“Traditional” marriage in India starts with registering for an account in a matrimonial site. The matrimonial sites are like Facebook in lots of ways. People here are looking to hook up too, for marriage that is. Heck! These sites even have chat options and news feed too. Just give it an option to update status and it is exactly like Facebook.
But even Mr. Zuckerberg wouldn’t have envisioned the influence these fb knock-offs would have on the Indian society. Most times, it is the parents of the bride or the bridegroom who use these sites and manage the profiles. In other times, when the parents are not too technologically literate, it is the older and married siblings who take the reins. Either way, the bride or bridegroom themselves are not involved that much in the initial process. Their part comes only after when a girl or boy’s profile has undergone the first level filtering by parents based on family background and second level filtering by astrologers who has to give an OK for the horoscopes. Now, a couple of sites have automated horoscope matching. I can imagine the computer science graduate who came with the program to do this. He would’ve made Charles Babbage proud.
Though it is the parents or the siblings who manage the profiles, the modus operandi differs between the bride’s house and the bridegroom’s house. It should always be the bride’s side that should approach first. That has been the tradition. And our parents have found a way to implement this tradition even in this age. Most matrimonial sites have an option to show people who have visited your profile (a la LinkedIn). So, if the groom’s family finds a profile interesting, they visit it but never give a connect request. The bride’s family has to see who has visited the profile and then send the request. This is how the play for power is played. Also, sending a connect request to a girl’s profile is considered desperate by the bride’s side.
Speaking of the bride’s side, it is the usually the bride’s profile that gets stalkers and requests from creeps. These creeps constantly plead the bride via chat, whenever they see them online, to marry them. Only not realizing that they are actually pleading to the bride’s mom.
After all the hoopla, once the parents on both sides gives their blessing for the relationship, comes the turn of the Gen Y to use technology to take this relationship further. The boy and the girl “Skype” at first. It’s hip and trendy and involves 40 minutes of “Can you hear me?” and the last 10 minutes of an awkward “hi”. All thanks to modern technology. But even modern technology can’t help a guy from getting tongue tied while speaking with a girl for the first time. Especially the girl he is about to marry. 25 years ago my dad had the same trouble speaking with my mom when they met the first time. All he managed to ask was “Does your town have theatres?” Present day, I saw an instance where all the guy could manage to ask the girl after the awkward “hi” was “Do you watch movies?”
The Gen Y has taken up things on their own hands now. Proposal pages in Facebook has enabled the youth to find partners that will make even their parents happy. It also gives them a chance to start off as friends and then if things go well, proceed to the next level. These pages are a bridge between the eastern and western cultures in terms of marriages. It looks like tradition is very adaptable and it is here to stay.