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The popular Western view of things is tricky, though, because we generally anticipate a “false dichotomy” between arranged marriages and love marriages.
In other words, you marry someone because you’re in love with them, or you marry someone because your parents tell you to.
It’s connubial bliss for a 21st-century India, where, by some estimates, 90 percent of marriages still classify as “arranged”—in other words, established on factors other than mutual love and attraction between the bride and groom.
What those factors are, exactly, has changed as the country has, but the crux of the matter remains constant: if you’re an Indian woman, it’s statistically likely that your parents will choose the man with whom you spend the rest of your life.
A college degree is increasingly synonymous in India with financial success, and colonialism has left the country with the belief that the lightness of one’s skin is directly proportionate to his or her existential well-being—a notion so entrenched in the Indian psyche that, as But the traditional idea of marriage here is an ethnocentric one, designed to preserve the social taxonomy of the caste system that first calcified with the dawn of early Hinduism in the fourth century. For them, matrimonial websites simply seemed to be a matter of convenience, a casual way to meet other singles online in a country where dating sites haven’t really taken off.
I belong to no caste; I am not Hindu; I have no Indian heritage. India is a country where sex is “something that’s both sort of resented and incredibly desired,” Kevin, a 20-year-old college student in Delhi told me, and the Internet provides a sort of parallel community respited from traditional restrictions on the libido.
I made my profile as an American in New Delhi, where I have been since June, who has watched from both places as this caricature of a backwards, misogynistic India evolved over the last year from comedy fodder to a target of international criticism.
This happened after one night last December, when five men drank whiskey in south Delhi and boarded a local bus, where, joined by the driver, they used iron rods to sexually penetrate and fatally maim a 23-year-old physiotherapy student heading back from a movie with her boyfriend. The collective outcry by the country’s long-silent women amplified and confirmed the clichéd association between India and sexual violence.
If there’s truth to caricature, then call my joining the online matrimony network a modern-day leap onto a bandwagon of millennia-old social custom.“Shaadi” is the Hindi word for wedding; is, intuitively, a wedding arranged via the Internet.There are 44 million Indians who now have smartphones, giving casual-encounter-driven “hookup apps” like Tinder a huge market.Tinder’s CMO said in September was seeing a 3 to 4 percent daily growth in its Indian user base.For those in the West, it probably isn’t particularly surprising that Internet matrimony is one of India’s most lucrative and omnipresent online industries.A few years back, a media psychologist named Srividya Ramasubramanian examined 24 American and British films about India for the prevalence and portrayal of certain tropes and saw little more than a country “consistently portrayed as backward, uncivilized, savage, and traditional.” The Western notion of “Indian-ness,” Ramasubramanian writes, is predicated upon a sense of Occidental superiority, complicit with a sort of “cultural imperialism…