Matchmaking Amid COVID: How Marriages Are Being ‘Arranged’ Online
Not each other’s homes or quaint little cafes, potential brides and grooms are meeting each other over video calls.
Sanjana Singh, a 28-year-old corporate lawyer working in Bengaluru, heaved a sigh of relief when the coronavirus-induced lockdown was announced in March 2020. The pandemic and the mandatory physical distancing meant that she no longer had to spend her weekends, meeting potential matches for marriage, sought for her by her parents. Or so she thought.
“I have met more potential grooms on video calls over the last three months, than over the last three years. I could have really used this lockdown period as a break period. Instead, staying away from family, during a global crisis like this, has actually made my parents intensify their search so that I can ‘settle down’,” she told The Quint.
Not each other’s homes or quaint little cafes, potential brides and grooms are meeting each other over video calls, enabled either by the matchmaking website or other mobile applications.
“I know of a friend who met her now fiance in April via video call, had her roka ceremony on Zoom, and is now planning her wedding for the end of this year. Everyone keeps saying this is the new normal. But is it really?” asks Singh.
Jeevansathi.com launched a video-calling feature in their website in January 2020, just two months before the lockdown. However, the website has seen a 60 percent hike in the number of video calls during the lockdown period compared to the 11-week average. The matchmaking website also claims that they have seen a 30 percent increase in the number of new users registered on their platform during the lockdown period.
Shaadi.com, another leading marriage portal in India, launched a video-calling feature, one month ago on 19 June. Within two days, the website claimed that over 1,00,000 people had used the feature.
Of Awkward Meetings & Conversations About Coronavirus
Both men and women looking for partners say that most potential matches come to them after parents do the initial shortlisting.
“I just skim through the profiles and shortlist those whom I am interested in. Once both the sides are interested, we text for a couple of days and then see if we want to get on a video call. So yeah, pre-COVID times we would have met at a restaurant. Can't take such chances now, right?” says 29-year-old Sagar, who teaches at a private college in Mumbai.
Since 2019, before the lockdown, Sagar has met two potential matches for marriage. But during the lockdown period, he says he has had ‘zoom meetings’ with three potential matches.
“To be honest, these conversations are way more awkward on video call than in person. Especially, during these times. We mostly end up talking about coronavirus and the cases in Mumbai. Not sure if it is funny or just sad.”Sagar to The Quint
Borrowing a leaf from the same book is 24-year-old Vandana from Chennai. She feels that video calls are “rather intimate” and only makes the “already awkward process more awkward”.
“I had this ‘virtual date’ with this boy – courtesy, my parents. When I went on the zoom link, his entire family was sitting there, along with him on the call. I really, really freaked out. I left the meeting within a couple of minutes and told him that my internet is not working.”Vandana
Vandana says that she sat down her parents and said that she was “never again” going to repeat the process, adding that it was easier to avoid such conversations with her parents earlier since she lived away from home.
“My parents and I lived in different cities. It was easier to avoid marriage talk. But now, I am right under their nose and it is unavoidable.”
E-Horoscopes Are A Thing Too!
It is not just the meet-ups that have gone virtual, even matching horoscopes online is a trend.
Both Sanjana and Vandana's parents believe in matching horoscopes before their daughters meet the potential grooms.
"When I thought about not meeting matches during lockdown, it was also because my parents would not be able to visit the astrologer. But imagine my surprise when my mom got a call saying that the astrologer has also shifted to zoom calls. Of all the things we could have adapted to, we chose this," narrates Sanjana.
But, Safety First?
It is one thing for two consenting adults to get on a video call with each other, but what when this feature is offered by matchmaking websites? Does this mean anyone registered on the website can call the other person?
Rohan Mathur, business head at Jeevansathi.com, says that the safety aspect of the video call has been paid "utmost attention to".
"We have paid a lot of attention to ensure security of potential bride and grooms who get on virtual calls. First, two clients on the website can meet virtually only once both parties consent to it – when one user sends an invite and the other accepts it. Also, this feature enables the users to connect without exchanging phone numbers," he said.
Bharat Matrimony, on the other hand, offers the video call feature only to premium members.
"Men can get video calls from any premium women member and will be able to call only women who have responded to their earlier query. Both men and women members have privacy setting options, where they can initiate/control who video calls them," the company has said, in a statement.
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