Mr right not good enough

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 09 April 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: It is perhaps a sign of the times that the highest salary registered on a newly launched matrimonial website is that of a girl. Welcome to circa 2013, where girls are fast outpacing boys on educational frontiers and some have even smashed the glass ceiling. The tectonic shift has not only spiralled change in college campuses and office boardrooms, but is tipping the traditional balance where marriage, an institution considered sacred in Indian culture, is concerned.

It is almost as though Princeton alumna and mother Susan Patton's prophecy has hit home. Patton in a controversial letter, which went viral recently, advised Princeton's women students to "find a husband on campus before you graduate", as it was unlikely that they would meet such a collection of smart men once out of college.

It is a tug-of-war all the way, especially for those who do not manage by themselves to find life partners. With well-embellished CVs, girls and their families predictably expect more from a match. Alliances, particularly arranged ones, which are forged along caste and community lines, are now being put under the microscope to weigh degrees, pay packets and stints abroad.

Citing the precedence education has taken in match making, Gourav Rakshit, COO of marriage portal, cites a recent survey of over 25,000 youngsters which they conducted online. It found that 69% of women would like to marry someone who is more educated than them and 26% wanted partners with similar education. The balance is more skewed in some business communities where girls go on to earn higher degrees, while boys join the family business at an early age.

"Girls definitely expect a lot more from their groom if they themselves have good educational and professional credentials. We have seen instances where a girl earning around Rs6 lakh a year will only entertain prospects with a salary of Rs15 lakh and above," says Akhilesh Sharma, founder of matrimonial site iBluebottle. "At the other extreme are girls with very high salaries, say above Rs50 lakh a year, who have difficulty finding matches, not only because of their salary, but also because they are likely to be older than the average male with a profile." The portal was in fact born out of the pursuit of such professionals for appropriate partners, and is self-admittedly "restricted only to top professionals".

Counsellor Seema Hingorrany believes that the empowerment of girls has impacted the marriage market in a huge way. "Many girls are choosing to get married late, by when they are financially secure with good jobs and sure of what they want," she says. The transition is perhaps best captured by the growing pool of girls in Mumbai who are open to the prospect of a long-distance marriage (where the husband lives and works in another city) to keep up their dynamic careers.

Yet, independence is tinted given that the reality of marriage in many cases is still trapped in traditional patriarchal underpinnings. Matrimonial ads seeking a 'working' woman don't necessarily translate into progressive attitudes when the wife's job involves frequent business trips. Even highly successful girls are put through intense societal pressure to marry, which could result in alliances forged under duress.

Andheri resident Jennifer Pandey, who got married last year, sees the dilemmas her friends live out. "The main discussion at any social function revolves around when the next unmarried girl or bachelor will hook up," says Pandey, pointing out that many parents put pressure on their daughters partly because of how they have to deal with society.

Hingorrany traces the case of a 30-year-old MBA who landed up for counselling after two engagements through the "arranged marriage route" turned to naught in the short span of a year. "She was earning a fantastic salary—Rs5 lakh per month—and had a rule book of her own. Both guys she was engaged to perceived her as too dominating and called off the wedding, which came as a huge shock," recalls Hingorrany, who is counselling the girl to lower her expectations. She believes Indian society is still rigid and girls are forced to compromise in many ways.

A south Mumbai-based financial consultant recalls the trouble a friend who was earning more than her husband had. "He wanted her to transfer her entirely salary to a joint account each month. Physical violence was the norm when she refused to do so," she recalls, adding that her friend subsequently walked out of the abusive marriage.

But such incidents merely show that society is yet to adapt to women who have arrived.

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