Is online matchmaking becoming a bit of a scam?

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: At the dawn of the year of the lord 2008, Arvind Swaminathan collated a few news items to show how Information Technology whizkids in different parts of the South seemed to be in trouble on the road, in water, and in real life (Can’t drive? Can’t swim? Can’t behave?).

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of Freakonomics might have a good explanation, he wrote, on why we are seeing so many mishaps involving “software professionals”.

“Is it just a coincidence? Is it because there are so many of them around in the southern cities that the statistical possibility of their being involved in a mishap is higher? Is it because the media are beginning to take closer notice of their target audience? Or, cruel me, is it because, while they may be earning pots, they still haven’t mastered driving, swimming, sitting or behaving?”

I have a slightly higher regard for IT and what it has done for our City than Arvind. Still, as the financial year veers to an end, three news items, all datelined Bangalore, have caught my attention in the last three days. And to “Can’t drive? Can’t swim? Can’t behave?” I have been tempted to add “Can’t marry?”

# The first incident involves an Infosys employee Amit Budhiraj, 32, who allegedly smothered his wife Rinku Sachdeva, 28, with a pillow and then hanged himself on Sunday. The two had tied the knot last year after a three-year live-in relationship. In a suicide note, Budhiraj alleged that he took the step after he came to know that Rinku was having an extra-marital affair with a colleague at Standard Chartered Bank. But her father says it was just a clever ruse to protect the reputation of his family members.

# The second incident involves a techie who has reportedly been stalking his ex-girl friend. Apparently, Nisha met her Ajay (all names changed) three years ago. They begin dating each other. After a trip to the United States, Ajay suddenly decides to renounce the world and become a monk. Nisha tries to reason with her techie boyfriend but he has made up his mind. But a monk refuses admission to Ajay. Meantime, Nisha has married Nitin, who reportedly sends Ajay an email that his wife had not gotten over him. Soon Ajay starts bugging her.

# The third incident involves SR of a software company. He befriended SV, the great grand-daughter of theatre legend GV, last June. Impressed with her frankness and family background, he decides to marry her. But her smoking and friends’ circle gets to him. He decides against matrimony. But when she allegedly threatens suicide, he rushes back from the United States. When he again says no to marriage, SV reportedly starts blackmailing him, and even lodges a complaint with the police.

The common thread through all the three incidents is that they involve software types.

Which leads to the obvious questions: Are only SWEs having marital problems and boyfriend/girlfriend problems in Bangalore, or are we hearing more about them because we have trained our ears in their direction, because there are so many of them around? Or are the media reporting more and more of their travails, like growing suicides or rising divorces, because they belong to the socio-economic category advertisers love to reach out to?

But all that is old hat.

The new bit that is common to all three incidents is that all three couples who have been in the news in the last three days met through matrimonial websites like shaadi.com and jeevansathi.com.

It stands to reason, maybe, that lap-top toting techies in Silicon Halli should have dialled up their life partners on the world wide web using the office broadband.

Maybe, given the amount of time we spend at the computer, this is just the easiest, most convenient way of finding our “beau” (or dovvu, as M.S. Sathyu learnt to his mortification). Maybe, it’s nice to be seen to be in charge while finding a friend or life partner of the same wavelength. Maybe, everything else is so old-fashioned.

Maybe, it’s hep to say you met online.

Still, what is the statistical possibility that three couples in the news all met the same way? And, what does it say about the efficacy of the online matchmaking progress that all three couples in the news are in the news for the wrong reasons?

Of course, three couples amounts to just three tiny drops in the mammoth ocean of matrimony.

There may be hundreds and thousands of couples more, couples who met online, who are living happily ever after. There may be hundreds and thousands of couples more who met the conventional way, whose marriages are on the rocks, who are silently swallowing physical and verbal violence, who are just living together for the sake of society, etc?

Still, you have ask: does the magic wear off once you switch off the modem?

Is online matchmaking what it is touted to be—easy, global, reliable? Or has it become a bit of a scam of those who have been there, done that, and are looking for a cheap thrills?

Is it better than arranged marriages or “love marriages”? Or, like classified newspaper advertisements in the past, has it become the last resort of those without social skills; a last throw of the dice for those who weren’t smart or lucky enough to bump into someone they would like to spend the rest of their lives with in reallife situations?

Maybe it is a sign of the new, confident, rising, shining India that men and women feel empowered and emboldened to unload the baggage of a bad marriage openly, without inhibition.

Maybe, but how likely when the weekend scoreline reads 3/3?

(Full disclosure: Palini R. Swamy has been happily married for 18 years. He met his match offline.)