, Surbhi and particularly Ashok were figuring out ways to convince her parents. They decided to rationally engage with her parents’ concern, and whilst they could not do much about their caste differences (except vouch that Ashok is strong of character and does not intend to cheat on her), they figured that they could make Ashok’s profile 5 Coontz

notes that a family’s consent is an important condition of marriage in many societies around the world (Coontz 2005: Chap. 6). Many methods are employed in pursuit of consent such as invoking superstitious beliefs that can get a husband that one’s family also desires. She provides an overview of the importance of the family, especially the father, in approving matrimonial alliances in various societies and cultures ranging from Mexico, Peru, Morocco, China, and Japan.

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more appealing, by, for example, adding another professional achievement. They were already considering applying to an MBA programme, as this qualification is seen favourably in the private sector, explained Surbhi. They both began preparing for the MBA entrance examinations; Ashok got admission to one of India’s premier institutes—IIM Ahmedabad—and Surbhi got admission to another MBA institute. Surbhi’s parents were happy and proud to know of this news, and when she revealed that Ashok got admission to IIMA, they were shocked. She said, I told them directly that Ashok has proven his abilities. He has got the best of education and there is no doubt that he will not be successful in his life. I said to them, “look this is the boy I have chosen for myself. Now if you have any better proposal, then show it to me.” They had no response. They could never find anyone as nice and educated as Ashok. They knew they had lost the battle.

In this way, Surbhi and Ashok made use of middle-class moralities as of hard work, education, success, to counter other expectations regarding marriages especially of caste endogamy and family control. They were able to, on the one hand, challenge certain practices of middle-class matchmaking and, on the other hand, use certain specific middle class moralities to assert their choice of spouse. Moreover, this experience of struggle and trials further strengthened their love for each other as they realised that if they can withstand such strong resistance from their family then they can face any kind of struggles in the future as well.

7.2 Sangeeta: Resistance as Acquiesce and with Time I met Sangeeta, aged 27, who married Manu, two years ago. Manu and Sangeeta were in a relationship for five years before marriage, and their journey to marriage, she explains, was far from easy as Manu’s conservative family was against them primarily because Sangeeta did not belong to their community, and was ‘too educated and modern’. Sangeeta was brought up in Assam, to progressive-minded parents, she explained. A few years ago, her elder sister chose a spouse who is not from their community, and her parents accepted her sister’s choice without any hesitation. Sangeeta grew up in a very liberal environment, she claimed, and was introduced to feminist thought in early stages of life. She moved to Delhi to pursue an undergraduate course and stayed on as she got a suitable job here after graduation. Her upbringing and support from parents made her a confident, independent and self-reliant woman. This was in stark contrast to Manu’s family, who lived in a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and where female members of his family were not educated after high school. It was in the second year of her undergraduate programme that she met Manu, at a college festival. Manu was studying an engineering degree from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and was representing IIT Delhi in various competitions at the festival, whilst Sangeeta was part of the festival’s organisation committee. A college fest, as it is popularly referred to, occupies a significant place in the sexual and romantic

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becomings of the young middle class, as the fest provides men and women with a legitimate excuse to mingle with each other. A few engineering students explained to me that it is at fests that boys enter into ‘bets’ or ‘competition’ with each other to arrange a date with a girl. In this and other ways, these fests become important sites for construction of masculinity. Women too are aware of these gender performances and rituals and actively participate in these by, for example, encouraging flirtatious exchanges with men and at other times by redefining the gendered role expectations by initiating flirtations with men.6 Following this well-known template of gendered interaction—of friendship and flirtation—Sangeeta felt an ‘instant connection’ with Manu. They exchanged mobile numbers and were in touch after the event, leading to blossoming of their romance. They spent hours every day talking on the phone or texting each other, so much so that within a few weeks they found it impossible to carry on their day without talking to each other. Their romantic association was steady for over a year, when Manu declared that he loves her and wants to be ‘committed for life’ to her. Sangeeta had the same feelings for Manu and was elated to know that he too thought of their relationship as ‘serious’. I asked what attracted them to each other, and she responded, We are quite different in many ways. I am Assamese and eat non-veg, whereas he is pure vegetarian. Back then, I used to drink, smoke and had also tried drugs. [whereas] He doesn’t do any of this. He complements me. He is always so patient whereas I am the talkative loud person who likes to party. (sic).

Sangeeta, however, did not view these different personality traits as hindrances in their relationship. What mattered for a relationship to last, she explained, is that the two people are honest with each other and do not force each other to change. She said, The thing is he lets me be myself. He doesn’t impose his tastes or preferences on me […] What I also like about him is that he is a very sensible person. He will never crack jokes about women in public, and most importantly, he is very honest. He told me right from the beginning that I might not be able to marry you if my family does not agree.

I asked what made Manu say this and how she reacted to this. She explained that Manu is an honest person and though very different from his family (in terms of education and temperament) would never hurt them in any way, especially by going against their wishes in spouse-selection. He explained to Sangeeta that he loves her but that he also owes his success to his parents, who have supported him financially and emotionally, and so he would not disrespect them by marrying someone they do not approve of. This did not imply that he will not ‘fight for their relationship’, he clarified, but that if after several pleas his parents still do not agree, then he will honour his family’s wishes over his personal desires. Sangeeta not only found this to be one of the most honest statements made by any man to her but also deeply 6 See Osella and Osella (1998), where they explain the interplay of dejection, rejection, and waiting

as constituting romance and flirting; see Simmel’s (1984) iconic work on love and flirting, where he explains how status and difference are suspended in erotic offers and refusals of love; see Sirisena (2018) for a contemporary account of flirting amongst university students in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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appreciated it for it made her see Manu’s attachments to his family, which she hoped he will also have towards her and their children if they married. Manu suspected that his parents will reject Sangeeta as she does not belong to the same caste and community, and that they will also view her education as a hindrance in her being a good daughter-in-law, as the stereotype is that educated women from Delhi are ‘fast’ and not ‘adjusting’. Manu’s suspicions were indeed correct, as when Manu confided in his mother, she was unhappy and forbade him to marry Sangeeta. Though Sangeeta was somewhat prepared for this reaction she was sad, especially because her parents had immediately accepted Manu, and their only concern was if he was ‘well settled’ (that is, earning well and at a respectable professional position) and whether he was respectful towards her. After overcoming her initial shock and sadness to Manu’s parents’ decision, they both decided to ‘come up with a plan’, explained Sangeeta, so that she could win over Manu’s family. They were not going to give up, said Sangeeta with a broad smile. I asked if she at any point had second thoughts about their relationship and if she felt anxious at undertaking this journey of struggle and negotiation. Sangeeta said that she never doubted their relationship and the credit for this went to Manu, because he had always supported her through difficult times, and now it was her turn to support him without pressuring him. She explained that right at the beginning of their relationship, Manu had a job opportunity to go to New York, but he declined it because he knew that a long-distance relationship would be difficult to carry on, and he wanted to ‘invest’ in their relationship, and so he ensured to stay in the same city as Sangeeta. There was another time when Sangeeta was beginning to give up drugs and alcohol, and it was tough for her as she felt that she was slipping into depression. Manu was always there for her in this phase, encouraging her to start afresh and ‘cleanse’ her life. All the while he never pressured Sangeeta to commit for marriage, but wanted the relationship to unfold and grow organically. It was now Sangeeta’s turn to reciprocate Manu’s unconditional love and support, and she was ready to be patient and believe in their relationship, hoping that they can cross this last big hurdle. Manu’s parents’ primary objection was that Sangeeta did not belong to the Brahmin caste and therefore would not follow a Brahmanical way of life, as it were, such as waking up early for prayers to the Sun god, following a pure vegetarian diet, and respect and deference for elders. Moreover, their family observed a strict code of conduct for women, wherein women are expected to ghoonghat (veil), that is cover their heads and face with a dupatta (scarf), in the presence of men. Furthermore, whilst they did not expect Manu to live with them, they were concerned that if Manu marries a woman who is not embedded in the same cultural and social network as them, he would eventually stop visiting them and stop following their Brahmanical way of life. Manu patiently listened to his parents’ reservations and was careful in not ridiculing their fears and concerns. He discussed these with Sangeeta, and they realised that his family is essentially threatened by her ‘modern’ outlook and fears that she might ‘take him away’ from them. Therefore, their main strategy should be to convince his family that Sangeeta does not intend to create any distance between Manu and his family, and neither will she make him change his style of living. This message could only be communicated to them if she could present herself as being

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comfortable in following their customs and traditions, such as morning prayers, doing ghoonghat. At first, Sangeeta was uncomfortable with this plan, but Manu explained to her that she does not have to follow these rules when they live together in Delhi, but observe them only when she visits his family, and for the time being, she needs to communicate to his family that she has accepted their ways of living. Manu and Sangeeta also realised that if there is anyone in the family who can convince his parents to change their decision, it is the patriarch of the family—Manu’s father’s elder brother. So, after strategising with Sangeeta, Manu set off to meet his eldest uncle to convince him that contrary to their stereotypical understanding of an educated city woman, Sangeeta was in fact willing to follow their family customs. Manu explained to his uncle that Sangeeta’s education had taught her to be open to all kinds of customs and traditions, and be respectful towards different ways of life; as a result, she is happy to adjust to their family’s routines and rituals. Manu’s uncle was convinced, and he was able to change Manu’s parents’ opinion too, who eventually agreed for Manu and Sangeeta’s marriage, with the condition that the wedding be conducted following strict Brahmanical rituals. Sangeeta recalled that she was ecstatic that their strategies worked but she also felt anxious as her ‘real test’ was after marriage. Now when she would visit Manu’s parents, she would have to follow their patriarchal traditions such as ghoonghat. She said, From where I come, women are respected and not kept behind a veil. In fact, ghoonghat is a sin. […] But I wanted to honour and respect them, so I told Manu to let his parents know that I am willing to do ghoonghat. But of course I knew that I will not follow this all my life. […] The main thing was that I had to win their trust. I agreed to all their demands, of how the wedding should be, and we promised to visit them regularly, once every two weeks, so that they don’t think that I have snatched their son from them. Once they were convinced that I am a part of their family, I would then begin to change things around.

Sangeeta recognised that ‘battles have to be fought intelligently’, she said, and considered it wise to carefully pace her resistances, so that it does not appear that she is disrespecting Manu’s family traditions. After about three months of their marriage, Sangeeta decided to alter the tradition of ghoonghat. The expectation is that the women of the house cover not only their head but their face, and slowly Sangeeta started to pull back her veil so that only her head was covered but not her face. At first, Manu’s mother and sisters-in-law were shocked and scared at this ‘bold step’, but she explained to them that this makes it easier for her to work around the house. Soon, the other women too started pulling back their veil, she said to me triumphally, and now they cover their faces only when they are out with their family for a larger social event. Another demand of Manu’s family was that Manu and Sangeeta visit them every other weekend. They followed this expectation for the first few months, but later Manu explained to his family that since they both are working, Sangeeta requires time over the weekend to manage household affairs, which becomes difficult to do if they have to visit Uttar Pradesh twice a month. For example, Manu explained to his mother that their fridge was broken for the past few days, and they can only repair it over the weekend, but if they visit his parents, they will be unable to repair the fridge in time which meant that they both will be eating out—an option which is not

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only unhealthy but also expensive. Sangeeta said that Manu’s mother immediately agreed to reduce their bi-weekly visits to monthly ones, as she wanted them to eat well and stay healthy, and wanted Sangeeta to take care of her household. Moreover, with this example, Manu and Sangeeta were also able to present an appealing picture of their household dynamics to their parents, wherein Sangeeta is incharge of the kitchen and domestic work; though the reality was different as Manu does all the cooking, and she steps into the kitchen only to prepare tea. One of the more difficult negotiations they had to undertake was to convince his parents of Sangeeta’s decision to enrol for an MBA course in another city. Sangeeta had been toying with the idea of doing an MBA for a few years and had decided to first sort out the ‘marriage issue’ and then focus on MBA. Right after their marriage, she started to prepare for the MBA exams and was thrilled when she got admission to one of India’s premier MBA institute in Hyderabad. The MBA course was for 9 months, and whilst they were happy to have a long-distance marriage, they knew that Manu’s parents will not approve of it. Sangeeta explained that for Manu’s parents a good and successful marriage is one where the wife is devoted to her husband. Given how they think about marriage, the fact that Manu would have to look after himself for a greater part of the year, whilst Sangeeta pursues an MBA degree, would certainly be a shocking and impossible prospect. Moreover, they also would not approve of Sangeeta living in another city, unchaperoned and away from her husband. Furthermore, her decision to pursue an MBA would imply that she has chosen her professional ambitions before her domestic duties, which, as we have noted in the previous chapter, is not an ideal characteristic for a ‘good wife’. Well aware of these apprehensions, yet again Sangeeta and Manu decided to engage and negotiate with these objections, by preparing appropriate answers as to how they will ensure that their marriage is not affected by a temporary long-distance arrangement. To begin with, Manu explained to his parents that since they both live in an expensive city such as Delhi, they require more money to sustain themselves, and that Sangeeta can climb the ladder of professional hierarchy only upon getting further education. To that extent, Sangeeta’s decision to pursue an MBA degree is not so much a reflection of her personal ambitions as much as a testimony of her commitment towards the well-being of their family and taking care of Manu and their future children. Manu also explained that though Sangeeta wanted Manu to move with her to Hyderabad, it was Manu who had rejected the offer as he did not want to disrupt his work flow by moving to another city. Manu further added that the flight tickets to Hyderabad are not very expensive and so Sangeeta will visit him once every month, and he will visit her during long holidays. Manu’s parents were a bit disappointed in the beginning, but once they saw the economic benefits of this decision and were convinced that Sangeeta was pursuing further studies for the betterment of her family, they supported her decision. In fact, she said, now they are very proud of her, talk highly of her to other relatives, and feel happy that Manu chose a caring, respectful, and educated woman. Sangeeta claims that Manu’s parents have become the ideal ‘modern’ parents in their village, everyone looks up to them, and other relatives too are now encouraging their sons to marry ‘good’ educated women.

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This interview is one of the most powerful narratives of ‘love’ which also laid bare the myriad negotiations of getting a union accepted as well as revealed the nuances of women’s agency. Manu and Sangeeta knew that there will be opposition to their union yet instead of outrightly rejecting these concerns or in fact abandoning their relationship, they strategised to win their parents’ approval. These strategies were such that they would not challenge Manu’s parent’s authority or their traditions. Moreover, their entire narrative of struggle was based on how they both desire to set up a quintessentially middle-class household—with good income and high morals, and customs. Crucially, this journey brought Sangeeta and Manu closer to each other as they were patient and supportive of each other’s dreams and struggles. In this way, it was in these acts of resistances and persuasions with the family that Manu and Sangeeta experienced, actualised, and strengthened their imaginings and desires of togetherness.

7.3 Jayant: Cosmopolitanism and Fear of the Other At the MBA institute, all my interviewees declared Jayant, aged 29, as the ‘nicest’ and ‘most sincere of the lot’. I was strongly encouraged to contact him, and so I did. Jayant agreed to meet me and booked a reading room in the library for our chat, as he wanted to stay away from the peering eyes of his classmates, he said with a laughter. Jayant began the conversation by detailing how he belongs to a ‘typical middle-class’ family, as his father, uncles, grandfathers were all professionally employed, and that their family emphasised on acquiring ‘good education’. Jayant’s mother too is well educated and is a housewife and a devoted mother, who ensured that both he and his brother excelled in studies and performed well in extracurricular activities. Jayant always stood first in class, he said, and is a good cricket player. An ‘all-rounder’ at school, he was awarded several prizes each year, and after school he ‘cracked’ IIT, he said, and soon after graduation got a job at McKinsey. His brother too excelled in studies, studied at another premier engineering institute, and moved to Mumbai for a job. His parents are very proud of their son’s achievements but have been distraught with their ‘personal lives’, he said with a smile. I requested him to elaborate, and Jayant began narrating his brother’s love story. Jayant’s elder brother fell in love with a colleague; however, his parents objected to the relationship as his girlfriend belonged to a lower caste and class background. Their relationship suffered due to this, and they eventually broke up. Jayant’s elder brother has not overcome his heartbreak and does not want to marry. Their mother is quite upset by this and has been trying to encourage him to meet prospective candidates but to no avail. Since his brother’s break-up, he ‘emotionally shut himself out’, said Jayant; as a result, their mother has focused all her energies on Jayant. Incidentally, Jayant too has not followed his mother’s wishes in spouse-selection. He described his love story as a typical Bollywood movie plot: ‘boy-girl fall in love, parents disapprove, and they struggle to get their approval’, he said with a laughter.

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He first met Nitya, his girlfriend, on a short vacation in Rishikesh that his best friend had organised in order to spend time with his new girlfriend. Jayant did not want to be a third wheel on this couple holiday. So, he gave an ultimatum to his friend that he will come along for this holiday only if they invite someone else also, who can keep Jayant company. His friend’s girlfriend then, invited her best friend, Nitya on the holiday. Jayant and Nitya instantly connected, as they spent hours talking to each other and were practically inseparable for the weekend. He said, We really hit it off and spend hours talking. There was so much in common. She was a travel journalist and liked adventure sports. She loves rock music as do I. Also, she liked computer games, and I am obsessed with them. I mean which girl is into computer games! In fact, she sent me new set of games just today in the morning. And our food habits are killer. We both love Italian food. Also, we both are not the party kinds, we like to stay at home, and be by ourselves. We really hit the right chord […] Our tastes matched so well, and we did not feel the need to meet anyone else.

Jayant explained that he is very close to his mother and shares everything with her; however, he did not reveal anything about his romantic relationship (with Nitya) to his mother for a long time. This was because his mother had been very depressed due to his elder brother’s relationship, and he suspected that she would object to his relationship too, as their cultural worlds are apart: Nitya is from Assam, a North-eastern state, and their dressing styles, language, food habits are all very different—Nitya eats seafood and meat, whereas his parents are strict vegetarians, for example. She is also from a different caste than Jayant’s. He thought it best to give some time before outing his relationship to his mother, and after two years of dating, he finally disclosed to his mother that he is in love with Nitya. Jayant was convinced that his mother would create ‘emotional drama’, and in order to avoid that he told her about Nitya a day before leaving for an official trip to the USA. As Jayant expected, his mother was distraught at the news. Not only was she upset that he, like his brother, had chosen a spouse from a different cultural background, but was also hurt that he had kept this from her for so long, especially since she considered them to share a close relationship. She felt betrayed and was hurt. At first, she refused to talk to him and did not phone him for two weeks, and neither did he. Eventually, she contacted him and berated him for his choice. When Jayant dismissed her disapproval, she started sending him proposals of other girls, tempting him to change his mind. Jayant, however, refused to even look at the profiles. He said, She was very hurt. But the distance was good you know. I mean the worst she could do was cry on the phone. And I let her handle it on her own for a few weeks. […] She was very persistent [about changing his mind] and kept sending me proposals of girls from our own community. She kept telling me that it is important to marry within the community because it makes life easier. One day I had had enough of this, so I told her openly that I only intend to marry Nitya and if she will not accept my decision then I will never marry […] The thing is my brother also does not want to marry after my parents did not accept his girlfriend. So, somewhere they take the blame. So, when I gave her the same ultimatum, she was shocked. I mean it is bad enough that one son decides not to marry, imagine if both take the same decision.

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The prospect of her second child also remaining unmarried made Jayant’s mother reconsider her decision. Once Jayant was back, she asked him a few more details about Nitya—her education, profession, and background. Jayant explained to her that Nitya is not a ‘typical Assamese girl’ but a modern educated woman, and that they both are a right ‘fit’: he can relate to her intellectually, and given that she is smart and educated, she would also ensure that their children are well brought up and well educated. Jayant’s mother agreed to meet Nitya and her family. The first meeting between the two families took place at his house, and he described it as ‘all right, not too good’. Without revealing any details, he said that his mother was a bit defensive and on the edge and was not very warm towards Nitya and her family. Nitya’s parents, however, did not make an issue out of this. Nitya had already briefed them that Jayant’s parents are not entirely supportive of their union, and her parents assured Jayant that they will try and assuage his mother’s concerns. Though Nitya’s parents were not treated most warmly, they remained cordial and extended an invitation to his parents to visit their home in Assam. Jayant’s mother did not praise Nitya after their first meeting, but commented that she was relieved that Nitya did not have ‘Assamese features’ and was an attractive woman. After a few weeks, they went to Assam, and this time the meeting was ‘good’, said Jayant. Jayant’s mother spoke at length to Nitya and was pleased to know that she grew up in different parts of the world—Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and spent the past few years in Mumbai—and therefore was more cosmopolitan than Assamese in her cultural identity. She was glad to know that Nitya preferred to speak English and Hindi than Assamese. During this meeting, they also realised that their families are quite alike as Nitya’s father like Jayant’s father held a respectable position in an oil company, due to which he travelled around the world and lived abroad with his family. She was also happy to know that Nitya’s younger sister, like Jayant, had completed an engineering degree from a reputable institute and was employed in Mumbai with a consulting company. Jayant’s mother soon saw that though she and Nitya’s family spoke different languages, they had chartered a similar trajectory to establish their middle-class status, namely of acquiring good educational degrees and professional status. This assuaged her fears regarding Nitya ‘taking over’ their cultural identities and imposing an Assamese way of living, as she realised that Nitya is essentially cosmopolitan in nature and like Jayant, has a middle class upbringing that emphasises on education. Like the previous narratives, Jayant too made use of middle-class identifications to convince his mother of the choice of his spouse. Jayant’s strategy was to make his mother see that Nitya, like her, can carry on the responsibility of being a ‘good middle-class wife and mother’ and that her moralities and identities are embedded in hard work, success, and education rather than her cultural background. Jayant’s mother was therefore assured that Jayant would not be taken over by an Assamese culture rather, he would only become more cosmopolitan, and reproduce his middleclass status and values (focus on education and professional success) by marrying Nitya. At the same time, this narrative also makes us note the family’s flexible approach towards the requirement of caste endogamy, wherein, insofar as the chosen spouse is of the same caste and culture, they praise the benefits of marrying within

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caste and community but in situations where the spouse is from another caste or cultural background, their hope is that he/she is cosmopolitan and not rigid about their community’s way of living. *** In this chapter, I focussed exclusively on those unions that are labelled as ‘love’ marriages for they are based on a ‘companionate ‘emotional satisfaction” (Fuller and Narasimhan 2008, 751). Strikingly though, none of the individuals described their love as based on passionate attraction or used the Hindi or Urdu terminology as pyaar, ishq, or junoon, to describe their feelings for each other. Rather, they preferred to present their ‘love’ as ‘rational’ and practical, since it was based on similar tastes and educational and professional qualifications, similarity of class status, lifestyle, and middle-class moralities, and transgressive only to the extent of crossing caste, linguistic, regional boundaries. The primary reason for them describing their experience as a ‘proper love’ story was that their parents (at least one set) did not approve of them. Their main aim, therefore, was to convince their parents that they had made a ‘right’ choice, and they did so with utter patience and by opening a dialogue with their parents and categorically refusing to marry without parents’ consent. They considered this temperate and patient approach a result of their middle class upbringing, which had instilled values of respecting parents and not bringing disrepute to family by openly challenging the family’s preferences or opinions. Another way in which these transgressive ‘love’ marriages ended up reinforcing middle-class ideals and moralities was in the nature of the strategies itself. The aim of these strategies was to convince the parents that though the chosen spouse is from a different caste or community, she/he upholds middle class values particularly of importance to education and professional success, as well as gendered role expectations. For example, a woman pleads the suitability of her chosen spouse on the grounds that he is professionally well settled and therefore will perform his duty of being a ‘male provider’. A man explains how the woman he has chosen to marry though educated and working is willing to ‘adjust’ to his way of life and not overlook her domestic responsibilities. In other words, the basis on which the couples plead their suitability for each other to their parents is not on their compatibility or ‘connection’ or even ‘love’. Rather, their pleas and strategies are embedded in expectations of gender role performances. This is not to say that they uncritically follow all gender expectations, but that the language adopted is not reactionary but embedded in familial expectations.7 In this way, I explain that even self-described ‘love’ marriages that pride themselves on being transgressive by challenging parental authority and caste endogamy rules and therefore are often viewed as misfits to the moral order of middle-class matchmaking, in fact, reproduce middle-class identities.

7 As

also discussed in Chap. 6.

References

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References Ahearn, Laura M. 2001. Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal. University of Michigan Press. Busby, Cecilia. 1997. Of Marriage and Marrigeability: Gender and Dravidian Kinship. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 3 (1): 21–42. Chowdhry, Prem. 2009. Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Coontz, Stephanie. 2005. Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. New York: Penguin. Demerath, N.J., Surinder Jodhka, and Loren R. Demrath. 2006. Interrogating Caste and Religion in India’s Emerging Middle Class. Economic and Political Weekly 41 (35): 3813–3818. Fuller, Chris J., and Haripriya Narasimhan. 2008. Companionate Marriage in India: The Changing Marriage System in Middle-Class Brahman Subcaste. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14: 736–754. Gold, Ann Grodzins, and Gloria Goodwin Raheja. 1994. Listen to the Heron’s Words. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kaviraj, Sudipta. 2006. Tagore and Transformations in the Ideals of Love. In Love in South Asia, ed. Francesca Orsini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lietchy, Mark. 2003. Suitably Modern: Making New Middle Class Culture in a New Consumer Society. Princeton, N. J: Princeton University Press. Loomba, Ania, and Ritty A. Lukose. 2012. Introduction. In South Asian Feminisms, Durham and London: Duke University Press. Lukose, Ritty A. 2009. Liberalization’s Children: Gender, Youth and Consumer Culture in Globalizing India. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Mody, Perveez. 2008. The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi. New Delhi: Routledge. Orsini, Francesca. 2006. Love in South Asia: A Cultural History. ed. Fracesca Orsini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Osella, Caroline, and Filippo Osella. 1998. Friendship and Flirting: Micro-Politics in Kerala, South India. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4 (2): 189–206. Scott, James C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Scott, James C. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Simmel, George. 1984. George Simmel on Women, Sexuality, and, Love ed. Guy Oakes: Yale University Press. Sirisena, Mihirini. 2018. The Making and Meaning of Relationships in Sri Lanka: An Ethnography on University Students in Colombo. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan. Srinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar. 1962. Caste in Modern India. New Delhi: Asia Publication House. Swidler, Ann. 2001. Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Thapan, Meenakshi. 2009. Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Sage. Trawick, Margaret. 1990. Notes on Love in a Tamil Family. Berkeley: University of California Press. Twamley, Katherine. 2014. Love, Marriage, Intimacy among Gujarati Indians: A Suitable Match. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Chapter 8

The Injuries of Love and Matchmaking

In the previous chapter, I focused on that articulation of love which insists on its viability and merits, often in opposition to at least one set of parents. I also explained how the process of negotiation with parents strengthens the bond of love and feeling of togetherness for the couple, as they together develop strategies and display patience and perseverance in face of acute opposition. At the same time, there is also another kind of experience of love, one that does not strengthen togetherness, but causes grave emotional and physical pain to at least one individual in the couple. This is to say that a process of spouse-selection (formal and informal) can also have a dark side, as it were, as an individual is subject to humiliation, physical abuse, is abandoned, betrayed, or outrightly rejected. When I began this research, I anticipated that a few, if not all, interviewees will discuss these dark experiences, but what I did not foresee is that each will describe their romantic experiences as shaped by rejection, breakup, or (self)violence; experiences that made them rethink about love or reassess their criteria for a suitable spouse.1 Often academic works tend to focus on the more visible and outrageous experiences of love and marriage, such as violence as reaction to same-gotra, intercaste, inter-religious marriages, also known as ‘honour killings’ (Chakravarti 2005; Chowdhry 1997, 2009). Lamentably, sociological and anthropological works tend to leave out studying the more personal and intimate dark experiences of love and matchmaking, such as heartbreak, rejections, and self-harm. It is indeed important to study these experiences for they enable a further understanding of the emotional and affective dimensions of matchmaking, as they explicate how meanings or relevance of ‘love’ might transform for an individual and how the morality of ‘duty’ comes to precede the desire for love. They also help delineate how the criteria of spouseselection are not rigid, and how these dark experiences can reinforce identifications of being middle class and modern. Crucially, they reveal how the pursuit of love or a 1 In

this book, I am mainly focusing on acts of self-violence. I have elsewhere discussed (2019) partner violence.

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6_8

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‘good match’ is not always a neat and clearly thought-out process; rather is wrought with conflict, contestation, and confusion. This chapter, therefore, explains that the ideas of love and marriage are not based on a tabula rasa, and in fact significantly depend on experiences of pain, heartbreak, and rejections, or what I call ‘injuries’ of love. In other words, whilst much scholarship has brought attention to how love is informed by social codes inculcated by family (Béteille 1993; Bhandari 2017, 2018; Das 1993; Donner and Santos 2016; Majumdar 2009; Twamley 2014; Uberoi 1993), by media (Dwyer 2000; Munshi 2001; Uberoi 2001, 2006), and social movements (Brosius 2013), in this chapter, I explain how the dark side of love impacts processes of spouse-selection and ideals of matchmaking. I put forth this account in four sections of this chapter: The first section brings attention to experiences of break-ups particularly how an individual copes with it, by, for example, taking recourse to drugs, alcoholism, and attempts at suicide. These expressions of self-harm, consequently, lead the individual to reassess their criteria of suitability of a spouse. The second section discusses another coping mechanism of a break-up, namely, when an individual declares that they are ‘numb’ to the idea of love, that is, they have no desire to feel the emotion of love. Often in these cases, the individual prefers to choose a spouse from a formal space of spouse-selection based on objective criteria of caste or class status, rather than look for love. Indeed, it is generally in these situations that an individual who had previously easily transgressed caste and community boundaries in choosing a romantic partner/suitable spouse, now chooses to marry within her/his social and economic status. The third section unravels incidents of physical hurt and emotional harassment in a romantic relationship. Often in these situations, the individual finds it difficult to break-free from their cycle of abuse and instead normalises the violence against them by explaining that patience, tolerance (‘sehna’), and forgiveness constitute love. The final section shifts attention to the formal space of spouse-selection, and describes experiences of humiliations and insults that a prospective bride and groom undergo whilst being assessed as a suitable spouse. As a result, these individuals decide to no longer make use of the formal space of matchmaking and instead prefer to find a spouse through the informal networks of work and friendship. This discussion particularly explains that the widely used term ‘love’ marriage or marriage of choice is not necessarily based on a desire to assert one’s individual choice in spouse-selection. Rather, the preference for ‘love’ or ‘choice’ marriage might be a consequence of unpleasant experiences in the formal space of matchmaking. To that extent, the term ‘love marriage’ can at times be misleading as the reason why an individual opts for this ‘type’ of marriage could have more to do with protecting themselves from the pain of brute assessment in matchmaking and less with a desire to experience love. As a result, it is more appropriate to use the terms informal and formal process of spouse-selection, as they bring out these nuanced dynamics of matchmaking.

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8.1 Sex, Drugs, and Self-harm: ‘It helped ease pain’ In the first instance, the term ‘love’ evokes sentiments of care, attraction, and togetherness; this indeed was the popular interpretation amongst my interviewees. Yet, there were also those who associated negative connotations to love, particularly, of pain, hurt, rejection, and low self-esteem. Indeed, some interviewees explained to me that they preferred to stay away from love, as love is a cause of distress and anguish. Often, this opinion was based on their own negative or dark experiences of love, which at times lead them to acts of self-harm. A similar observation is made by West (2011), in his work that analyses court proceedings related to marriage, adultery, and stalking in Japan, as he explains how the judicial interpretation of ‘love’ is that it is a sickness, which causes pain and suffering to the point of death. Illouz (2013), establishes a link between love and pain, when she argues that modern love is designed (structured) to cause pain. The main reason for this is that the ‘ecology of choice’ has undergone a change; that is, people believe they have more choices/chances at love now than before and, therefore, tend to break-up their relationships more often. As a result, there is greater expectations and chance of abandonment and betrayal in love now. She thus argues that to understand the nature of ‘love’ in modern times, it is essential to see how love ‘hurts’. Whilst I do not delve into the reasons of break-up, nor the pathology of love or how it is seen as a ‘sickness’, I too note that the articulation of love in the modern narrative of matchmaking is not always positive. Rather, ‘love’ is often explained as a cause of anguish and distress, and this dark experience of love shapes the processes of spouse-selection. Whilst scholarship has explained how the middle class asserts their modernity by emphasising the importance of love, in this research I noted how for some, the experience of love is more encumbering that liberating, leading them to question the significance of ‘love’ in their lives and their middle-class identities in general. Such was the experience of Hari, an IIT graduate, who gave up his highpaying job in a multinational company to pursue his passion of theatre. Dressed in ordinary clothes—pair of brown trousers, run down check shirt—he scheduled meeting me at Café Coffee Day in a small market close to his alma mater, IIT. Hari seemed a bit nervous; but said that he was prepared to ‘tell it all’, mainly because we were unlikely to meet again, and he treated this as a one-off therapy session. He requested me not to judge him for the choices he had made and hoped that my education and training will allow me to interpret his life-story with compassion. I was intrigued. He began describing his romantic journey and said that his first few relationships in high-school were ‘flings’ or inconsequential, since they were simply driven by a curiosity to know more about women and were not based on feelings of affection, attraction, and passions. His first and only encounter with ‘love’, he said, was in his second year of engineering degree. As the ratio of boy to girl is so skewed [at engineering institutes] it was a big deal to land a girlfriend, let alone a beautiful and intelligent one. (said with a laugher) I was very happy. She was so smart, intelligent, and everyone was jealous of us and also maybe in awe of us. We were like the ‘it’ couple […] We got along very well. She was not into theatre but she was an avid reader so we would discuss ideas and concepts. It sounds silly to say this, but I

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had already decided that I will marry her. But things did not turn out in this way. I did not do very well in the final exams because my main focus was in theatre, so, I could not find a good job. But she did well, topped the class, and landed a good job, and a heavy paycheck […] To be honest with you, I was a bit jealous of her. I finally got a job but it was not high-paying as hers and it was not a very big company […] We were both in very different worlds, she was working in a posh company, earning lakhs, roaming around with men in expensive suits, and here I was in a small company, wearing very regular clothes. I think it was bound to happen that she would drift apart […]

Hari explained that though he could sense that she was a bit embarrassed of the fact that he did not get hired by a top company he did not anticipate that they would break-up. ‘I was so in love that I could not imagine that she wants to go away from me’, he said. As Hari expected, his girlfriend had fallen in love with her boss within the first two months of starting her job, and she informed Hari that she wanted to break-up with him. Hari tried to convince her to not leave him, but she was very adamant, he said, and he had no choice but to accept the break-up. I asked how he felt in that moment and he responded, Now that I look back, I think I was sort of prepared for this. She said she did not plan to leave me, it all just happened. […] When she first told me this [about liking another man], I felt this sharp piercing pain in my heart. I used to read about this kind of pain in novels and plays, especially Shakespeare but I never knew how it felt until then. I did not say much to her, I kept quiet, which also disappointed her I think, but I knew I was destroyed form inside. I had no motivation to do anything. After a few days, I phoned her and begged her to take me back, but she was so cold; that hurt me even more. Bas phir kya tha, (then what) everything went downhill from there. I lost self-confidence, I lost interest in theatre, I started drinking to ease the pain. I also tried drugs and went to sex-workers.

At this point, Hari looked at me to gauge if I was fazed by this information. Rather, I encouraged him to further elaborate on these strategies of coping with his break-up, and whether they made him feel any better. He said, After the break-up I had severe migraine attacks. That’s when I thought ki ek ladki ka ilaaj ek ladki hi hai (a cure to agony caused by a woman is another woman). So I took the help of call girls[….]kahin na kahin mere andar ek agony aur grief tha aur ye jadden deep hoti jaa rahi thi. Is cheez ne halka kiya. (I had an agony inside me which was deepening its roots and going to call girls helped me to get rid of it). This (soliciting sex) happened for 10-12 months. I entered and left this phase fully conscious and aware of what I was doing. […] I did not enjoy it, par wo feelings nahi thi, jo main miss karta tha, girlfriend ke saath hona kuuch alag hi hai. (it didn’t feel the same as having sex with my girlfriend which I missed). But I am thankful to the women who gave me these intimate experiences and helped me rebuild my confidence.

Hari explained that one of the main reasons he was so heartbroken was because he realised that in its modern form, love has no meaning as people only give importance to money and status over interpersonal connection. This ‘bankrupted’ his trust in love and intimacy, he said. At the same time, he desired to feel love and be intimate again, but he was afraid that he is not emotionally ready for a relationship and so he opted for paid sex, one without the ‘baggage of emotional intimacy’, he said. Once he was able to feel love again, and desire to trust in it, he stopped visiting brothels. He then registered on a matrimonial website as he wanted to marry. One of the main

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impacts of his break-up, he said was that he no longer emphasised on the ideal of love. Rather, he considered respect to be a much more important criterion to make a relationship last. According to him, his girlfriend had left him because she was unsatisfied with his professional status and irked by his preference of theatre and the creative field. In other words, he felt that she did not respect what he did or who he was, and so, now, his main criterion for a suitable spouse was someone who respects him and his life choices. He said, Jab college mein the to lagta thi ki smart padhi ladki se hi shaadi karenge, hum naye zamane ke mard hain. (When in college, the desire is to be with a smart, educated girl, as we are modern men). But after this incident all I wanted was someone who would stand by me, and I realised that all this talk of love, and death do us apart actually has no meaning in real life. It is better to find someone who respects you, and not find someone who has all these education and professional degrees and claims that she loves you but actually only cares about status.

He explained that it was important for him to establish trust with his spouse, and in some ways, trust is more important than that abstract or physical feeling of ‘love’. He said, I had shortlisted two women from the matrimonial website. One of them was more appealing on paper – she was well-educated, father a reputed doctor in AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences]. I wanted to be honest, so I told her everything about my past – how I was heartbroken, and how I used the alcohol, drugs, sex to get over my pain. She was quite shocked with this information and our communication stopped right after I told her this. Then I met my fiancé, who is from a small town and is not as well-educated as either as my ex-girlfriend or this other Delhi girl. And she clearly told me, ‘aapke past se mujhe koi farak nahi padta hai’, wo baat mujhe bohat acchi lagi. (“Your past does not bother me”. I really liked her response). She was accepting of my past. She did not ask questions or make judgements. Frankly, this is what you want from a partner. Ye degree status movie wala pyar sab bekaar ki baatein hain. (these degrees, status, don’t matter).

I enquired if he ‘loved’ his fiancé, and he smiled and he remarked, ‘I don’t know. It is hard for me to associate positive feelings with love now. All I can think about is what happened to me in love, and I am somewhat scared of it…’ I asked if that meant that he has given up on the idea of love and he responded, ‘I think respect is the true basis of love. I respect my fiancé and I know she respects me […] I am sure we will love each other one day’. On Hari’s recommendation, I also interviewed his junior from college, Varun, who is working with a consultancy in Gurugram. When I phoned Varun to introduce myself, he asked me extensive questions on my research topic and said that since he has ‘crazy work hours’, he will meet me only at a short notice, and in all likelihood for an after-dinner coffee. Varun’s tone was professional and considering he had given me a short window for our chat, I assumed that he would be hesitant to provide any in-depth details of his romantic life. A few days later, Varun messaged me at 5 pm and arranged our meeting for 8:30 pm, in a café close to IIT. When we met, Varun did not seem in a rush, though he was famished he said, as he had meetings until 8 pm. I always considered it important that my interviewees feel relaxed and at ease during our chat, and therefore preferred to organise meetings during weekends. I was

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worried that since Varun seemed tired and it was mid-week, he probably was in a rush, and wanted to get over with our meeting as soon as possible. I was, however, in for a surprise because as I broached the topic of relationships he said, ‘See, my short romances are really of no significance; they were mainly flings. I will tell you about the relationship that mattered the most to me, the only time I loved, this was in college….’ Varun described himself as a typical ‘middle-class boy’, as his family put a lot of emphasis on education. As a result, he worked hard throughout school and cleared the highly competitive IIT entrance examinations. Though his parents lived in Delhi, he moved to live on campus, and before leaving his parents reminded him to only focus on work and not ‘waste’ time on extracurricular activities or romantic relationships. For two years, Varun followed their advice but in the third year, he became friends with a girl, Bela, and soon their friendship turned into love. In hindsight, Varun said, he regrets not following his parents’ advice, because Bela indeed turned out to be a distraction, and affected his work and mental health he said. Whilst the initial few weeks of the relationship went well, Varun came to know more about Bela’s past— she was a victim of domestic abuse as her alcoholic father often beat her and her mother. Because of this experience, Bela was emotionally fragile, explained Varun, and as a result of which, she tended to get upset with him on ‘little’ things and wanted constant attention. If they had an argument, for example, and Varun did not return her calls, she would send him text messages and emails threatening that she would commit sucide. Varun was overwhelmed with this behaviour and wanted to break-up, but each time Bela would accept the blame of her irrational behaviour and convince him that she is volatile due to her troubled family life. Varun suggested that Bela consult a therapist and she agreed. Varun said that he was happy that Bela wanted to work on herself and their relationship, and this made him fall in love with her all the more. Varun even arranged and paid for her therapy sessions and sat outside the clinic waiting for her. He said, I was very supportive in the entire process. I would wait outside the clinic to give her moral support. The therapy did her good. She was improving, and I was really in love and knew that we would work out […]

At this moment Varun stopped talking. He seemed shaken. He sipped coffee and continued, Our fights did not stop completely though. First, I thought she is on the edge because we were in the final year and there is lot of stress to do well in exams and get a good job. […] We both got good jobs in different companies in Gurgaon, and we moved in with friends in our separate flats. We would meet almost every day, talk on the phone. But within about two-three months, I started noticing changes in her behaviour. She became aloof, she did not talk as much, and we also started meeting less. She would come up with excuses that I have a headache, stomachache, or something or the other. I could sense something was wrong.

Though it had been over three years since this experience, Varun was teary-eyed whilst narrating the next part. He said, I hate to admit this, but I checked her phone. I found out that when she told me she is tired and wants to sleep, she was on the phone with someone else. She had never mentioned this

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person to me except once. He was her boss. I did not have the courage to confront her. I was so shocked. Then one day, I asked her to meet me in the same coffee shop where we used to hang out during out IIT days. I think she sensed that I knew something was up. So, as soon as we got to the café, she herself said that she has to tell me something important. She told me that she has fallen for that guy and she wants to be with him not me. I could not contain myself and I started crying. People started looking at us, and she was so angry at me and told me to stop making a scene. That hurt me even more, that she could not see how much pain I was in because of her, and all she cared about was her image. […] We sat there for two hours, I calmed down a little bit. She hugged me and said that she hopes I will understand. When I went back home, I was calm but then the next morning I could not get up. I called in sick at work, and I never do that. I had never had alcohol before in my life, but that night I wanted to drink. I told my flat mates. They took me out, we had lots of drinks, I was puking the next day. The pain would not stop. I called her, but she did not take my calls. I just felt so dejected. I kept thinking about all that I did for her, how I helped her, took her to therapy, stood by her, and she just forgot all this for another guy.

A tear rolled down Varun’s cheek and embarrassed, he quickly brushed it off. He apologised and I said he was not embarrassing me and that he can take as much time as he wants and if he so prefers, we can stop talking about this. He said he wanted to let it out, as he had not discussed this incident in years now. He continued, I even tried to kill myself. I think it was a week or so later, and she was not talking to me. She was avoiding me. I did what she used to do to me. I threatened that if she will not meet me, I will have sleeping pills. She agreed to see me but in a public place. When I met her, I found her so cold. Nothing moved her. She had moved on. She did not care that I was in such a miserable state. She consoled me and said there is someone better for me out there and I shouldn’t take this to heart […] When I got back, I tried to cut my wrists, but I couldn’t cut deep enough. I guess I did not have the courage to […] I was in pain and crying for several weeks. Till date, it shakes me when I think of this incident.

In mourning the end of this relationship, his performance at work dropped. Everyone in office knew that he had a break-up and is unable to cope. His boss suggested that he take a week off, and so he did. Varun said that it was then that he realised that his parents were right all along, that this ‘love business is bullshit’, it just causes pain, he said. ‘I should have never loved her so much’. He added, I started seeing that I was throwing away everything that I had worked hard for and that which was my parents’ dream, for a woman. I have two younger siblings and they are my responsibilities, but at that time I thought of nothing [else]. This is what love does to you, it makes you clueless and selfish. After this incident, I promised myself that I will marry a sane girl. Someone who comes from a happy family. Also, she has to love and respect my parents and be ready to support me in making a good life for them. For now, I am single, and I do not intend to be in a relationship because I cannot deal with another heartbreak. I need more time […] Love is too painful2

2A

few years later, Varun contacted me on Facebook to share that he has moved to Singapore. He also revealed that he fell in love with an Indian colleague there, whom he will soon marry, and that this time, his family were happy with his choice.

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8.2 Emotional Numbness: ‘I did not marry for love’ For some individuals, their experience of pain in love lead them to drastically change their approach to matchmaking, as they completely withdrew from the process and distanced themselves from their previously held opinion that love is central for a relationship. In such cases, often parents take over the process of spouse-selection, and suggest suitable alliances from a formal space of matchmaking (matrimonial agents, matrimonial websites). It was these narratives that made me see how a dark experience of love can lead the individual to completely embrace the language of duty—of being a good daughter or son, by marrying solely according to the parents’ wishes—over the language of love. Though these individuals would describe their marriage as ‘arranged’, a closer look at their romantic past reveals that the ‘arranged’ marriage was also a ‘choice’ (Sharangpani 2010), as they were too hurt to look for ‘love’ or ‘connection’ again. They, therefore, had altered their conceptualisation of marriage from one based on passion and love, to one based on respect and duty. This experience was most vividly captured in my interview with an MBA student, Ritesh, aged 30. Ritesh was one of the few students who was living on campus with his wife, Payal. Ritesh and Payal were viewed as the ‘it’ couple; they were everyone’s favourite and several of their classmates told me that they looked up to their marriage: Ritesh is sharp, hard-working, and kind, and Payal is warm, mature, and supportive of her husband. Payal is a Chartered Account, I was told, and she gave a break to her career to come live with Ritesh, and Ritesh clearly appreciates Payal’s sacrifices, and always treats her with respect. I contacted Ritesh and requested an interview with him, and if possible, also his wife. He said that his wife is not keen but he will be happy to meet me. Like many others on campus, he too booked a conference room for our meeting, as he did not want to be seen with me, he said, as by then, everyone knew that I talk about personal lives, and had gained a reputation of a ‘therapist’, as it were. The joke on campus thus was that everyone who has had a heartache meets me to discuss their past wounds. Unsurprisingly, therefore, towards the end of my stay at the MBA institute, people preferred to only have closed-door interviews, whereas previously they met me in the open spaces on campus. When Ritesh arrived in the conference room, he was very nervous. In order to make him feel relaxed, I began by asking about his professional journey and family background. Ritesh described his family as a ‘typical Punjabi business family’, where there is less emphasis on getting a good education and more focus on making the children ‘smart and business minded’, he said. He had the option of joining his father’s business, yet he wanted to carve out his own identity and therefore wanted to be employed in the private sector. As a result, he decided to pursue the profession of Chartered Accountancy, and cleared all stages of CA exam in the first attempt, he claimed. I enquired if he found time for love and romance whilst pursuing these ambitions, and he laughed out loud and responded that he was not the ‘casanova kind’ but had a few relationships. He paused for a few seconds, smiled and said, ‘I was in love only once’. Ritesh began narrating his love story, and what struck me most was that he

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never even once slipped the name of his ladylove. It was clear that he was protecting her identity, but I also wondered if it was too painful for him to take her name. He said, I met her through some friends when I was in college. She was studying in South Campus [University of Delhi, which is located in South Delhi] and I [was studying] in North campus [North Delhi]. I would travel all the way to meet her [….] I really liked her and we were together [in a relationship] for 5 to 6 years [….] She was very caring and loving. She was not the typical south Delhi girl who is always changing boyfriends. She was brought up in a conservative family, so she was a bit reserved and shy [….]. She was totally my type – sweet, intelligent, very beautiful and had a good height, good dressing sense, and cared about my family. We liked the same kind of movies. She was a vegetarian but became a non-veg [non-vegetarian] because of me. […] She had a good influence on me, she helped me study. […] I was shattered when it [the relationship] ended but life carries on.3

Ritesh paused for a few minutes, perhaps to gather himself as it seemed he was on the verge of tears. Shortly after, he resumed and explained that they belonged to different cultural backgrounds, and had stubborn fathers, who did not agree to their match. He said, Initially, it was her father who had a problem because he wanted her to marry within their community, the Marwaris. Whereas I am a Punjabi. But later on, even my father did not agree. The thing is both our families are well-known in the business and South Delhi circles, and my father did not want to be seen as the ‘weak’ one who had to beg for his son’s marriage to her father. Her father also has a huge ego and so does mine […] I told my mother that I will not marry anyone but her. My mother was very worried for me because I wanted them to go and formally ask for her rishta and my father did not do that. One day my father sat me down and said that I should not push him to approach her family. He just made it clear to me that I have to mend my ways and that our family’s reputation comes first, and I could not see her anymore. He said he liked her, but he could not bow down in front of his father, so I had to leave her. I agreed.

There was something in the way that he was narrating his experience that made me feel there is more to the story than he is revealing, for on the one hand he seemed very emotional, on the other hand, his manner of speaking and tone was very rational and to the point. I decided not to pursue this topic further and moved on to talk about other topics, particularly contemporary dating practices—what he thought of dating cultures in India, pre-marital sex, and interpersonal connections between a couple. In the middle of this conversation, I asked if he ever had arguments with ‘her’, and that is when he revealed more. He said, Initially we never really fought. We were on the same page. But there were times when he had a rough patch. This was also when I went for a three-month work trip to the UK. […] I have to confess; I did sort of cheat on her then. One of my team members who was travelling with me is very hot. I had a crush on her, and she used to flirt with me. During that time, she and I were also having problems, so I think I just drifted towards this new person. I admit, it was wrong on my part, and I will never do it again. She got to know, she could sense from the way I was behaving, and later I did confess to her and apologised to her. It was then that I also assured her that I will speak to my parents about her. But the parents also did not agree 3 Changing

dietary habits is often seen as a testimony to love and commitment, and in Chap. 6, I discuss couples’ negotiations of their dietary habits.

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[…] You know the thing is neither of us really fought with our parents for each other. I think she did not because she was still hurt by what I did, and I did not have the courage to push them and we just accepted their will […] She is now married and lives in the US.

At this moment, Ritesh drew a long breath, and there was pin-drop silence in the room. I asked if he wanted to continue talking or preferred to resume our chat on another day. He shook his head and fighting back tears continued that when he heard the news of her marriage he cried for days. He felt a sudden lull in his life; he felt hollow. He had not fully realised what she meant to him until he saw her go, he said, but by then it was too late for him to ‘get her back’. He had to accept what had happened: both what he had done (cheated on her) and how he had not fought for her. He thought that perhaps she did not fight for him because she still had not forgiven him. Love had not been very kind to him, he said. Though he was just 27, and his friends wanted him to move on by introducing him to other women, he categorically refused to start another romantic relationship. He said, I didn’t want any more love after this [heart-break]. I really didn’t have it in me to go through a bad experience again. Since it was my parents who found faults with our relationship, I told them that they can choose whoever they want, and I will marry her. My only request was that they find someone who is well-educated and is working. After a few months, my mother gave an ad [matrimonial advertisement] in the newspaper and my wife was the first girl they shortlisted. I told them that I will only meet someone once they have done all background checks on family, caste, financial status, and are convinced [themselves]. They were happy with Payal and her background, and arranged our meeting in Saket mall [a mall in South Delhi’s Saket area], and I said a yes to her after our first meeting. [….]

I asked Ritesh what exactly he liked about Payal, and he replied, She is a CA like me and a simple sorted girl. She comes from the same caste and community like us. She has simple desires in life. She is not as good looking as my [ex] girlfriend but she is a nice and caring person. At that time, to be honest, I did not even ask her about her hobbies etc. She was asking all the questions. I just asked her if she wants to work after marriage, and she said yes, which I liked. […] It had been over a year since my break-up but I still couldn’t get myself to love anyone. So, I did not care about all these things that people talk about, you know connection and spark and all that. For me, what mattered was that my parents should like her [a prospective spouse], and [that] she is well-educated. […] We now have more things in common. Here, we go for swimming together, watch movies, and also talk about work.

Though Ritesh spoke very fondly of his wife, and indeed was seen by all his classmates as a loving and caring husband, I could sense that he is still reluctant to talk in-depth about his marriage. Perhaps, it was because he wanted to maintain the dignity of this relationship and not discuss it as length, which was expected given that he had not even shared the name of his ex-girlfriend, or perhaps his wife has advised him not to discuss her in detail given that she had refused an interview with me. Keeping this in mind, I asked my final question on this topic of whether he considers his marital relationship to be significantly different than his pre-marital one, and to my surprise, he responded instantly, in a matter of fact way. I loved my girlfriend, I really like my wife. We [his wife and he] have a superb relationship but I don’t think it is love [….] I don’t think about it [the pre-marital relationship] but I do

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miss my girlfriend sometimes. We are not in touch anymore, and I don’t want to be in touch with her.

Like Ritesh, Rashmi, aged 26, an engineering graduate, who works at a multinational company, explained how love left her ‘emotionally numb’, as she did not feel love nor desire to be love. We met at a café close to her home, and Rashmi provided details of her romantic history, especially when she first fell in love at the age of 22. It was her senior from school, Rajan, whom she met a school reunion. They started talking to each other on the phone and within a few months were in a relationship. They dated for four years, and though Rajan was a caring and kind person, she said, they often fought with each other. Her fear was that he was falling out of love with her and this made her insecure. She said, I don’t think there was any one particular reason for our fights or our break-up but we constantly fought. He would find faults in my shopping habits and tell me I don’t respect money, and I thought he was very lazy and kanjoos (miserly). They were little-little things nothing big, but we fought every 2–3 days. It was exhausting. Then, he was sent to the Mumbai branch of his company for 6 months, and that’s when things really began to change. We were talking less, fighting more, and he just seemed so distant. One day, just out of the blue, he phoned me to tell me that he doesn’t think we will work out because we fight a lot, and don’t have a healthy relationship. This hit me very hard. I knew things were not right but isn’t love about sticking it out? Seriously, no one tells you that it hurts in love, everyone is talking about the amazing stories where people have butterflies in their stomach, but no one tells you that these feelings don’t last […]

Though it had been two years since Rashmi’s break-up she was still troubled by it. It seemed she was still hurting as she was visibly agitated and pained whilst recalling her relationship. She added that it took her months to get over the break-up, and in the beginning, she felt very numb. She said, Nothing made me laugh, excited, or happy. It just seemed I was surviving not living. […] At some level, I felt cheated. I could not understand how you just make a relationship work for four years and then get out of it, just like that. I could not function properly after my break-up. I lost weight. My parents were worried about me. They sent me for holidays to change my mind. […] It was so painful. I managed to pull myself together somehow and put all my energies in work. Nothing else matters now but work.

She said that she no longer has the desire to be emotionally involved with anyone, to the extent that even if someone shows interest in her, she rejects him. My friends introduced me to this one guy and I went on two dates with him, but I just couldn’t get myself to go beyond those two dates. I am absolutely emotionally numb. I don’t think I can ever love again, I think I have forgotten how to.

I enquired if this meant that she will not marry and she replied, I will marry. I don’t think love and marriage are related at least in the beginning. I have told my parents that they can find someone for me because look at my choices! I am no longer in a position to judge if someone is right for me. If I can’t judge someone in four years, how will I judge someone now. I think parents have more experience; they will make find someone who is from the right social and financial background, and I think that makes a lot of difference, there are fewer chances of fights. So, half the problem is gone.

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Whilst the previous section explained how the dark experiences of love might lead an individual to self-harm, and question love as a basis of marriage, in this section, I have delineated those narratives where the individuals stepped back from the process of spouse-selection, leading to what is popularly seen as ‘arranged’ marriage. They begin to value parental choice, shared community and cultural idioms, as a ‘safer’ route, as it were, for a successful relationship. To that extent, it can be said that ‘arranged’ marriage is not antithetical to a narrative of modern romance. Rather, at times, it is very much a part of the modern narrative of love. Indeed, these experiences also reveal how individuals can redefine their idea of marriage and companionship as no longer based on feelings of connection, love, and passion, but as shaped by parental preferences, and similarity of cultural and familial backgrounds.

8.3 Normalisation of Violence: ‘I was in love’ When I began my fieldwork, I did not anticipate that my interviewees would be keen to discuss their experiences of physical violence in romantic relationships. Yet, I was surprised to note how a few women came forward to discuss these experiences. This unanticipated information proved incredibly helpful in furthering a nuanced understanding on the dynamics of contemporary romantic relationships, for often scholarship tends to focus on violence incurred on women in the role of a wife, daughter-in-law, or daughter (Chowdhry 2009; Das 1976) and rarely discusses her experiences of abuse in her role of a girlfriend. Perhaps, a reason for this is that though there is an increasing acceptance of pre-marital relationships, these relationships are not completely socially accepted. This is evident, for example, when parents acknowledge that their child is in a romantic relationship, but refer to the boyfriend/girlfriend as a ‘friend’. Another reason for less attention on this form of violence could be that the women themselves do not want to discuss these experiences for the fear or shame of not being considered as a ‘modern’ woman, as the image of a modern woman hinges on her ability to be self-reliant and independent, and not suffer abuse in ‘choice’ relationships, as often for this form of abuse is associated with a forced, traditional, or ‘arranged’ marriage. This is to say, perhaps women feel guilty in accepting that their choice can yield violence on them, and in some ways, they feel they have defeated the project of modernity, as it were (Bhandari 2019). Given this context, I was surprised when a few women decided to share details of the violence they suffered in their romantic relationship. Of the 40 women I interviewed, 8 discussed these experiences, and it is difficult for me to ascertain if others too had similar experiences but were reluctant to share them with me or if these were in fact the only women who suffered abuse.4 It was also telling that no 4 I did not actively broach this topic during interviews as my specific research topic was on marriage,

and I did not want to embarrass or throw them off by directly addressing this sensitive issue. At the same time, I encouraged them to talk about why their relationships did or did not work out, and in this way, subtly opened the door to discussing different forms of violence in a romantic relationship.

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male interviewee shared this experience, and whilst it is possible that this is because fewer men are subject to physical violence than women, it is also possible that even those who did experience violence preferred to not disclose it lest it tampers with their masculine image. At the same time, a few men did describe having been in ‘bad’ or ‘toxic’ relationships where their girlfriends constantly fought with them, and at times, scratched their faces, kicked them, and threw things at them in a fit of rage. Yet, no male interviewee provided detailed descriptions of these expressions of abuse, and as a result, in this section, I exclusively discuss narratives by women. I met Sharmishta, aged 28, recently married, who was enrolled in an M.Phil programme and was applying for jobs in policy think-tanks. Sharmishta was keen to give an interview, she said, because she expected it to be a cathartic experience, as she had not discussed her ‘colourful’ romantic life, in detail in several years. Whilst she had numerous crushes and short-term relationships she mainly wanted to talk of her ‘serious’ relationships, particularly the one before marriage. In the second year of her undergraduate programme, she broke-up with her boyfriend of over one year—they belonged to different cultural backgrounds (he was not a Bengali and unlike her from a business family) and found it difficult to relate to each other. As she was recovering from this heartbreak, friends of her parents were visiting Delhi from Kolkatta. Like her family, these friends too were upper-caste Bengalis and from a professional middle-class background. When they arrived at her house, they immediately took a liking for Sharmishta, and later suggested to her mother that she would be a good match for their only son, Debjoy. Sharmishta’s parents were initially not very keen, since Debjoy was studying Art and interested in becoming an artist, whereas Sharmishta was a bright Social Sciences student, and her parents wanted her to marry a professional, who earns well and is financially secure. Sharmishta, however, was keen to meet Debjoy, as she expected to get along with him. Moreover, she was of the opinion that since her previous relationship ended due to cultural differences, with Debjoy the relationship could be more promising and lasting as they belonged to very similar cultural and class backgrounds. Sharmishta’s parents gave into her rationale and arranged for their meeting, and within two weeks, they started dating each other. She said, My parents were not too pleased because I was more intelligent than him. The way you refer to intelligence is that oh marks nahi aaye iske Boards [Board examinations] mein acche tabhi Arts kar raha hai (people think that you take the subject of Arts only if you do not score well), whereas I scored well in my examinations. But the opposition [from my family] was not strong [….] His family was very involved in our relationship […] His parents were putting a lot of pressure and wanted us to get married after graduation, but my mother warned me that “he’s not your type”- he was not academically intelligent. His parents thought that this is good because we complement each other […] I am the academic type and he is the creative one.

Sharmishta at first was unperturbed by these differences. But as the relationship progressed, she realised that he had developed an ‘inferiority complex’ as between the two she clearly was more of an ‘achiever’. To add to this, his eccentricities made their relationship very volatile. I asked her to elaborate, and without hesitation, she said,

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One moment he would be very loving and caring, and the next moment he would slap or push me around. In fact, it had almost become routine that he would push me. But what was interesting was that I did not consider this a problem. I took all his abuse. I had normalised this violence.

This was the first interview in which a woman had so openly discussed an experience of physical violence. I was a bit taken aback at Sharmishta’s candour, and looking at my reaction, she smiled, and said that she is ‘over it’ now, but wants to talk about how she, an educated woman, did not consider this violence as problematic and had allowed it to become a normal occurrence in their relationship. I asked if anything in particular provoked him, and she explained that his outbursts had no rationality, and he could lose his cool in the most regular of situations, though often this was motivated by feelings of jealousy and insecurity. She narrated a few such experiences. Once his friend was over at his home, and I was there too. There was some left over food in the fridge that I had prepared earlier, and I offered it to his friend. He [Debjoy] got very angry and asked me to mind my own business and not care if other men are hungry. He thought I was being flirtatious and giving more attention to his friend than to him. He got so angry that he raised his hand to hit me, but his hand hit a glass of water, and all the water fell on me. His mother was in the other room and she came running. I was in tears and she pacified things between us. […] I think what made me mad was not that he got so violent but that he did it in front of others [….] Then another incident was when we were at a shoe shop and I was talking to the salesman. As soon as I got out of the shop, he started screaming at me, verbally abusing me, saying I was behaving like a slut because I was flirting with the salesman […] He was very possessive but though I was unhappy, I never considered it [the violence] a big issue. I thought that is how he expresses his love […] We did fight a lot, and we broke-up many times, but then he would create a scene at home, throw things around, and his parents would call me and beg me to come back to take care of him and I would patch up […]

On reflecting on why she carried on with the relationship despite the repeated verbal and physical abuse, she explained that it was perhaps because she was convinced that they were meant to be due to similarity of caste, class, culture, and language. She said that she could not imagine that someone so ‘right’ could be a wrong choice. She also loved him, she said and believed that true love is when one can express their real emotions, including anger, and it is the duty of the other person to be tolerant towards all these emotions. There were times when she doubted their relationship but Debjoy was good with words and managed to convince her that this form of aggression and violence was a part of a passionate relationship and not an anomaly. Moreover, his family was involved in their relationship and every time she broke-up with him, his mother approached her and requested her to patch-up. Given this toxic and constraining relationship, I asked what led her to break-up then, and she replied with a smile, Funnily enough, I did not break up with him. He did

Sharmishta recalled that after a big fight she finally mustered the courage to breakup with him, but after two days, his mother phoned to tell her that Debjoy had stopped eating food and wanted her to come back but his ego was not allowing him to make

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that phone call to her. Sharmishta felt pity and guilty that she was causing him so much pain, and patched things up with him. After a month of this ‘big fight’, he told her that he likes someone else and wants to break-up with her. She said, Even though I was relieved at one level that I will not be abused but I also felt very bad when he broke-up. It was a strange piercing feeling that how can he not want to be with me after all that I have done for him? I cried so much. I knew it was not a good relationship, but it still hurt. I did not care how he treated me; all I wanted was for him to love me again, for him to want me again […] In retrospect, I feel maybe he did it [patch-up before breaking-up] to get back at me. He wanted to be the one who breaks up with me. I had hurt his male ego, he always felt that I was better than him, so he wanted to teach me a lesson.

Though completely aware of how abusive her relationship was, Sharmishta took a year to get over her break-up, she said. In this time, she got a job in the development sector, where she met her husband who belongs to a different caste, regional, and linguistic background. Despite being so different, she said, they got along instantly, and it was this new relationship based on respect and trust that made her reflect upon her relationship with Debjoy and see how she had enabled the violence by normalising it as part of an intimate relationship. It was her new relationship that made her see how respect is important for love, and violence can never be constitutive of love. I met Simran, aged 27, who works in a multinational company in Gurugram, at a café in a South Delhi mall. Simran was curious about my research topic and instantly agreed to see me as she wanted to share her experiences with a ‘neutral person’, she said. Tall and good-looking, Simran seemed confident, and as we began chatting about her family, and college-life, I presumed that her story would be one of the more straightforward narratives of ‘choice’ and love. I was taken aback, however, when she said that whilst she had several ‘short-term’ relationships, she was genuinely in love only once; this was an abusive relationship. Without spending any time on describing her previous relationships, she right away talked about her ‘main’ relationship—she met Rohan at work, and after a few months of mild flirting, she said, they decided to make it ‘official’. She soon realised that Rohan has anger issues, as he would lose his temper at the smallest of things, such as if someone did not follow traffic rules, or if the waiter brought him a wrong order, or if he had an argument with a friend. On top of it, he would always blame Simran for making him edgy—he routinely yelled at her, she said, and when conversations got heated between them, he would grab her by the arms and shake her violently. He also started to slap her during their fights. Yet, Simran never thought of breaking-up the relationship. She would get upset with his abusive behaviour, and he would cry and apologise to her, and she would accept, and things would go back to normal. This was their ‘typical cycle’, she said. He convinced her that his aggression is because he is going through a rough phase at work and in fact requires her support to come out of it. He said that if she loved him, she would understand his situation. Simran, therefore, rationalised and in this process normalised the violence against her. Recalling how she felt in the relationship, she said, I was in love, and when you are in love you overlook so many things. Of course, I was hurt and in pain, but then I thought that this is what you do when you are in love; you give support

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no matter what. I mean, if he was an alcoholic, I would still support him and help him get over it, so why can’t I help him with his anger issues.

After almost two years of dating, Rohan wanted to break-up the relationship because he thought they were fighting too much. Simran was shocked at this, for she believed that she had given complete support to him, and tolerated his abuse which no other woman would have. Simran tried to talk him out of it and beseeched him to take some time to rethink his decision. Rohan, however, was adamant. Simran said that she was heartbroken and crestfallen; she could not comprehend how he could not appreciate and value her goodness and patience. She was convinced that another factor had influenced his decision—another love interest. She contacted their common friends who confirmed that Rohan had developed feelings for another woman at work. Simran then knew that now there was no prospect of them getting back together. After their break-up, Simran lost complete faith in love. She was unable to fathom how he could not appreciate her dedication towards him. This experience has made her question love, she said. Though critical of love, at the end of the interview she also added, He will regret this. She can never love him the way I did. No one will take his abusive habits.

Even after two years of their break-up, Simran was clearly not over the relationship. In fact, she did not really question the place of violence in their relationship during the interview but focused more on the feelings of hurt and pain at Rohan’s betrayal. Both these narratives are rich and detailed, warranting a much deeper analysis, yet, for the purpose of this chapter, I want to highlight how violence is normalised in a relationship in the name of love. For both Sharmishtha and Simran, love is shaped by values of endurance, patience, and forgiveness. In a way, they think it their duty to take care of a man with anger issues or one who is insecure. At times, they even take the blame for his behaviour. In fact, to them violence is an expression of intimacy and love. Crucially, in both these cases, it was not them who broke-up the relationship but the abusive boyfriend, and this made them sad. Whilst one was able to overcome this normalisation after having experienced a more positive relationship, Simran still seemed to revere that experience of love, given how often she reiterated that he was her only ‘true love’. With these two accounts, I thus bring attention to the intricate relationship between love and brute violence.

8.4 Humiliation: “It is like a poodle show” Feelings of hurt and pain are not limited to only experiences of ‘love’, as they in fact also occur in the formal space of spouse-selection, leading the prospective groom or bride to completely transform their approach to matchmaking. This is particularly when they are subject to humiliation in the process of being adjudged a suitable spouse. To explicate, in a formal process of spouse-selection, there is relatively a

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shorter time-frame in which decisions on the suitability of a spouse are to be made. As a result, a prospective groom/bride comes under quick and greater scrutiny— physical characteristics, personality, temperament—at times in a more ‘open’ way, that is, in front of others or in less evasive terms. This might cause a severe blow to an individual’s self-esteem and confidence, leading them to decide to switch to an informal process of spouse-selection, in which they believe their assessment will be less brutal and more subtle.5 Amrita, aged 28, who was pursuing an MBA degree, discussed such an experience in detail. I was surprised that Amrita, a shy and reticent person, agreed to discuss her romantic and matchmaking experiences with me. I anticipated the interview to be relatively straightforward, thinking that she would provide ‘to the point’ information to all my questions. Contrary to my expectation, Amrita provided a detailed, heartfelt account of her harrowing experiences of being in the ‘marriage market’, narrating which, she broke down to tears four times in our two-hour long interview. Amrita claimed that she had never been in a romantic relationship, and attributed this to her strict middle-class upbringing, where her father kept a strict vigil on his two daughters, ensuring that they focus only on their education. Upon graduation, she got a job at a multinational company as an analyst, and two years after, at the age of 24, her parents began to look for a suitable match for her. Her parents’ primary criterion was that she marries a man from their community, and so they contacted a matrimonial broker renowned for finding suitable matches within their community—the Kayasthas from Delhi/UP (Uttar Pradesh). This broker prepared her ‘biodata’ with details of her educational qualifications, physical attributes, and family information, and circulated it amongst prospective suitors.6 In the first three months, about ten families showed interest in her, and five or six came to ‘see’ her. She was rejected by all the families, she said, mainly because they did not find her pretty and thought her to be ‘too short’—she stands at 4 ft 10 inches. What hurt her most was the bluntness which people rejected her. She said, Once an aunty [mother of a prospective groom] said in front of me, “picture mein to zyaada gori dikhti hai” [she looks fairer-skinned in her photographs]. Then she asked me directly ‘height kya hai?’ [what is your height]. Agar aap ko wo pasand nahi karte hain to wahin par munh banalenge, ya keh denge ki suit nahi kiya [if they don’t like how you look then they make a face to communicate that they don’t like you or will tell you later that they didn’t think of you to be a match].

At this point, tears rolled down Amrita’s cheeks. I quickly got her a tissue and suggested that we can reschedule our interview. Wiping her tears, she said she wanted to continue. One particular memory that was etched in Amrita’s mind was when a prospective groom’s mother came home to ‘see’ her. As Amrita entered the room, the mother shook her head in disapproval and immediately stood up. Without apologising or expressing any regret, she bluntly commented to Amrita’s parents and 5 Works

as by Puri (1999), Sharangapani (2010), and Titzmann (2011) explain how women assert agency even in ‘arranged’ marriages. This particular section, however, focuses only on the negative experiences of the formal space of spouse-selection, to explain how an individual makes changes to their process of spouse-selection due to certain dark experiences of matchmaking. 6 Chapter 3 provides details on matrimonial brokers’ procedure to suggest matches.

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the matrimonial broker that Amrita is ‘too short’ for them to even consider her as a prospective wife for their son. Amrita described the way she felt: I was so humiliated. I never felt like this before. How could she just come to my house like this, and behave like this. I ran inside. I cried and cried I wanted to yell at her, but I couldn’t. I had to control my anger.

Whilst narrating this experience, Amrita started crying again. I expressed concerned and insisted that we reschedule our meeting if recalling these experiences is making her so upset, and she assured me that this was cathartic for her and that it felt good to not control her emotions. After sobering up, she said that she could never cry like this, during those experiences of humiliations. She had to keep a brave face, especially for her parents. This reminded me of Hochschild’s (1979) work on managing emotions, where she explains ‘emotion work’ or the ‘act of trying to change in degree or quality an emotion or feeling’ in order to fit it to a particular situation or context, for example, the expectation of air hostesses to constantly smile. It seemed that a formal process of spouse-selection too required managing of emotions, especially by a prospective bride as she is expected to project a positive, smiling, and pleasant demeanour in order to make herself appealing, despite being in a situation where she is being openly and at times, brutally assessed. Amrita explained that especially after this humiliating experience, her father made it clear to the matrimonial broker that he must inform the prospective grooms of Amrita’s height before scheduling a meeting. The matrimonial broker, described Amrita as a ‘difficult profile’, and suggested the unthinkable—that her family be open to look at divorced men. She said. My father was very unhappy […] I heard him tell my mother that his friends and relatives are talking about this [her not getting a good proposal]. Then the broker said to my father “aapki ladki ki height bohat kam hai. Isse accha ladka nahi milega. Hai bhi Bachelor’s hi. Aap ab divorced ladke dekh lijiye”. Main doosre room mein thi aur maine ye sab baatein suni. Us samay maine decision liya ki ye shaadi-vaadi nahi karni hai, ab higher education loongi. MBA karoongi. [Your daughter’s height is very short. She will not get a good boy. She is also a plain BA. I’d advice you to start considering divorcee profiles. I was in the other room and I heard this conversation and made the decision that I don’t want to marry just yet, and instead focus on attaining higher education, of doing an MBA].

Amrita shared this with her parents, who were supportive and decided to hold off her spouse-selection until she gets admission to an MBA programme. She started to prepare for the MBA entrance examinations and though she did not get admission to a good school in the first attempt, she got into a highly reputable MBA institute in the second attempt. Her father was extremely proud of her and said now that she had this good education, they should resume spouse-selection, but Amrita refused. She said, I told my parents I cannot be humiliated any more. I have gone through this for two years. Now, you give me some time. I will study and find someone on my own.

At the beginning of the interview, Amrita said to me that she was not in a romantic relationship, but as we got to this part of her narrative she confessed that she likes one of her classmates, who is a good friend of hers, and she has expressed her feelings

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to him. It was not conventional dating she said because they both have decided that they will only be together if their parents agree. She anticipated that his parents might have reservations as she is from a different caste and community than him but expected her parents to be fine with her choice, as he is ‘smart, good-looking, and well-educated’. She said that she has not formally asked him for marriage and is waiting for their MBA course to end, but there is a mutual understanding that they are together and will marry each other. I enquired if she was anxious that his parents might reject her, especially for the same reasons as she has faced in the past, and responded, That can happen but at least I will not feel humiliated even if they reject me. See, in this situation I have the freedom to say what I want to, express what feel. Ye sab pehle nahi ho sakta tha, wahan sab bada formal tha. [This wouldn’t have happened before. It was all too formal earlier].

Not just women, men too narrated experiences, where they were crudely judged on their financial status, social background, and physical appearances. I met Ankit, a graduate from IIT, who belonged to a well-to-do landowning family. Ankit had given up his high-paying corporate job to set up his own business. When I approached him for an interview, he was to get married in a month’s time, and he joked that he would like to ‘cleanse his soul’ before marriage by spilling all details. He described his family as upper-middle class, though one that does not emphasise much on education but on ‘doing well in life’, that is, earning well. He turned out to be a ‘smart kid’, he said, as he cracked the highly competitive IIT entrance examinations. He was a bit spoilt because not only was he good at studies but an only son and his family spared no expenses for his comforts. He described himself as a casanova, as he was into relationships right from school, and considered himself to be ‘truly modern’, as he was in a ‘live-in’ relationship with his girlfriend at the age of 24. His girlfriend was a model and travelled between Delhi and Mumbai, and the distance was beginning to create problems in their relationship, as they began to fight frequently. They broke-up after over a year, and since then he had a few other relationships, all with ‘very modern’ girls, he said. He met another girl at the age of 26, and they soon fell in love. His friends, were convinced that she is a ‘gold digger’, and is faking her love for him, for his money. This created a rift between him and his friends, however, as time passed, he too realised that she seemed more drawn to his money and extravagant style of living than to him. This became evident when he decided to leave his high-paying professional job to open his own business. She perhaps feared that he would no longer be able to afford her expensive lifestyle since he had invested most of his money in his business, and within two months of him leaving his job, she broke-up with him. He was heartbroken, he said, also because his friends and family had warned him about her, and he had ignored their advices. After a few months, when his business was doing well, his parents suggested that he seriously thinks of marriage. Given his past experiences, he thought it best to leave the entire process to his parents, and said that they should find a suitable girl, and he will make the ‘final call’. He said,

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I thought this will be good for my confidence also. My father is well-known and we have good money, and I am educated. I was sure I will have a long line of suitors, and it is always good to know your worth in the market (he said with a laughter).

His parents shortlisted Tara, a good-looking girl from a well-to-do family in Chandigarh. His parents contacted Tara’s family, and they exchanged phone numbers. They began to speak on the phone, and Ankit was falling for her, he said. After about three weeks, he felt that her interest in him was waning. He suspected that this was because she and her family did not think of Ankit’s family to be as well-off as them. She would frequently talk about her everyday expenditures and expensive holidays. Ankit, on the other hand, lived a ‘low profile’ life especially in comparison to how wealthy his family is, he said. For example, he had not travelled much and was not spending on luxuries (clothes, shoes, watches) because he had invested his savings in his business and did not want to ask his father for these expenses. He said that he felt humiliated that he was being judged so blatantly on his earning and spending ability. Moreover, he could not bear to have another experience where a woman is more concerned about his financial status than about him. One day, he decided to go see Tara in Chandigarh—a four-hour drive from Delhi—to clarify things and get closure. He said, I am very impulsive so one day, when she had not responded to my calls for over three days, I decided to go to her house in Chandigarh. I just wanted to clear the matter and know if she was interested in me or not. When I rang the bell, her father was shocked to see me. He invited me in, and offered tea and biscuits. But they were not very warm. I could sense that they were not comfortable that I just came over. I could feel that I was unwanted. So, I decided to leave. She came outside to drop me to my car. And then, she saw my car. So, I forgot to add that though I don’t like to spend money at all, I am majorly into sports car, and that day I was driving my Porsche. You should have seen the look on her face once she saw my car. Her father was behind us, and when he saw the car he said with a smile, ‘beta, gaadiyon ka shauk hai kya’ (son, it seems you like cars). Then, he started insisting that I stay for lunch. At that instant, I knew that I don’t want anything to do with such low people who are so materialistic. I just needed this – a clear sign – and I ran from there […] On my drive back to Delhi, I felt happy and relieved that I was able to judge them. As soon as I got to Delhi, my father told me that they called saying they really like me and have agreed for the rishta (proposal) but I told my father that I reject them.

Ankit and I had a good laugh about this incident, and I wondered out loud if he had more such stories, and he responded, No way. After this, I was done with arranged marriage. Honestly, in that moment, I felt like a poodle. You know, like those poodle shows, I was paraded to be judged from top to bottom. It is such a humiliating experience. I refused to go through it again. I had made a decision that I will find someone on my own […] I know that these things happen even in love marriages, I mean my ex-girlfriend was also with me for my money, but there is something more genuine about those relationships; there is some love, care, and it is not so brutal. […] I met my fiancé here in my restaurant. She is a friend’s friend actually, and they visited my restaurant. My friend introduced me to her, and we just hit off. I pursued her a bit as at first she thought I am the typical Delhi spoilt brat, but eventually she gave in […]

These two narratives explain that the formal processes of spouse-selection, or ‘arranged’ marriages, is not always rejected for being controlled by the parents, or

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stifling individual agency in choice. Rather, other reasons, such as avoiding crude and immediate assessments and humiliations, can lead individuals to choose the informal networks of matchmaking. This is not to say that these assessments do not appear in the informal processes of spouse-selection, but at least the individual feels free to react to such assessments and humiliations. *** Often in explaining matchmaking, narratives of love typically tend to delineate how it leads to marriage, or how it cannot convert to marriage. The dark experiences of love, which specifically can lead an individual to question the viability of love as a reason to marry, or harm their self-confidence, however, are rarely a part of the narrative of matchmaking. It is here that this work makes an intervention as it explains how injuries of love can lead an individual to change their process of spouseselection, and/or their ideal of a suitable spouse. In understanding and analysing such a situation, moreover, it becomes clear that a formal process of spouse-selection is not always chosen out of pressure from parents. Rather, this decision could be motivated by one’s experience of being betrayed, hurt, or taken for granted in a relationship, as a result of which the individual decides to choose a spouse not on the basis of love and passion but from a more objective lens, as it were, and with guidance from parents. At the same time, these injuries are also a part of formal spaces of matchmaking, and if an individual feels humiliated in this process, they immediately change their preference to finding a match based on love and a personal connection. Studying the injuries of love and matchmaking, therefore brings to light the ways in which ideals and conceptualisations of love might transform for an individual. For example, whilst previously their idea of love might be based on passion, after these experiences they might give more importance to ideals of respect, duty, and perhaps cultural similarity; whilst previously they eulogised endurance of violence and ability to forgive, these experiences might lead them to question any form of violence and subordination in a romantic relationship. It is to be clarified that in delineating these experiences, my argument is not that love is a source of misery and heartache for the professional middle class. Nor is it my aim to provide an explanation of the social nature, meanings, and structure of emotions (of love), as done by Goffman’s (2009) and Illouz (2013), for example. Neither am I explicating the intricate relationship between power and emotions (Lutz 1986, 2009; Reddy 2009). Rather, my aim is to bring attention to how injuries in love, the dark side of love, can alter the idea of love and the process of matchmaking. Moreover, in so doing, I reiterate two main themes of this book: Firstly, this discussion enables a critical appraisal of the definitions of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriage. It elucidates, for example, that a decision to choose a formal way of matchmaking is not borne out of the parents’ desire to control the process of spouse-selection. Rather, this decision can be at the behest of the marrying individual motivated by their romantic misery. To that extent, an ‘arranged’ marriage or use of the formal space of spouse-selection is not a residual or ‘traditional’ choice, but in fact is a

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modern phenomenon enabled by the dark experiences of love and the consequent desire of the individual to be reembedded in their family. Secondly, this discussion explicates the ways in which middle-class moralities are reinforced after painful experience of heartbreak as the individual gives primacy to the moral of duty and parental approval over their desire of love and compatibility. Counter-intuitively, this is evident in the choice of making use of the informal space of spouse-selection; a choice which is not necessarily motivated by the desire to find love and compatibility, but by the feeling of protecting one’s family honour. In other words, when an individual might not be deemed as a ‘good’ choice in the formal space of matchmaking due to their family’s economic or social status, they might decide to look for a suitable spouse from networks of friends and work, so as to avoid any humiliation to self or family. To that extent, a ‘love’ marriage might be preferred to protect family honour and prestige, and in this way, the ideal of love reinforces middle-class moralities and attachments to family. This chapter, in these ways, lays bare the overlaps between ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriages and unsettles their seemingly strict boundaries by tracing the motivations of choosing one process of matchmaking (type of marriage) over the other. In doing so, it asks important questions as: is a process of spouse-selection mainly defined by who (individual or family) is asserting control over it or would it be more helpful to take a temporal understanding, as it were, of their experiences of romance and matchmaking? What shapes the narratives and experiences of love, apart from consent/approval of the family? What sort of shared experiences and similarities do the professional middle-class desire, and is this quest for sameness always constant? In addressing these questions, I bring attention to the affective dimensions and sorrowful emotions and experiences of matchmaking and love, and argue that contemporary matchmaking is as much about desires of love, autonomy, asserting individual agency and reiterating middle-class identities, as it is about injuries, hurt, pain, heartbreak and humiliations.

References Béteille, André. 1993. The Family and the Reproduction of Inequality. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, 435–451. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bhandari, Parul. 2017. Pre-marital Relationships and the Family in Modern India. South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (16). Bhandari, Parul. 2018. Makings of Modern Marriage: Choice, Family, and the Matchmakers. In Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices, ed. Leila Choukroune and Parul Bhandari, 131–149. New Delhi: Springer. Bhandari, Parul. 2019. Pre-marital Relationships and Violence: Experiences of Working Middle Class Women in Delhi. Gender, Place & Culture 1–21. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10. 1080/0966369X.2019.1618795. Brosius, Christiane. 2013. Love Attacks: Romance and Media Voyeurism in Public Domain. In Sexuality Studies: Oxford India Studies in Contemporary Society, ed. Sanjay Srivastava. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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Chakravarti, Uma. 2005. From Fathers to Husbands: Of Love, Death and Marriage in North India. In Honour: Crimes, Paradigm and Violence Against Women, ed. Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain, 308–331. Zubaan: New Delhi. Chowdhry, Prem. 1997. Enforcing Cultural Codes Gender and Violence in Northern India. Economic and Political Weekly 10: 119–128. Chowdhry, Prem. 2009. Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Das, Veena. 1976. Masks and Faces: An Essay on Punjabi Kinship. Contributions to Indian Sociology 10 (1): 1–30. Das, Veena. 1993. Masks and Faces: An Essay on Punjabi Kinship. In Family, Kinship and Marriage in India, ed. Patricia Uberoi, 198–224. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Donner, Henrike, and Goncalo Santos. 2016. Love, Marriage, and the Intimate Citizenship in Contemporary China and India: An Introduction. Modern Asian Studies 50 (4): 1123–1146. Dwyer, Rachel. 2000. All You Need Is Money, All You Want Is Love: Sex and Romance in Modern India. London: Cassell. Goffman, Erving. 2009. Embarassment and Social Organisation. In Emotions: A Social Science Reader, ed. Monica Greco and Paul Stenner. Oxon: Routledge. Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 1979. Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure. American Journal of Sociology 85 (3): 551–575. Illouz, Eva. 2013. Why Love Hurts? A Sociological Explanation. Cambridge: Polity Press. Lutz, Catherine A. 1986. Emotion, Though, and Estrangement: Emotion as a Cultural Category. Cultural Anthropology 1 (3): 287–309. Lutz, Catherine A. 2009. Engendered Emotions. In Emotions: A Social Science Reader, ed. Monica Greco and Paul Stenner. Oxon: Routledge. Majumdar, Rochona. 2009. Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Munshi, Shoma. 2001. Marvelous Me: The Beauty Industry and the Construction of the ‘Modern’ Indian Woman’. In Images of the “Modern Woman” In Asia: Global Media/Local Meanings, ed. Shoma Munshi. Surrey: Curzon Press. Puri, J. 1999. Woman, Body, Desire in Post-Colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality. New York: Routledge. Reddy, William. 2009. Against Constructionism. In Emotions: A Social Science Reader, ed. Monica Greco and Paul Stenner. Oxon: Routledge. Sharangpani, Mukta. 2010. Browsing for Bridegrooms: Matchmaking and Modernity in Mumbai. Indian Journal of Gender Studies 17 (2): 249–276. Titzmann, Fritzi-Marie. 2011. Matchmaking 2.0: The Representation of Women and Female Agency in the Indian Online Matrimonial Market. Internationales Asienforum: International Quarterly for Asian Studies 42 (3–4): 239–256. Twamley, Katherine. 2014. Love, Marriage, Intimacy among Gujarati Indians: A Suitable Match. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Uberoi, Patricia. 1993. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2001. A Suitable Romance? Trajectories of Courtship in Indian Popular Fiction. In Images of the “Modern Woman” in Asia: Global Media/Local Meanings, ed. Shoma Munshi, 169–187. London: Curzon Press. Uberoi, Patricia. 2006. ‘Beautiful Wife, Danger Life’: Engaging with Popular Culture. In Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. West, Mark D. 2011. Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Chapter 9

Conclusion

9.1 Are Matches ‘Made in Heaven’? As I was finishing writing this book, Amazon Prime released a web series, ‘Made in Heaven’, directed by Zoya Akhtar, Rita Katgil, and Alankrtia Shrivastava. Spanning 9 episodes, this series revolves around two individuals who have recently established a wedding planning company. By focusing on middle and upper class weddings’ behind-the-scene drama, as well as the personal struggles of the two central characters, this series addresses certain key issues related to Indian marriages such as inter-caste, inter-class marriages, re-marriage, dowry and its contemporary forms, place of astrology and superstitions in matchmaking, and themes of infidelity and sexual harassment. As such, this series provides an account of contemporary matchmaking in India, debunking popular beliefs including that superstitions do not have a place in modern marriages, or that inter-class marriages are easily acceptable, or that dowry is not practised amongst the educated class. The two central protagonists—wedding planners, Tara Khanna (Shobhita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), symbolise the aspirational life that is seen as symptomatic of the ‘new’ middle class (who are also the subject of the book). The series traces their desires to be successful entrepreneurs, and also ‘successful’ in their personal lives. Karan, for example, desires to express his sexual identity (homosexual) more openly, and wants to experience companionship and love without having to hide his ‘self’ from society. Tara, on the other hand, is driven by her ambition to achieve a higher class status. From a lower-class background, Tara desires to be a part of the rich of Delhi and in order to ‘fit in’ enrolls herself in a finishing school to learn good spoken English and appropriate mannerisms. Eventually, she gets a job in a private company and in order to realise her dream of upward class mobility wants to marry her boss, Adil Khanna (Jim Sarabh), the heir to the business empire. As the show unfolds, we see how she uses clever machinations to ensure that Adil falls for her, and in due course, they marry each other and in this way she secures herself

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a position in the upper society of Delhi. Tara, however, does not feel completely accepted in this new class, and the class difference between her and Adil becomes a sour point during their fights. In this way, this series critically analyses inter-class marriage, explaining that mobility has its own challenges. In fact, the first episode of the series brings attention to the latent motivations of inter-class marriages, as we meet Veenu Roshan (Neena Gupta) wife of a business elite, whose only son has decided to marry his girlfriend who belongs to a middle-class family. Mrs. Roshan describes the girlfriend as a ‘gold digger’, as she believes that she is only after her son’s money and property and does not love him. This offends her son, who decides to marry without his parents’ blessings and threatens to disassociate himself from the family and their business. Mrs. Roshan is crestfallen and urges the wedding planners to convince the couple to re-establish ties with them as she now accepts their union. When Tara and Karan meet the couple to talk them out of their decision, Tara instantly recognises that Mrs. Roshan’s assessment of the girlfriend is indeed correct. Tara seems to identify with the girlfriend, and explains to her that instead of pretending to not care about her boyfriend’s money by suggesting that they elope and marry, she should instead take this opportunity and convince her boyfriend to patch up with his parents. This will make her boyfriend’s parents will believe that she is in fact a sensible and nice girl, who loves their son as she was instrumental in enabling their patch-up. In this way, the first episode unpacks the calculations that go behind matchmaking and highlights how class (money and status) is a strong motivation in spouse-selection. Apart from this episode, all other episodes depict a class homogamous marriage, thereby indicating that this is the popular norm of matchmaking. Indeed, I too note the popularity of this norm in my research, as marrying individuals, family, and even matchmakers explained the strengths of a class homogamous marriage, making it one of the main constituents of a ‘good match’ (Chaps. 5 and 7). I also bring attention to how even in ‘proper love’ marriages where the couple is struggling to get their union accepted by their parents, the main plea of acceptance is that the prospective spouse too belongs to the same class background (Chap. 7) and therefore is a suitable match. Another theme that is adeptly depicted in the web series is the practice of dowry. In Episode 4, we are introduced to a progressive and educated couple—Priyanka (Shweta Tripathi) and Vishal (Ravish Desai), an IAS officer. They are shown to be a ‘modern couple’ who are self-funding their wedding, and do not even think about dowry. Yet, on the day of the wedding Vishal’s parents demand a hefty dowry from Priyanka’s parents, who agree to the demands so that the wedding is not called-off. Whilst the parents wanted to keep this hidden from Priyanka, Tara informs her of this at the mandap (alter). Priyanka is shocked at this news and taken aback when Vishal stands by this demand, justifying it as an accepted practice. Priyanka, battling her feelings of love for Vishal, takes the bold step of calling off the wedding at the alter itself. This is one of the most powerful episodes of the series as it shows that the practice of dowry is not restricted to non-urban settings (as is often the stereotype), but takes place even amongst the well-to-do and educated class of urban India. Another episode (Episode 8), brings attention to a different expression of financial exertion on the bride’s family, wherein it is not the groom’s family that pressures the bride’s

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family to spend more, but the bride herself. Here, we meet a bride whose sole aim is to have a ‘perfect’ and lavish wedding, and in order to actualise her dream, her father takes a bank loan. Similarly, in this book too, I have addressed this new expression of dowry (Chap. 3, Sect. 3.4), as I unpack how dowry is now enmeshed with the desires, aspirations, and consumption practices of the middle class, particularly as revealed in their imaginations of an extravagant wedding, a plush household, and frequent holiday trips. This series also addresses another poignant aspect of matchmaking, which is often considered to be practised only by the less-educated non-urban folks, namely astrology and superstition. In Episode 6, we meet a well-educated family, who willingly performs a ritual to overcome one of the most feared astrological ‘issues’ in one’s birth chart, namely manglik dosh (inauspicious). We meet Geetanjali (Preetika Chawla), a Wharton graduate, engaged to Nikhil (Tanmay Dhamania), a doctor based in London. At the insistence of her educated in-laws-to-be, an astrologer is consulted who declares Geetanjali to be a manglik and suggests that she marries a tree first so that her inauspiciousness falls on the tree (her first husband) rather than Nikhil (who would then be her second husband). Geetanjali agrees, but when Nikhil is informed of this, he is furious and forbids her to perform any such ceremony, much to the relief of Tara and Karan. Though this book does not provide an in-depth analysis of the astrological beliefs that guide matchmaking, I do indicate their importance by delineating that matrimonial websites have provisions to declare one’s manglik dosh, and that often matrimonial brokers begin spousal search only upon getting information on whether their client is manglik or not (Chap. 4). This is not to say that the professional middle class invariably follows astrological rules in matchmaking, as in fact a few interviewees clarified to me that they abide by astrological advices only to appease their parents, or only when these advices as convenient. They draw their limits to astrological expectations, for example, they would not agree to marry a tree but would be happy to perform a specific puja to appease unfavourable planets. This is to say, the middle class do exercise their agency in deciding whether to follow astrological advices (Bhandari 2019); nonetheless it is also clear that astrological concerns, by and large, continue to shape practices of matchmaking, and ‘Made in Heaven’ aptly captures this. ‘Made in Heaven’ is a documentation of the realities of weddings—the anxieties, lies, struggles, and ambitions that leads to marriages. Indeed, it speaks to the theme of this book, which is to provide a holistic and long view, as it were, on matchmaking, by explicating the significance of pre-marital romances, pain, heartbreak, humiliation, duty, and middle-class moralities, in the process of choosing a spouse. In that regard, this book is not so much about the structures of matchmaking (middlemen, choicemarriages, and so on), as much as an enquiry into the affective makings and real workings of matchmaking.

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9.2 Viewing Society Through the Lens of Matchmaking The subjects of this research are often seen as symbols of a ‘new’ cosmopolitan and global order. Surveys on marriage and sex (Kapila 2011; Uberoi 2011) impose categories of understandings and analyses, by asking if the ‘new’ middle-class Indian prefers a ‘love’ or ‘arranged’ marriage; whether caste or religion is still the primary considerations for selecting a spouse; and if pre-marital sex is a reliable signal of India’s modernity. These findings might prove fruitful in their own right, but they tend to ‘freeze’ or restrict the otherwise complicated process of spouse-selection. The agenda of this book, therefore, has been to present a more nuanced picture of matchmaking, by for example, not labelling a marriage as ‘traditional’ or ‘arranged’ if it is intra-caste or initiated by parents. Rather, it has explained that this decision might be shaped by a dark experience of love (heartbreak, rejection) (Chap. 8), or the encumbrance of professional life that leaves less time to an individual to look for love (Chaps. 3 and 4). This book also explicates how there is not necessarily a clear causal link, as it were, between ‘love marriage’ and modernity, or non-involvement of parents and modernity. In revealing these nuances of matchmaking, I argue that the categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriage, and indeed the in-between categories of ‘arranged-love’, do not adequately communicate the modernities of Indian matchmaking. Rather, it is more helpful to focus on the spaces of spouse-selection themselves and unpack the particular ways in which different actors interact with other in these spaces. I propose that this is best achieved by the conceptual tools of formal and informal space of spouse-selection. These conceptual tools are not a priori; that is, they do not assume that one actor is dominant over the others. Rather, it lets the experience of matchmaking speak for itself by bringing attention to, for example, how the family can play an active role in both formal and informal process of spouse-selection, or how it can assume a more muted role in both spaces. To that extent, the formal and informal spaces of spouse-selection are analytical prisms rather than deterministic or idealistic approaches to matchmaking and enable to identify a range of articulations and expressions of modernity such that the focus is not only on the final decision, as it were, of spousal choice (same caste or community marriage, or marriage out of ‘love’) but also on the role of other actors and the conceptual language (‘right time’, ‘good match’) that together constitute the experience of matchmaking. This analytical approach, moreover, allows us to view love and matchmaking as temporal, that is to say, not set in stone but shaped by diverse experiences. For example, I have explained how the meaning and relevance of love undergoes changes because of romantic miseries. I have also brought attention to the professional middleclass’ apprehensions and anxieties regarding their marital future—whether ‘love’ can coexist with gender role expectations, or what are the constituents of a ‘good match’ (Chap. 5), whether the family will accept a chosen spouse (Chap. 7), will being in love hurt again or is it prudent to adopt a more ‘practical’ approach to marriage (Chap. 8), and whether one’s middle-class identities (privilege) will be reproduced through marriage (Chaps. 6 and 7). The answers to these questions and in fact these question

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themselves, I argue, emerge in the experiences of romance and matchmaking. This is to say, their answers are not pre-given but are realised in one’s own journeys of spouse-selection. As such, my aim in this book has not been to address any objective questions concerning ‘trends’ of matchmaking (I leave that up to able demographers and economists); rather, my aim has been to reveal the makings and nuances of contemporary matchmaking, as shaped by advent of technology, popularity of the language of professionalism, decisions of delayed marriage, and resilience of the family in not taking a backseat. With this book, therefore, I provide an account of the tumultuous journey of urban matchmaking. In some ways, this book is also a commentary on the meanings of neoliberalism, albeit its social aspects. This is to say, this book is not about the consumption practices of the urban middle class but a study of their shared social practices—their insistence on experiencing relationships, delaying marriage, emphasis on ‘self’— experienced as result of the new opportunities that have come their way. In analysing these shared experiences, I also explain how the ‘new’ interacts with the ‘old’— negotiations between giving preference to commonality of caste or community and a global lifestyle; family’s insistence on being a part of the process of spouse-selection whilst also not dominating or controlling the process (in a bit to be seen as ‘modern’); prolongated singlehood and its impact on desires of spouse; the transformations of the meanings of love; and social experimentation of romance and desire. In this way, this book is also a commentary on the realities of love and makings of a modern and global India.

9.3 Central Themes As this commentary on urban matchmaking draws to an end, let me briefly address a few central themes, which have overlapped in various chapters. Middle-class Identities: Throughout the book, I have brought attention to how the professional middle class either challenges or reinforces middle-class identities, through their experiences of love and matchmaking. I have discussed the advent of certain new characteristics that define middle-class identity, such as delayed marriage (Chap. 2). The decision to delay their age at marriage, I explain, is motivated by their ambition to first establish their professional status, which in turn is shaped by values that they accrue to their middle-class upbringing, such as of focus on education and hard work. In the time that they are unmarried, they are keen to experience a range of romantic relationships, and this desire is shaped by a larger discourse of asserting choice and freedom in their life, which they associate with their new achieved middle-class status. At the same time, though these romantic experiences are borne out of a pursuit of individual choice and freedom, these either mirror the family (their expectations and role performances) or are guided (abandoned at times) by the family’s expectations (Chaps. 1, 3, and 8). In this way, these romantic relationships end up reinforcing certain middle-class values specifically of respect to family. Furthermore, certain other aspects of matchmaking, such as defining a ‘good

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match’, too are based on an interplay of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, as it were (Chap. 6). For example, the professional middle class define their modernity and ‘new’ identity by their desire to marry a ‘working woman’, who is cosmopolitan, that is, happy to enjoy the leisures of a modern lifestyle, such as consuming alcohol, dining out. At the same time, she is also expected to manage the household, give primacy to domestic duties over office work, and favour her husband’s career progress over her own professional ambitions. In this way, the idea of a ‘good wife’ combines previously held gendered expectations with new ones. Furthermore, I explain how middle-class moralities are also invoked in those ‘proper love’ marriages, which often challenge certain other middle-class values, such as parent’s preferences in choice of spouse or of intra-caste or community marriages (Chap. 7). In these cases, when an individual is convincing their parents to accept their choice of spouse, their primary plea of negotiation is that though the chosen spouse might belong to another caste or community, they share middle-class values and upbringing, which makes them a suitable choice. I also bring attention to how the middle class invokes moralities of being middle class even in the dark experiences of love and matchmaking (Chap. 8). For example, after a break-up they might decide to marry someone who matches their social status, or reflect on their parents’ words of caution on that relationship, and decide to adhere to parents’ advice for their next relationship. In this way, throughout the book, I have brought attention to the different ways in which class identities are constructed, reconfigured, and challenged and thus argue that the process of spouse-selection itself is a space of invoking and reproducing middle class status. Being Modern: I began the book by commenting that often a society’s claim to be modern is tracked by its matchmaking practices, wherein a ‘love’ marriage, championing an individual’s control over spouse-selection, is viewed as a potent symbol of the ‘modern’. Such a perspective tends to imply that the idea and experience of the modern are mainly about the individual. However, I find such an approach restrictive and misleading because it assumes the modern to be a static or neat category, whereas scholarship has explained that the modern is shaped by heterogeneous histories and processes, which beget various effects, that cannot be assessed in neat proposals or categories (Chakrabarty 1994; Choukroune and Bhandari 2018; Dube 2009). The modern is not a break from the past, and whilst it is different than the past, it is not disconnected from it. It is a reconfiguration of the elements of the past, and also indexical of it, but certainly not achieved or conceptualised on a tabula rasa. To that extent, it would be misleading to assume that a middle class modernity as expressed and experienced in matchmaking, challenges previously held norms, practices, and processes of marriage, and is therefore an unabashed acceptance of individual desires and ambitions. In this book, I have thus repeatedly explained that a modern matchmaking is not shaped only by the modern self-fashioning of an individual. Rather, all actors in the process of matchmaking as well the languages of spouse-selection espouse a certain modernity. For example, I delineate how the matchmakers do not pitch themselves as speaking only for parents or the individuals, or as being ‘old school’ or completely ‘new’. Rather they enable a dialogue between the marrying individual and their family and present themselves as being in-tune with the current generation’s desires and languages of companionship (Chap. 4). I also bring

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attention to the family’s strategies of being modern, by which they ensure that they do not dictate the process of spouse-selection but shape it by providing guidance to the marrying individual (Chap. 3). In other words, modern matchmaking is not only about promoting individual choice but of including parental consent in the form of guidance (Abeyasekera 2016) . Furthermore, I also focus on how moralities shape pre-marital romances, such that a modern self-fashioning is based not only on expressions of desire, passion, and love but also on ideas of duty and respect (Chaps. 2, 7, and 8). I thus argue that love and morality, desire and duty, all constitute the idea of the modern. The Indian Family: One of the main aims of the book is to critically appraise the categories of ‘arranged’ and ‘love’ marriages by explaining that though families might initiate a process of spouse-selection (arranged marriage), they do not control the decision of choosing a spouse. I also describe how the family is not dissociated from the seemingly individualistic discourse of romance since it shapes pre-marital experiences. To that extent, the category of ‘arranged’ marriage might be limiting in communicating the modern role of the family in contemporary matchmaking. In this book, therefore, I have brought attention to the various ways, and stages, in which the family influences spouse-selection. I explain, for example, that families now engage with their children’s romantic explorations (Chaps. 1 and 8), by either approving a relationship or pointing to practical problems in the relationship, or by helping overcome a heartbreak or rejection. I also delineate the family’s reconfiguration of its role and position in the formal space of matchmaking, when, for example, they approach a professional matchmaker and trust the entire process to them (Chaps. 3 and 4). I thus argue that the family is as concerned as the individual in being ‘modern’, and in so doing, presents itself as exercising a ‘hands’ off approach in matchmaking (Chaps. 3 and 5). On the basis of this, I argue that the family is not a secondary actor, as it were, in contemporary urban matchmaking, nor is it conspicuous only in ‘arranged’ marriage situations and neither is it a passive recipient of changes especially to discourse on modernity and assertion of individual choice in spouseselection. Rather it channels these processes of matchmaking and actively engages with changes in ideas and practices of love, modernity, and matchmaking, and in due process, reasserts its relevance. Love, Romantic Miseries, and Humiliations: One of the aims of this book has been to bring attention not only to the positive feelings, as it were, of love, but also its dark side and its injuries. This is particularly necessary because often these experiences can change the criteria that define a suitable spouse and also change the process of matchmaking. This approach or point of analysis also reveals the inefficacy of the categories of ‘arranged’ or ‘love’ marriages. To elaborate, it might be assumed that an individual whose parents initiate their process of spouse-selection and who desires to marry within the same caste was prevented from a ‘choice’ or love marriage. Whereas a nuanced look at this individual’s romantic past might reveal that in fact the individual had previously been in a relationship of love, which brought him or her immense misery and heartache. As a result, the individual decided that their parents should initiate or entirely take-over their process of spouse-selection. Moreover, focusing on the injuries of love and matchmaking makes it easier to study

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the different renditions of love and companionship, and highlights how the meanings of love might change for an individual over a course of time. This research brought out several other interesting themes of enquiry which lamentably could not be analysed in detail. Nonetheless, it is my hope that these topics will be of interest for future research. One such theme is the role of media in influencing attitudes towards romance and marriage. In this book, I have briefly noted that increasingly Bollywood movies are depicting the interpersonal dynamics of the couple (break-ups, compatibility, sexual satisfaction, and others such) rather than only focusing on their struggles of acceptance from parents (which was a popular theme of the late 80s and 90s movies). My interviewees also explained that their ideas of romance and coupledom are often shaped by movies and novels, and I briefly note (Chap. 2) the popularity of one such semi-autobiographical work by writer Chetan Bhagat, ‘The Two States’ (which was also later made into a Bollywood movie). This story is about a young man and a woman, who meet whilst pursuing an MBA degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). They soon establish a romantic relationship; however, this is not approved by their parents primarily because they belong to different cultural backgrounds— the man is from a Punjabi background and the woman from Tamil Nadu. The couple does not want to elope and marry; instead; they want to convince their parents that they are well-suited for each other. In order to do so, they demonstrate they are ready to adapt and accept the cultural lifestyles of their boyfriend/girlfriend and that they intend to marry only after seeking their parents’ blessings. Eventually, both sets of parents agree to the union, bringing a happy end to this love story. This book was particularly popular amongst the ‘proper love’ story couples, discussed in Chap. 7. Apart from books, I noted that social media too plays an important role in the curation of a coupledom, as couples routinely share pictures of their ‘togetherness’ and are inspired by other couples’ pictures of holidays and celebrating anniversary. This aspect is not discussed in the book but will prove an interesting field of enquiry. Furthermore, whilst I have briefly talked about the professional middle class’s changing consumption patterns and the advent of urban cultures of wine-drinking, fine-dining, movie-going (Chaps. 1 and 2), I have not analysed how urban spaces and cultures shape ideals and practices of romance and companionship for the middle class. This would be a pertinent topic for future research. I discuss the dark side of love as well as the emerging nomenclature and categories of romance (‘serious’ relationship, flings, long-term relationship), but I have not studied in detail the essence and forms of contemporary intimacies. Instead, I have taken a restricted view (definition) of ‘love’—as articulated in a ‘togetherness’ and struggle to legitimise this togetherness (Chap. 7) and as the injuries that it causes (Chap. 8). Love indeed has a more exhaustive influence in the life of an individual, and particularly on decisions of matchmaking, and it would be enriching if further research is conducted on this theme. Another aspect of love and intimacy that I have not delved into is the sexual aspect of romantic experiences and the importance of sexual appeal in deciding on the suitability of a match. During fieldwork, often interviewees hesitated to admit having engaged in pre-marital sex. Whilst most were of the opinion that sexual intimacy should only be achieved in a relationship of love,

9.3 Central Themes

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there were also those who were nonchalant in discussing their sex life. A few others boasted of their ‘open’ attitude to sex, using this as a basis to declare themselves as modern and liberal. At the same time, there were those who admitted to have solicited sex to either overcome a heartbreak or simply to experience sexual intimacy for the first time. Yet, it was not often that interviewees spoke openly about sex, and I too did not insist on discussing this topic. All the same, it was evident that women, more than men, came under greater scrutiny regarding their sexual past. It would indeed be interesting to study the importance of sexual connection in experience of love and gender differences in attitudes towards sex in ‘modern’ India. Technology certainly plays an important role in the curation of love and romance for the professional middle class. This was evident in, for example, the number of times a couple messages each other, ‘keeps in touch’ via Skype or FaceTime especially when one partner is travelling. At the same time, mobile phone can be seen as a tool of surveillance (Bhandari 2019), and a means to abruptly end relationships. In these ways, technology—mobile and the internet—has become an intrinsic part of the narrative of love and romance. Yet, I have not dealt with this topic in-depth, as for example, Sirisena (2018) has done in her study of the University students in Colombo. Sirisena explains how mobile technology enables the couple to show that they care for each other as they make ‘lunch time calls’, ‘midnight calls’, and ‘missed calls’ (2019: Chap. 5). Mobile phones, she explains, helps the university students to experience a feeling of ‘being with’ someone, ‘feeling their presence’, and in this way, enables them to validate their relationship. With the rising popularity of Dating Applications in India, technology has certainly brought more attention to love, sex, and romance and this is another topic that warrants extensive research. It would be interesting to know whether Dating Applications are enabling expressions of sexuality and romance, or if they lead to a normalisation of rejection and misery (Illouz 2013), or whether they cause stress, anxiety and lead to low self-esteem due to quick rejections. *** This book is an account of a category of the middle class that grew up in the wake of economic liberalisation policies of India, and who, therefore, see themselves as the face of a global and modern India. It is an account of their experiences of the ever-increasing spaces of spouse-selection and how they meander these at once rigid and flexible, familial and unfamiliar, restrictive and enabling matchmaking spaces. It captures their desires to experience romance and choose a spouse of similar dispositions who can understand and support their ambitions, all the while keeping intact the dignity and honour of their family. As such, it is a narrative of the intersections, contestations, and confluences of love, duty, family, and personal ambitions and desires as unfolded in the process of finding a suitable spouse. It reveals the complicated renderings of love that are shaped by loyalty, trust, and honour as well as marred by pain, hurt, and humiliation. This book weaves together personal histories, family preferences, professional interventions, and the changing language of love and pain into a rich and revealing tapestry of matchmaking in contemporary India.

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References Abeyasekera, Asha L. 2016. Narratives of Choice: Marriage, Choosing Right and the Responsibility of Agency in Urban Middle-Class Sri Lanka. Feminist Review 113 (1): 1–16. Bhandari, Parul. 2019. A Wharton Graduate Marrying a Tree. ThePrint. https://theprint.in/opinion/ a-wharton-graduate-marrying-a-tree-in-made-in-heaven-is-no-anomaly-in-india-shows-studies/ 214778/. 13 Aug 2019. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 1994. The Difference-Deferral of (A) Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domestiity in British Bengal. In Subaltern Histories, vol. VIII, ed. Partha Chatterjee and Gyanendra Pandey. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Choukroune, Leila, and Parul Bhandari. 2018. Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices. New Delhi: Springer. Dube, Saurabh. 2009. Enchantments of Modernity: Empire, Nation, Globalization. New Delhi: Routledge. Kapila, Kriti. 2011. Circulating Intimacies: Sex-surveys, Marriage and Other Facts of Life in Urban India. In Mass Media and the Politics of Change, ed. S. Batabyal, Angad Chowdhary, Gaur Meenu and Phhjonen, 140–165. New Delhi: Routledge. Illouz, Eva. 2013. Why Love Hurts? A Sociological Explanation. Cambridge: Polity Press. Sirisena, Mihirini. 2018. The Making and Meaning of Relationships in Sri Lanka: An Ethnography on University Students in Colombo. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan. Uberoi, Patricia. 2011. The Sexual Character of the Indian Middle Class: Sex Surveys, Past and Present. In Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, ed. Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray, 271–299. New Delhi: Routledge.

Index

A Abeyasekera, Asha, 42, 123, 179 Abortion, 58 Acquiescence, 12, 122, 133, 134 Actors, 65, 67, 68, 85 primary, 6, 65, 67, 176 secondary, 179 Affect affective dimensions of, 149 affective makings of, 93 Age at marriage, 2, 9, 11, 18, 27, 29–31, 177 Agency, 12, 51, 53, 55, 61, 68–75, 122, 123, 134, 143, 165, 169, 170, 175 Alcohol, 36, 110, 119–121, 136, 140, 153, 155, 178 Apology/apologised, 54, 155, 157, 165 Arranged love marriage, 20 Arranged marriage, 47, 53, 56, 67, 168, 179 Attraction, 27, 103, 146, 151

B Balance striking a balance, 113, 119 temperance, 115, 127 work–home, 112, 118 Baviskar, Amita, 3, 5, 6 Beteille, Andre, 19, 62, 63, 88, 150 Bhandari, Parul, 10, 11, 34, 36, 37, 59, 109, 123 Bichola, 67, 75 Bollywood movies, 31, 55, 109, 180 Bourdieu, Pierre, 5, 6, 95

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020 P. Bhandari, Matchmaking in Middle Class India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1599-6

Break-up, 21, 31, 51, 56, 64, 95, 109, 143, 149–152, 154, 158, 159, 162–164, 178, 180 Brosius, Christiane, 7, 32, 104, 107, 109, 150

C Candid/candour, 32, 51, 61 Care, 55, 72, 76, 77, 83, 90, 93, 94, 113, 115, 116, 125, 142, 151, 155, 158, 162–164, 168, 181 Caste boundaries, 113 endogamy, 11, 20, 87–89, 92, 99, 108, 132, 138, 145 hypergamy, 91 Casual relationship, 31, 33, 38, 40, 43, 44 Chakravarti, Uma, 11, 28, 89, 113, 149 Chartered Accountancy (CA), 30, 156, 158 Children, 2, 14, 19, 33, 36, 40, 48, 49, 51– 55, 61–64, 71–73, 84, 121, 140, 142, 145, 156, 179 Choice, 4, 6, 9, 12, 21, 28, 29, 37, 38, 41– 44, 47, 48, 50, 52, 53, 55, 62, 63, 68, 69, 72–74, 76, 82–84, 87, 91, 109, 111, 116, 117, 120, 127, 133, 134, 136, 138, 144, 145, 150, 151, 153, 159, 160, 162, 163, 167, 169, 170, 177–179 Chowdhary, Prem, 61 Class differences, 174 status, 3, 7, 89, 92, 99, 107, 117, 125, 133, 145, 146, 150, 173, 177, 178

183

184 Community differences, 70 identity, 133 similarities, 91 Companionship, 12, 21, 28, 31, 39, 41, 107, 108, 111, 126, 127, 133, 134, 136, 160, 173, 178, 180 Compatibility, 21, 27, 91, 102, 131, 134, 146, 170, 180 Connection, 21, 39, 40, 68, 93, 107, 109– 111, 134, 139, 146, 152, 157, 158, 160, 169, 181 Convince, 59, 71, 133–135, 137, 140–142, 145, 146, 152, 154, 162, 174, 180 Cosmopolitanism, 17, 146 Couple, 18, 20, 21, 28, 29, 48, 56, 59–62, 68, 69, 72, 93, 107–112, 114, 116, 118, 121, 123, 127, 131–134, 144, 146, 149, 151, 156, 157, 174, 180, 181 Cry/cried/tears, 56, 126, 144, 155, 157, 158, 162, 163, 165, 166

D Das, Veena, 12, 150, 160 Demand, 7, 36, 47, 53, 58–62, 82, 90, 133, 134, 141, 174 de Neve, Geert, 1, 3, 12 Desire, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 18–20, 27, 28, 31, 32, 35, 37, 38, 43, 44, 49, 59, 60, 62, 64, 65, 67–71, 78, 80, 81, 83–85, 87, 88, 90, 92, 93, 96, 99, 103–105, 108, 109, 112, 137 Destroy, 152 Dickey, Sara, 3, 6, 36, 93, 96, 108, 118 Dining out, 17, 97, 178 Disappoint disappointed/disappointment, 98, 142, 152 Divorce, 55, 58, 166 Domestic responsibilities, 115, 127, 146 Domestic violence emotional abuse, 58, 149, 150, 162 physical abuse, 149, 162 Donner (Henrike), 1, 3, 11, 108, 111, 112, 120, 121, 150 Dowry, 48, 57–62, 65, 173–175 Dress-up/dress/clothes/fashion, 37, 50, 59, 104, 117, 118, 121 Dube Leela, 58, 123, 127 Saurabh, 10, 111, 178

Index Duty, 1, 9, 12, 19, 22, 28, 34, 59, 60, 62, 73, 88, 146, 149, 156, 162, 164, 169, 170, 175, 179, 181 Dynamics couple dynamics, 108 interpersonal dynamics, 107–109, 134

E Education educational qualifications, 4, 14, 16, 20, 29, 30, 33, 36, 37, 40, 49, 50, 58, 73, 74, 80, 81, 83, 89–94, 98, 101–103, 105, 111–113, 123, 125, 138, 145, 146, 151, 153, 154, 156, 165–167, 177 Elopement, 28, 132, 133 Embedding/embeddedness, 29, 44, 80, 132, 140, 145, 146, 170 Emotional, 21, 36, 38, 58, 74, 102, 137, 139, 143, 144, 146, 149, 150, 152, 154, 157, 159 Engineering degree/course, 138, 145, 151 Equality (gender), 107, 111, 127 Ethos, 7, 70, 75, 82 Exposure, 20, 32, 87, 97–99, 104, 105, 108, 120

F Family family consent, 21, 146, 170 family honour, 19, 21, 34, 132, 133, 170 modern family, 91 Fatigue, 44 Female foeticide, 58 Femininity, 29, 111 Fights, 56, 64, 74, 111, 113, 124, 139, 154, 158, 159, 162–164, 167, 174 Financial status finances, 14, 55, 70, 74, 79, 80, 82, 92, 95, 125, 158, 167, 168 Flexibility caste, 88 Fuller, C. J. (and Narasimhan), 3, 6, 99, 108, 113, 115, 126, 131, 146 Fun (having), 31, 32, 37, 38, 43

G Gender, 1, 12, 16, 18, 20, 28, 29, 44, 79, 108, 111, 112, 115, 120, 121, 123, 127, 139, 146, 176, 178, 181 Generation current, 50, 59, 71, 90, 104, 178

Index generational gap, 17 intergenerational, 32 older, 90, 120 parental, 20, 49, 64, 79 previous, 31, 107, 108 Ghatak, 67, 75 Ghoonghat, 134, 140, 141 Gifts, 57, 60–62, 76 Globalisation, 38, 39 Good marriage good match, 1, 18, 20, 55, 87–90, 96, 97, 99, 100, 102–104, 137, 150, 161, 174, 176, 178 Gooptu, Nandini, 9, 94 Guide (guidance) familial, 2 parental, 83, 179 Gurugram Gurgaon, 14, 32, 40, 41, 49, 53, 55, 74, 77, 95, 97, 103, 136, 153, 163

H Hardwork, 83, 135 Hate, 154 Heartbreak, 149, 150, 155, 161, 170, 175, 176, 179, 181 Holidays, 36, 43, 59, 92, 94, 97, 100, 142, 144, 159, 168, 175, 180 Homogamy, 64, 92, 96, 174 Honour family, 19, 21, 132, 170 Honour killings, 134, 149 Humiliation, 12, 18, 21, 149, 170, 175, 181 Hurt, 1, 2, 6, 18, 124, 137, 139, 144, 150– 152, 155, 158, 163–165, 169, 170, 176, 181 Husband (providing) desired, 133 good, 20, 108 Hypergamy, 20, 58, 88, 91, 103, 104, 108, 125, 127

I Identity, 1, 2, 7, 10, 16, 21, 29, 35, 44, 62, 64, 74, 80, 81, 88–90, 92, 99, 108, 112, 113, 145, 156, 157 Illouz, Eva, 39, 151, 169, 181 Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), 36, 90, 103, 126, 135, 138, 143, 151, 153–155, 167 Individualism, 9, 20, 44, 84

185 Inferiority complex/superiority complex, 63, 91 Infidelity, 53, 173 Injuries matchmaking, 21 of love, 169, 179 Insecurity, 162 Intelligence, 93, 126, 161 Inter-caste marriage, 88, 89, 91 Inter-class marriage, 173, 174 Interfere, 35, 77 Interpersonal dynamic, 107–110, 180 Intimacies, 9, 11, 28, 31, 34, 36, 44, 67, 121, 180, 181 Investment (in a relationship), 33, 55, 109, 138, 155, 157, 159, 164, 169, 179, 180 IT sector, 3, 99, 108

J Jealous jealousy, 110, 151, 152, 162 Jeffery and Jeffery, 3, 6, 12, 111, 122, 123 Job placement good job, 33, 36, 40, 96, 99, 124, 125, 152, 154

K Kaur, Ravinder, 11, 31, 62, 84, 123 Kill, 124, 155 Kinship, 11, 28, 34, 38, 41, 58, 62, 109, 110, 116, 127 Kumar, Nita, 36, 95, 111

L Leisure practices, 20, 97, 127 Live-in relationship, 32 Long-distance relationship, 40, 42, 109, 117, 140 Long-term relationship, 51, 125, 180 Love love marriage, 6, 61, 67, 132, 133, 150, 168, 176, 179 numbness (in love), 156 Lower class, 133 Lukose, Ritty, 28, 37, 112, 123 Lust, 133

M Mad, 162

186 Majumdar, Rochna, 48, 67, 68, 75, 87, 109, 150 Marriage alliance, 55, 67, 76, 137 compromise, 101, 102, 104, 126 material (marriage), 111, 119 practice (of), 11, 12, 44, 89, 175, 178, 179 Masculinity male, 111, 139 Masters in Business Administration (MBA) IIM, ISB, 15, 17, 32, 33, 40–43, 56, 73, 74, 81, 93–95, 98, 103, 113, 116–118, 124, 126, 134, 137, 138, 142, 143, 156, 165–167, 180 Mazzarella, William, 6, 8, 32, 104, 109 Media, 31, 32, 37, 59, 97, 101, 104, 109–111, 150, 180 Middle class middle class lifestyle, 5, 9, 178 middle class morality, 29, 112, 133 Middleman matrimonial agent, 14, 49, 50, 53, 55, 62, 63, 67, 69–77, 87, 93, 101, 102, 112, 131 matrimonial professional/matrimonial bureau, 68, 70 Mobile phones, 11, 39, 69, 101, 181 Modern being modern (self-fashioning), 9, 10, 18–20, 29, 32, 62, 64, 83, 85, 105, 109, 112, 117, 120, 122, 178, 179, 181 modern family, 91 Morality, 6, 28, 32, 35, 112, 119, 149, 179

N Negotiation, 61, 87, 91, 104, 109, 116, 123, 133, 134, 140, 142, 143, 149, 157, 178 Neoliberalisation economic policies, 1, 7 post liberalisation, 4 Novels, 29, 67, 87, 152, 180 Nuclear family/household, 59, 95, 109, 121 Numb (in love) numbness, 159

O Old old and new, 2, 14 Osella and Osella, 3, 6, 36, 37, 132, 139

Index P Pain, 2, 6, 11, 12, 18, 21, 22, 34, 42, 126, 149–153, 155, 156, 163, 164, 170, 175, 181 Passion passionate (love), 28, 162 Patel, Tulsi, 14, 58 Patrilocality, 116 Photography wedding photography, 59 photographs, 60 Pleasure, 32, 93, 110 Pre-marital relationships intimacies, 18, 64 romances, 18, 28, 31, 34, 48, 49, 175, 179 Process of matchmaking formal, 2, 21, 44, 47, 48, 52–55, 57, 64, 65, 68, 73, 76, 93, 94, 101, 118, 149, 150, 164, 166, 168, 169, 176, 179 informal, 2, 21, 48, 52, 55, 57, 65, 68, 75, 77, 115, 149, 150, 165, 169, 176 Prolonged singlehood, 177 Prostitutes sex workers, 152 Providing, 1, 11, 15, 16, 28, 29, 53, 55, 59, 63, 77–79, 179 Public/private, 4, 9, 17, 32 Pure (relationship) pure love, 28 R Radhakrishnan, Smitha, 6, 48, 94, 112, 113, 115 Ray, Raka, 3, 5 Rejection, 1, 2, 11, 12, 15, 18, 21, 22, 47, 54, 55, 134, 139, 149–151, 165, 176, 179, 181 Relationship bad, 36 long-term, 51, 125, 180 serious, 19, 28, 29, 31, 33, 35–37 short-term, 42, 161 Religion, 28, 78, 80, 132, 176 Reproduction (of class), 19, 62, 64, 65 Resistance, 12, 122, 123, 134, 141, 143 Respect, 1, 11, 18, 20, 34, 38, 40, 41, 43, 48, 49, 54, 61, 81, 85, 102, 103, 108, 109, 112, 113, 115, 126, 127, 132, 133, 137, 140–142, 145, 153, 155, 156, 159, 163, 169, 177, 179 Respectable modernity, 111 Rishta, 51, 56, 98, 103, 157, 168 Risk, 17

Index Romantic, 2, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 27–29, 32, 35, 37–39, 42, 44, 47, 49, 51, 52, 57, 96, 101, 105, 109, 112, 117, 123, 126, 127, 135, 136, 138, 139, 149– 151, 153, 154, 156, 158–161, 165, 166, 169, 176, 177, 179, 180

S Sacrifice, 19, 35, 36, 115–117, 156 Salary, 39, 94, 103, 125 Sehna patience, 150 Self self-fashioning, 16, 20, 29, 43, 85, 95, 97, 99, 109, 122, 178, 179 Self-harm, 149–151, 160 Serious relationship, 19, 28, 29, 31, 33, 35, 37, 40, 43, 93 Sex pre-marital, 157, 176, 180 sexual compatibility/attraction, 103 sexual relations, 27, 108 Sex ratio, 58 Shame, 16, 160 Short-term relationship, 42, 161 Single, 14, 30, 31, 43, 49, 63, 98, 122, 144, 155 Sirisena, Mihirini, 19, 28, 29, 32, 36, 39, 139, 181 Skype, 110, 181 Socialising socialisation, 29, 58, 64 Space of matchmaking, 1, 2, 27, 44, 47, 65, 73, 77, 82, 121, 150, 170, 179, 181 urban, 30, 31, 44, 180 Spouse choice desired, 133 prospective, 52, 55, 69, 71, 83, 94, 96, 98, 99, 101, 103, 112, 113, 115, 121, 123, 124, 126, 133, 150, 158, 165, 174 Srivastava, Sanjay, 3, 6, 14, 80, 93 Status, 3–7, 9, 14, 17, 18, 27, 31, 33, 34, 40, 42, 47, 48, 51, 55, 59, 62–64, 67, 70, 71, 74–76, 79, 80, 88, 90–93, 95– 97, 99, 103, 104, 113, 115, 123, 125, 127, 133, 150, 152, 153, 170, 174, 177, 178 Strategies, 11, 28, 34, 64, 98, 102, 104, 116, 123, 131, 133, 134, 136, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 149, 152, 179

187 Struggle, 5, 31, 37, 64, 92, 102, 109, 115, 125, 126, 132–134, 138, 140, 143, 175, 180 Suitable (spouse)/suitability, 2, 9, 11, 13, 18–21, 27, 28, 33, 42, 44, 50, 52, 54, 55, 63, 64, 68, 77, 78, 85, 90, 102, 149, 150, 153, 156, 164, 169, 179, 181 Surveillance, 77, 181 Survey, 27, 31, 109, 112, 176

T Tears teary-eyed, 154 Temporal, 90, 170, 176 Tension, 61, 73, 110 Titzmann, Fritzi-Marie, 83, 165 Togetherness, 81, 107, 110, 134, 143, 149, 151, 180 Toxic relationship/experience, 161, 162 Tradition, 10, 19, 48, 49, 51, 52, 54, 67, 68, 76, 79, 81, 83–85, 87, 90, 91, 98, 105, 113, 118, 120, 136, 141, 143, 160, 169, 176 Trust, 15, 122, 136, 141, 152, 153, 163, 179, 181 Twamley, Katherine, 108, 131, 150

U Uberoi (Ptaricia), 11, 12, 20, 48, 59, 109, 110, 113, 116, 150 Understanding, 1–5, 8, 9, 12, 19, 27, 47, 48, 60, 67, 81, 90, 92, 123, 137, 141, 149, 160, 167, 169, 170, 176 University Delhi University, 135 Unmarried, 2, 29, 31, 89, 177 Upadhyay, Carol, 1, 6, 7, 89, 94 Upbringing, 14, 36, 42, 62–64, 80, 81, 83, 138, 146, 165, 177, 178 Upward mobility, 3, 88, 93, 112, 118 Urban culture urban spaces, 93, 180

V Values (middle class), 85, 111, 132, 177, 178 Vegetarian/non-vegetarian, 120, 121, 157 Violence, 10, 11, 28, 58, 149, 150, 160–164, 169

188 W Weber, Max, 4, 95 Wedding, 11, 13, 58–62, 64, 68, 69, 72, 75, 76, 109, 110, 116, 117, 119, 141, 173–175 Wife dutiful, 84 good, 108, 111, 112, 119, 121, 127, 142, 178

Index Women good women, 62, 135, 142 professional women, 103, 112 working women, 112, 114, 122

Y Youth, 2, 6, 9, 10, 19, 30, 31, 33, 36, 53, 63, 83, 120