THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Coupling

Help Wanted, After All

I finally admit it: I met my fiance through a newspaper ad with the aid of Dad and Mom.

By Geeta Kohli
April 5, 2009
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My life was summed up in an 18-word ad in the weekly newspaper India Abroad: "PUNJABI family seeking match for Attorney daughter, 25/5'7, beautiful, very fair, Ivy league educated. Respond with biodata, photograph."

Living in New York City and unable on my own to meet someone I truly wanted to be with, I asked my mother and father for help. My parents, who had immigrated to Massachusetts from New Delhi, encouraged me to continue dating but offered to place an ad in the classified "Matrimonial Bride" section of the paper, which reaches a primarily Indian-American audience.

I felt scared about the type of guy who would agree to meet someone his parents picked for him in a newspaper, and even more scared by what it said about me. How would I explain it to friends and co-workers? And what about my romantic fantasies that we would meet at a party, he would accidentally lose my number, and then call everyone to find out how to reach me? Just a little bit curious about what might happen, I decided to let my parents place the ad, but if I made a match, I'd never tell anyone how we'd really met.

Raj's parents responded two weeks after the ad began running, e-mailing my dad their son's pictures, his height and weight, and details about his education and work experience and that of his siblings and parents. They also listed two hobbies -- golf and basketball. Our fathers pursued exchanges by e-mail and phone, screening each other by way of polite conversation about our families, old-school India, and national politics. They decided "the children" should meet.

Two weeks later, I received a simple e-mail: "Hey, Geeta, so I guess that our parents have been talking and I thought that I would send you a quick e-mail. I was wondering if you'd be interested in grabbing a coffee/drink after work sometime this week."

After analyzing the rest of the e-mail, sending it to my best friend for a second opinion, and a Google search, we concluded that Raj might actually be my type. I wrote a shorter e-mail back, suggesting we meet for drinks. We were instantly attracted to each other and stayed at the bar, chatting, for more than three hours. He walked me home even though the subway and his apartment were in the opposite direction, but I abruptly said goodbye a block early because I didn't want an almost stranger to know exactly where I lived.

Over the weeks and months, we grew close -- despite my mom's pressure to see him less and remain a mystery and my dad's offer to reprint the ad a year into our relationship, when Raj had yet to propose. But then, after dating for a year and a half, he proposed last May in Central Park, where we had also first kissed. It is a seemingly perfect Manhattan romance, except for one small thing: I never told anyone how we really met.

Before we get married this summer, I want to be honest about our story. I have been thinking a lot lately about why I felt so scared and embarrassed about my arranged date. I am still not sure if it was because I needed my parents' help or that I had an ad in a newspaper, but I realized that it doesn't really matter. The idea that an arranged introduction like mine is tantamount to an arranged marriage and taboo to discuss is unfair. This is my unique story, and it deserves to be known.

To the friends whom I told we met through family, and the family I told we met through friends: We didn't. To my co-workers whom I told that our fathers grew up in the same village in India: That didn't happen. And to all the women I led to believe that Indian dating is so easy and families just have tons of eligible guys lined up to introduce to their daughters, cousins, sisters, and nieces at a moment's notice: so not true. Meeting someone you want to marry and who wants to marry you is difficult in any culture, any city. And with Internet dating, speed dating, and the hundreds of bars and social events at one's disposal, it can be even more difficult to admit that you still couldn't meet "the one" on your own. With Mom and Dad's help, I met mine through the newspaper.

Geeta Kohli is a writer and lawyer living in Washington, D.C. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.