Abhishek, 28, is a founder of an NGO in Delhi.
My parents wanted me to create a profile on a matrimonial site. Although I was actively using different dating apps, I was hesitant to create a profile on a matrimonial site – obvious reasons you see - girls and boys just come there to get married! Not that anything is wrong with it but I felt that it was too obvious!
Anyways, one day, I decided to take the plunge and put my best picture and a bio up on a famous matrimonial site. Did I hear the wedding bells already? Not at all! Instead I got a bit of a reality check!
So, one day I stumbled upon a profile where the girl’s family was looking for a groom with an expected income of 50 lakhs to 1 crore per annum. Fair enough? Well, not really if the girl in the picture earns 6-7 lakhs per annum.
Where are the girls that talk about equality, I thought. Isn’t it like team Zimbabwe asking for Virat Kohli to be their captain? Didn’t like my analogy? Well, I didn’t like the one I read too!
I thought this ‘unequal match’ must have been a one time occurrence on an online platform. But no, I was wrong! I came across another classified matrimonial ad in The Hindu newspaper ( yes, I read THIS paper too!) where they mentioned that the girl is “currently preparing for civil services exam” and they are looking for a groom who is an IAS/IPS officer. Did they want a groom or someone to help her prepare the exams and interview?
I cannot deny the fact that the groom’s side too had a bunch of unrealistic expectations from the bride-to-be - well, same old; tall, slim body, fair complexion, working etc etc.
One day, I decided to meet a girl that I was matched with on that matrimonial website. Best part was - our incomes were almost the same. After the initial questions - like hobbies, where you studied etc etc, I couldn’t help but let my heart out to her!
‘Rhea, tell me, why in almost all matrimonial ads I see, the families want men to earn more than the girls?’ I asked as casually as I could, without wanting to startle her!
Rhea looked unfazed. She told me that she was dating someone last year but the boy was earning less than her and her family was not okay with their marriage. She being a single child, her parents didn't want their daughter to face any financial challenge in future.
So she ended up breaking up with her boyfriend. Although she acknowledged that the boy was capable of earning much more in future and she now regrets her decision.
Boy! She hit the right nerve. So I do have a chance with her, I thought! I earned the same as her. I told her how I too ditched a high paying job to work for my passion in a non-government organisation.
As expected, my salary took a dip, but I was happy with what I was doing, I said. However, my job was soon deemed unstable and the number of proposals I received now as compared to earlier reflected that.
But was Rhea listening? She looked at her watch and said, ‘I guess it’s getting dark. I must go.’
Can’t fulfil expectations
I tried calling and messaging Rhea, but she did not reply. I was now sure she or her parents must be looking for someone with a stable job, who earned higher than her! As I was thinking of deleting Rhea’s number from my mobile phone, I got Rohan’s call. He is my chaddi-buddy.
It has been two years since he got married to Pari. They often had fights and Rohan and I would get drunk and he would spend the night with me. I expected the same this time too. But what Rohan told me just shook me. Pari was now living with her parents for the past one month and sent her a divorce notice.
‘Bhai, I lied to Pari and her parents about my income. Mumma and Papa pressurised me about lying about the income as the girl was good. But her demands are too high. My credit card bills have hit the roof. I am ruined bhai’, Rohan sobbed.
I was so angry at Rohan for lying to Pari. But I couldn’t scold him now. It was not the right time and told Rohan, ‘Kuch nahi hoga bhai. Don’t worry. We will handle it.’
Too many expectations
Rohan and Pari eventually got divorced after a year. Theirs was a case of lying and perhaps seen as cheating with Rohit inflating his income. However, I personally know many people who find it shameful when women earn more than men. They even go to the extent of underreporting women’s earnings and inflating men’s income to fulfil the traditional expectations.
One of my cousins, Shalini didi got married some years ago. She earned more than Sagar jiju but he and his family were okay (not proud!) with it initially. However, things changed over the time. Sagar jiju’s friends and relatives started making fun of him, making him feel like less of a man (whatever it means!) because his wife earned more.
Sagar jiju started controlling didi and her decisions just to prove his masculinity. He also started physically abusing her in front of his family and friends to show that he still has the ‘control’ over her wife. Wish I could do something for Shalini didi!
Wish we could do something about this entire social pressure for men to be the breadwinners of the family, to be masculine and to also always earn more than their partners. Do you think we are expecting too much from men?
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.