When I was 20, I was convinced that the concept of the generation gap would soon cease to exist – that liberal-minded youngsters of my age had seen it all and could never be surprised by anything that the next generation did. Well, as I’ve indicated in earlier posts, the gap is just as wide as ever. New developments such as high-rise underwear have poured cold water on our smug certainties, and who knows what may lie ahead?
The cold and steely talons of technology have a firm grip on everything now, even the matchmaking process. In the pre-Internet days, there were matrimonial ads in newspapers for those of us who weren't seriously "going around" with someone. These ads typically sought to seduce members of the opposite sex (or their parents) with classy sentences like “i want a girl with no smokings and good ability in home work. if she wants she can wear jeans in house but while stepping out of house she should give respect to our cast”. They are still around, of course, but today’s youngsters also have access to better technology, and one of the notable sociological trends of our age is that of the “half-love, half-arranged” marriage that begins with young boys and girls “meeting” on matrimonial websites.
In many cases, these interactions are monitored by parents who set up profiles for their children (especially daughters), look at lists of prospective candidates and determine eligibility based on such criteria as caste, vocation, family status and type of fairness cream used; though the boy and girl are permitted to chat each other up and even plight their troth in cyberspace, the first real-world meetings often take place between their respective parents. (Unbeknownst to these parents, once a certain sort of understanding has been reached, the boy and girl frequently manage to sneak away together for a little pre-nuptial vacation in order to test the far more important criteria of physical compatibility. As a sweet young thing, a former colleague of my wife, put it, “If I’m going to marry this guy, I need to make sure he has adequate knowledge of positions.”)
Anyway, this manner of mate-finding brings its own complications, as I discovered when a New Zealand-based friend sent across an email exchange he had had with an over-ardent young lady shortly after they had got around to chatting on a matrimonial site. She was visiting Christchurch (where he lived) on work and offered to extend her stay on her own expense, so they “could spend an ample amount of time together”. Don’t alter your plans especially for me, he replied, mentioning that he might be a little busy with exams at the time, and that they could meet during her official trip. “Oh no, my parents have a lot of expectations of us meeting, and it takes more than one time” she said, adding several smiley icons for good measure, and went ahead and made her plans anyway.
As he had anticipated, my friend could only meet her once, at a dinner with other people present and not much opportunity for personal interaction. A few days later, he received a frosty email asking him to compensate her to the tune of 200 Australian dollars for the money she had “wasted on travel and accommodation”. In wifely fashion, she even gave him her bank account number so he could transfer the funds. He did the husbandly thing and obliged her, but not before writing a sarcastic reply pointing out that she was the one who had wanted to rush things.
My first thought on reading the mail exchange was that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime pairing, given the excellent start they had made in the matter of bickering and passing blame back and forth – key ingredients of any healthy marriage. Later, my friend’s mother told me that the girl’s parents (probably unaware of what had transpired) had contacted her, mentioning that their children had met and asking if she knew what had come out of it. “You should have told them that they had a very good weekend together,” I suggested, “and that your son paid their daughter $200 for services rendered.”
The last I heard, he's thinking of recouping his losses by putting a new clause on his online profile, requiring any interested girl to deposit a provisional sum as pre-dowry. Best of luck to him.