What’s worse than a sexist matrimonial ad? One that’s sexist and classist to boot. And there’s no greater example than the recent Young Achievers Matrimonial (YAM) ad that appeared in the Hindustan Times’ print edition. And it was a disaster from start to finish.
The ‘meet up’ was scheduled for August 12, International Youth Day. Because nothing screams youth more than what can only be described as a walking yearbook of obscenely rich, eligible brides and grooms. Let’s take a close look at what they think makes someone ‘marriage material’.
The list begins with fairly gender-less indicators like “entrepreneur” and “graduate from top universities”. But it ends with the bizarre demand for “Beautiful girls”, like a sign in the window of a super sleazy establishment. It’s almost as if beauty is the only achievement in a girl’s life. Aren’t we all obsessed with how women look? Aren’t we constantly assigning worth and value to a woman based on her face and her body? Aren’t we always acting like women are just commodities? It might have actually been impressive if the event organisers had owned up to all of this. But the explanation for this blunder is even more entertaining. According to one Mr. Sreeram, who runs the show at YAM, that last requirement was added on the suggestion of an attendee at a similar doctors-only YAM event earlier this month. Here’s what he told The News Minute about that interaction:
“[A]n ENT specialist asked if he could bring his engineer daughter with him. When I refused saying that this meetup is for doctors only, he said that maybe I could add ‘beautiful girls’ as a category in the next event. His daughter is a beauty pageant winner.”
Mr. Sreeram has now cancelled the event after racking up some major backlash online. He has also said he will submit an apology to be printed in the Hindustan Times. But what happened happened, and it’s a symptom of something very sick in our society.
If there’s one thing India is more obsessed with than marriage, it’s social status. And since the onset of ‘modern times’, all anyone cares about is your degree at an IIT, or ‘phoren’ university, or your job in the civil services, or your medical practice at a private hospital – because this is the only way to ‘roshan’ your family name, and truly be ’marriage material’. At least, that’s for boys. For girls, your wedding vows are only as good as your degree and how quickly you can drop your career to please your in-laws. Whatever, nobody has actual dreams or passions. Upward social mobility is the name of the game.
But even these neurotic preoccupations are a cover for something else. One might argue that education and employment is becoming the new caste. After all, so many people subscribe to that drivel about meritocracy – that a person should be judged solely on their merit, because you only need to ‘work hard’ to succeed in life. It’s a tempting thought, but I think we’re beyond being deceived any more.
Education and employment have not and cannot replace caste. They are simply a front for it. Who occupies society’s highly coveted jobs? Who occupies circles like the YAM? Let me put it more simply. Who can afford a 25,000 registration fee for a gassed up cocktail party where you flip through potential spouses like a telephone book? We are not talking about exceptions – people from marginalised and underprivileged sections of society. We are talking about the rule – savarna men and women, sitting on a mountain of wealth from ancestors who never had anything taken away from them because of their caste, their beliefs, the food they eat, or the work they do. And it’s these people, the rule, who create and inhabit circles like the YAM events. They always have.
Since 2014, IITIIMShaadi has been running a matrimonial service dedicated to the country’s educated elite. And with a 70% success rate, too, its founders say. It’s one thing for an individual to choose a partner based on the privileges they have over the rest of society. But to have a portal, or monthly meet-ups?
The creme-de-la-creme are always going to hold power over society. It is a self-feeding, self-absorbed group. And no matter how it tries to position itself, initiatives like Mr. Sreeram ensure that a level-playing field never exists.