Your place or mine?

BETTER OPTION

Your place  or mine?

Prospective brides and grooms today would rather meet first in a neutral setting like a coffee shop rather than under the customary, familial gaze, discovers Jisha Krishnan

The next time you step into a coffee shop, look around. Do you see a man and a woman chatting over a cuppa? Of course, you do! Now, cross out the couples – those obviously in a relationship; the friends – nothing more, nothing less; the professionals – talking business.

Who’s left? The duo trying to fill in awkward silences with forced smiles. Perhaps, one is asking all the questions (what are your hobbies? What kind of movies do you watch? Do you like dogs?), while the other diligently gives the responses.

They are hard to miss. They are the prospective new-age brides and grooms. Rather than meet at either of their residences, as was the norm until recently, they prefer to get the first dekko in a neutral location, some place that offers them sufficient anonymity and privacy. It’s a matrimonial trend that has been catching up not just in the big cities, but in tier-two cities as well.
 
“We did the traditional ‘boy and family come home for tea’ ritual once. It was a disaster! They kept bombarding us with questions – some really inane – while we tried to grin and bear with it. After all, we had nowhere to run. Getting them to leave was a real challenge,” recalls Yogita Vyas. The media professional has since made a policy decision to never get a prospective groom home, unless the two first meet a couple of times in a restaurant or coffee shop to ensure that they are compatible enough to let the elders take the talks to the next level.

“It makes more sense to get to know the person first. That way, when his mother asks you if you know to cook or what time you wakeup every day, you know whether to be sarcastic or sweet. Because there’s already an equation in place,” explains the 27-year-old, who is yet to find her perfect match.

For many young professionals who find themselves in the arranged marriage set-up it becomes important not to lose their sense of ‘self’ in the whole matrimonial rigmarole. Girls don’t fancy walking in with a tea tray for the probable groom and family, while the guys would rather not discuss packages and perks at work with curious strangers. Just
because it’s not a love marriage, it doesn’t have to mean that the boy and girl have little say in the matter. 

“When you meet someone interesting on a matrimonial site and the basics seem to match, it’s only natural that you would want to meet her in person. No matter how much you WhatsApp or chat online, there’s no substitute for a one-on-one interaction in person,” says Gautam Bhave, a 30-year-old entrepreneur, who recently found “the one”, after much scouting and coffee sampling.

The traditional venues for such interactions don’t work simply because it’s hard to be candid in the presence of well-meaning folks from both sides. “I can’t imagine the girl telling me about her drinking or partying preferences in front of my family, even if her parents may be in the know. I certainly won’t be discussing my smoking, late nights or anything personal for that matter in such eclectic company,” explains Gautam.

For Reema Nandan, it’s more about not missing out on the romance. She wants to be wooed, so what if it’s in the arranged marriage space! Whether the horoscopes match or not is something for the elders to discuss; she doesn’t really care about “all those things”. “What matters is the effort the guy takes to look presentable, his little gestures of thoughtfulness, the way he makes me feel,” says the 24-year-old banker.   

The last time she met a prospective match at a coffee shop, it took her less than 10 minutes to know that it wasn’t meant to be. “On the website, he seemed like this really great guy with a wonderful sense of humour. Even when we spoke on the phone, he came across as a happy-go-lucky kind of person. Alas! He wasn’t anything like that when we met,” she recounts. The obvious smartphone addiction was only one of the put-offs. “The way he spoke to the staff at the coffee shop was totally obnoxious,” she adds.  

So, the next time you want to kill time while waiting for your caffeine boost, you know what to do. Spot the potential bride and groom in the crowd. Watch the drama unfold as the conversations slide in between the sips and smiles. Will they, won’t they? A lot, they say, can happen over coffee. Matches are made, life lessons learnt.  

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