I am sure you have come across dating profiles on a dating site or created one for yourself.

Now if you are wondering what a matrimony profile is, I am not surprised.

Most people outside India, especially those in the western world, are curious, and sometimes, repulsed by the idea of arranged marriages.

There is also an inherent confusion between forced marriages and arranged marriages. While it is true that all forced marriages are arranged by the parents or relatives, not all arranged marriages are forced marriages! At least among educated families in urban areas, arranged marriages are just a convenient way for people to find a match in the absence of a dating culture in India.

Dating as a concept is still nascent in India and many educated, professionally accomplished Indians rely on parents to find them a match. They remain single till they get to a point where they believe it's time to "settle down". Parents step in and find a set of prospective matches and their sons or daughters then get to evaluate the prospective matches till they find someone they like.

Once the parties believe they have found the right match, they get engaged or get married in a short time frame.

In short, there are three fundamental differences between dating and contemporary arranged marriages.

1. In the western culture, the initiative to find a match primarily rests with the individual. Whereas, in arranged marriages, this task is taken up by the parents and/or relatives.

2. Dating (the serious type not Tinder) is all about getting to know the person first with the aim of striking a long-term relationship which may then translate into an engagement followed by a possibility of marriage. Marriage is a possible outcome and not the immediate objective in dating.

3. Dating profiles typically focus on the individual's lifestyle, interests and expectations. Whereas, a matrimonial profile focuses on the individual's vital stats and economic/social status along with details about family members. Personality and lifestyle details don't take the centre stage.

Now here is an example of a dating profile:

I'm a graduate of Texas Christian University, where I majored in Post-Modern Literature. Yup, that's right, reading is my biggest hobby... 80% of the time you'll find me with my nose deep in a book (except on Sunday nights from 9 - 10 PM when Breaking Bad is on - GO HEISENBERG!). Travelling is also a major passion of mine, and I spend a lot of my free-time planning out future adventures. I would love to travel through South America sometime, especially Argentina. Something about the culture just speaks to me... not to mention, they make fantastic wine. I have an 18-month-old german shepherd named Ringo - he, unfortunately, lost one of his legs in a car accident, but he's still the cutest thing on the planet! I love animals and hope to meet someone who shares this passion.

Notice that the focus is on personality, lifestyle choices, and hobbies. There is no mention of family, salary, the number of siblings, parents or family background.

Contrast this with a matrimonial profile found on a matchmaking site in India:

She is the youngest of three, elder brothers one, working with central govt., and second is a CA. She is home-loving, broadminded, well behaved, religious and cultured, adaptive to any circumstances, good looking, voracious reader. She is outspoken with clean habits. We are looking forward to a professional with clean habits.

First of all, the profile is written by a family member. The focus of the profile is family background and the fact that she is "flexible" and "cultured" all euphemisms for a person's ability to live in a joint family setting! Also, "clean habits" seems like an important trait she is looking for. This once again points to the general preference for teetotallers and non-smokers in arranged marriages.

Matrimonial profiles in India have been evolving. While stereotyped profiles are all too common, urban Indians are also creating well-written profiles as personal choice and expectations take precedence over the family's expectations from an arranged marriage.

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