More and more NRIs looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right are turning to the Internet
When Tanveer married Azher Khan in Miami on June 22, 2002, it seemed like a typical NRI wedding. It wasn't. In fact, the radiant bride and groom had met each other only a day before the wedding. Despite this little detail, they were both convinced they were meant to be life partners. All because of a Web site called Shaadi.com.
Azher from Chicago and Tanveer from Miami posted their profiles at the site, hoping to find a partner from the same community and background. "I wasn't sure I would really find the man of my dreams," says Tanveer. But she did. Azher wrote back and the couple soon began chatting on the phone. Their parents got involved and a wedding began taking shape, despite the fact that the couple hadn't met. "When we finally saw each other, it was like a dream come true. We both knew we were meant to be together and it was the best day of our lives," says Tanveer.
Formerly known as sagaai.com, shaadi.com and countless other NRI matrimonial sites have come as a boon for the hip young NRIs who dot the New York, London and Dubai's landscape, and their parents as well. For these eligible youngsters, it's a new age way of meeting someone from their own culture while, for their parents, it's like having your neighbourhood matchmaker choose a suitable partner with the right family background.
The sites operate on a simple system: men and women -- and, sometimes, their parents, siblings or friends -- post their profiles. Most sites are free, but some like Shaadi.com offer extra facilities like chat and SMS for a fee. "We get 35 million hits monthly and have over 4.75 lakh profiles," says Vandana Asija, public relations manager at Shaadi.com. " Every week, 50 to 60 people inform us that they are getting married."
Imilap.com, another NRI matrimonial site, describes itself as one that "has broken the continental boundaries to help users meet their soul mates." Starting with a bunch of friends in the US who were having a hard time finding spouses, Imilap now gets over 2000 hits a day and features more than 18,000 profiles, mostly NRIs. Interestingly, several profiles hosted on such sites are from Europeans and Americans, who are fascinated by the Indian culture and people. "Last month, we were told about a wedding between a Maharashtrian boy from Mumbai and an African princess, who met on Shaadi.com," says Asija.
For most, matrimonial sites seem to work, even though it may take up a year and plenty of tries before you meet that special someone. Kavita Mehra, 27, kept logging onto Shaadi.com for a year before meeting her soon-to-be husband Satish Malhotra. Mehra, who wasn't meetingany suitable men in India, posted her profile and met three NRI men before Malhotra. "Each time, it would be such an effor to start a conversation and tell them all about myself, only to have them disappear into cyberspace if they felt things were getting too intimate too fast." she says. "More than the effort, it was the anticipation and hope that drained me." As a final try, she contacted Malhotra who, she says, "seemed like a regular guy. At that point of time, I wasn't looking for a superhero. All I wanted was a normal, sensible, down-to-earth guy with a sense of humour."
For NRI Angad Jhingan, it was his parents who helped him select the girl of his dreams. "It was their idea to put up a profile," he says. They also acted as a second filter, checking all the profiles he short-listed. "I did not give my age, education, address, etc." adds Jhingan. " I wanted someone to respond to me for the crazy ideas I had rather than how educated I was or where I lived or who my family was." According to Jhingan howeverm living in the US and looking for a gilr back home can be a disadvantage. " Somehow, we NRIs have a bad reputation!" His profile still generated plenty of responses though, from parents,siblings and individuals. "Some were weird. Some had pictures and details. And there was one so perfect that I decided to marry her!"
Jhingan gets married in India this May. It could be your turn next.