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Brides and Grooms Wanted. Looking for a wife in India - not for the faint of heart

By Joseph Di BonaJoseph Di Bona is a Duke University professor of education on sabbatical in India to research student problems. / April 19, 1989

IF you have ever thought of advertising for a husband or a wife, you must consult the Indian matrimonial columns, where experienced hands have been finding mates for as long as anyone remembers. The bare essentials are easy enough to master. Include your profession, height is important, education a must, earnings are very clearly stated, and of course ``community,'' that catchall category which covers caste, race, religion, region, and anything else you want it to mean. Girls are usually described as fair, meaning light-skinned; ``wheatish'' is also popular; and homely means accomplished in the domestic arts.

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But today many young people are turned off by this perennial search device whereby parents place ads for their children. They say the only ones who are advertised are the losers whose parents have tried everything else - marriage brokers, family connections, the local astrologer, work mates, and anyone else they can find. Their new approach is to advertise directly in slick magazines aimed at a younger crowd.

This qualifies as a daring and exciting development in Indian-arranged marriages, and recently I responded to one such ad. It was placed by Anita K., described as a 40-year-old divorcee. I wrote:

Dear Miss K.,

You will no doubt be surprised to have this belated reply to your matrimonial proposal of some time ago, but the truth is a friend brought it to my attention just yesterday. I am an active 61-year-old divorced professor from the United States working in India temporarily and looking for someone special. I would like to meet you sometime soon in Delhi in order to become better acquainted.

Best Wishes, Joseph.

In about a week, I received this reply.

Dear Mr. Joseph,

Thanks for your letter dated 1 March in response to my matrimonial ad. I was glad to read the particulars given by you and am attracted toward you. I am looking for someone who is mature, understanding, and maybe you are the right man. Incidentally, I have obtained the US visa, and as my plans go I ought to be leaving for America by the end of March 1989. Your plan to visit Delhi at that time would not be of much help if we want to pursue this matter. Although I have one alternative to suggest.

Do you think you can make it to Delhi earlier than that? If yes, that would be lovely, and if not I could visit your place and meet you and we can talk things over. If we happen to check with each other, then I could postpone my departure for America. But now let me give you some information about myself. I have divorced my husband, have one son who is 17 years old and is living with his father who is an army officer. I have no contact with my son since eight years. I am single and lonely. I would like to settle with someone who is considerate, affectionate, and broadminded enough to help me to live my life and not rule my life. I am very straightforward. I hate hypocrisy and unfaithfulness. I have had a very bitter experience with my first marriage. In my ad I had given a false name to hide my identity for obvious reasons. My name is Punit, and my height is 5 ft. 7 in. and not 170 cms which was wrongly printed. I have wheatish complexion. I am attractive, smart, and have a cheerful disposition. One of my hobbies is to laugh. Do I sound crazy? I am enclosing a photo, you may kindly send me yours.