While in Pakistan, I was hanging out with friends when her phone rang. She excused herself and returning, apologized:
Matchmaker (MM): Sorry, it was a rishta call.
Me: What do you mean rishta call? [Rishta is ‘match’ in Urdu]
MM: I am a matchmaker.
I dished out my notebook and pen.
Me: What prompted you to take this up?
MM: It’s a good cause.
Me: How does it work?
MM: It starts with a phone call from the mother, asking if I can find a match for her daughter or son. I ask them to WhatsApp me the particulars of the boy or girl, i.e. photograph, age, height, skin color, education, profession, and interests; and of course, what they are looking for in a match.
Me: And what are they usually looking for?
MM: Well, if it’s a girl’s mother calling, she is looking for a boy who is well placed professionally, and has a good family background.
Me: And if it is a boy’s mother?
MM: They are very picky. Their list of attributes for a suitable girl goes on and on. She should be pretty, fair complexioned, tall, slim, a professional, strong family background, wealthy family, same clan, not overage….
Me: What is overage?
MM: 25 years. But if she is a doctor, then 25 with a bit of + years is acceptable.
Me: So mom sends you the particulars. Then what?
MM: I have my database. If I find a match that meets their demands, I ask permission to share the photo and info, and then connect the two mothers.
Me: Do you meet the family before making a match?
MM: No. It is strictly a phone & WhatsApp communication. I work out of the home, and I don’t have the set-up to meet and greet families. Most of the families have never met me.
Me: So you have found a match. What happens next.
MM: The phone calls get intense. Girl’s mom wants to know more; boy’s mom wants to know even more. I tell them that my job is to connect the two families. They can do their due diligence themselves. I tell them that I take no responsibility for what they find, or the outcome.
Me: Then what?
MM: The boy’s family pays a visit to the girl’s family. They meet the parents and the girl. If the first meeting goes well, the two parties take it to the next level. If either party rejects the other, I get a call, “She is not tall enough, she seems spoilt, she is too modern, didn’t like their house, didn’t like their style…find me another one.”
Me: Does the boy accompany his parents on the first visit?
MM: I always insist that he does. But I get a lot of resistance. Many families want to first check out the girl, before they allow the ‘boy’ to visit.
Me: And where is the girl or the boy in this conversation? Do they have a say?
MM: The mothers who call me are the ones whom their children have given their proxy.
Me: Who do you get more calls from? Boy’s mom or girl’s?
MM: Definitely girl’s. Boys are in high demand. That is why the mothers-of-the-boy are so fussy.
Me: Have any of your matches materialized into marriage?
MM: Oh yes. Lots of them.
Me: And what is the success rate?
MM: So far, 100%. I have been doing this for six years. In the beginning, it was slow, as in a couple of marriages every few months, but as my database grew and word got out, the number of marriages has grown. I don’t have the stats, though.
Me: Your most difficult match?
MM: Divorced boy wants an unmarried girl. I counsel them, but they insist. And the girl’s mother is not willing to entertain a divorced boy for her unmarried girl. Besides, I am not sure how upfront they have been about the circumstances of the divorce, and that is unsettling when making a match. Next to that are families who want to marry up, but the other family doesn’t want to marry down.
Me: Has a Dad ever reached out to you?
MM: I don’t deal with men. If a man calls, and usually it is the Marriage Bureau trying to tap into my database under some pretense, I tell them that to have the mom call me.
Me: Do you charge a fee?
MM: No. It is totally voluntary. This is how I maintain my credibility. They know that I have no financial interest.
Her phone rang. ‘A rishta call’, and she excused herself.
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