Mumbai is home to about 60,000 members of the Bhatia community, who migrated in the 18th century from Kutch and since then have been active participants of the city’s trade and industry. True to its enterprising spirit, the community has now come up with an interesting match-making arrangement, to preserve, propagate its heritage.
The Global Bhatia Foundation, a community trust, organises every month what it calls parichay milan, or meetings with interested men and women of the community. Every first and third Saturday, barring public holidays, a team of dedicated volunteers collates information about each individual, building a data bank of sorts. Advertisements in newspapers and pamphlets at community residential buildings, aimed at those looking for a match, are then put up.
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“When interested candidates get back to us, we send them a form where they need to fill in all details that could help an individual choose his or her partner,” says Pradyumna Ved, honorary secretary of the trust, who heads the project.
Ved, 65, is a former insurance professional, who now devotes all his time to the project. His team comprises project coordinators and over 40 volunteers. He explains the need of a community matchmaker.
“Bhatias are a small, scattered community. And if its youngsters get married within the community, it will help the community at large,” Ved says.
Perhaps that is why the team gets inquiries from people across the globe. From Kolkata to Rajkot and from London to Tanzania, interested people from the Bhatia diaspora looking for a match knock on the group’s doors.
On receiving the forms, the team gets into action. And what follows is an arduous, six-month process of turning the information into a community matrimonial magazine divided into six categories — age, education, occupation, location, marital status and income, along with the participant’s passport-sized photograph.
The project till now has seen the participation of 288 individuals, who have collected the magazine. A few days after the magazines are distributed, meetings are arranged for the candidates.
Keeping in mind “openness” and societal evolution, the project puts youngsters before the familial norms. “It is very important to have the men and women on the same page before families get involved,” Ved asserts.
To lighten the awkwardness and ease the tension, the group organises games for individuals to know each other better. “It reduces stress and hesitation. Those who find a match engage in further deliberations. Our volunteers too, follow up with candidates,” he says.
But this where Ved’s, and his team’s job ends.
Writings of Historian Dr Mangala B Purandare chronicles the community’s history in great detail. In one of her books, she talks about the reasons of its migration to Mumbai. The community found the parched terrain of Kutch inhospitable for agriculture in addition to an unstable political scene in Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch.
Mumbai, on the other hand, offered a setting conducive to agriculture as well as trade and industry. According to most of the accounts of Bhatia history, she says, Jivraj Baloo is believed to be first Bhatia who came to Bombay in 1770 as “14-year-old penniless boy”. “But he rose through sheer hard work and tenacity to be a millionaire,” she says.