Playing Matchmaker: Indian Kids Arrange Marriages for Mum and Dad
For centuries, Indian parents have been tasked with finding partners for their children and organizing marriages. Now the roles are being reversed.
Tara Jadhav was 49 when she lost her husband. Married for almost 29 years, she started feeling the pangs of loneliness soon after her partner’s death. “I cried for months,” she says. Her son, Sushant Zala, and his wife, Neha, couldn’t bear the grief she was going through. So, they decided to convince her to remarry — and to help find her a match. “It was awkward at first,” says Tara, who’s based in Ahmedabad, India. But soon she agreed because, as her daughter-in-law put it, “she was still young.”
Sushant and Neha discovered Vina Mulya Amulya Sewa, a nonprofit organization founded by 69-year-old Natubhai Patel that holds matchmaking events — called swayamvars — where senior Indians, typically older than 50, can meet and find a partner they want to live with. Tara met Dhanji Jadhav, a 57-year-old employee of the Indian multinational oil and gas giant ONGC at a swayamvar, and her son and daughter-in-law arranged their wedding. It was a dramatic twist on Indian tradition, where parents have for centuries been the ones tasked with finding partners for their kids and organizing marriages. But Sushant and Neha are part of a rising number of Indians flipping that equation on its head.
Even today, the vast majority of Indian marriages — 88 percent, according to a 2018 study by the California-based Statistics Brain Research Institute — are “arranged,” which means parents tap family networks and friends to find a match for their kids. Remarriage, especially for senior women, has historically been frowned upon. Now, though, a growing number of nonprofits and private matrimonial services are emerging to help older, widowed Indians find love and companionship again. As with Tara, they’re relying on the kids of the widowed person to both convince them to remarry, and to arrange weddings
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