When 24-year old Indhuja Pillai, an engineer in a Bangalore startup, created a webpage detailing the kind of man she was looking to wed — a cheeky repudiation of a dreary matrimonial ad placed by her parents — she was not expecting to be inundated. But in the three short weeks since her rebellious “matrimonial CV” went live, it has gone viral on social networks, gathering 230,000+ pageviews and landing Pillai dozens of marriage proposals, including from foreigners like Lukas Rosenstock who asked on Twitter, “Are non-Indians eligible to apply to marry you?”
The most startling element was the way the words resonated with thousands of young women across the country. “You read my mind,” one woman responded on Facebook, “I want to do the same thing but my parents won’t allow,” bemoaned another. One wrote, “You are me of 20 years ago.”
The “groom wanted” ad put out by Pillai’s conservative, Salem-based parents on a leading matrimonial website in mid-February had annoyed her. “I am a software engineer,” said the ad, and then lapsed into third person. “We are a Tamil family looking for a good groom for our only child, our daughter,” it said. It made her sound like she was desperate to be married and worse, an exact replica of every woman on that site, she said.
The small town-born and bred Pillai, who has just started work as a “growth catalyst” at a Bangalore-based technology startup called Tripigator, said the ad did not even remotely begin to describe the real her. “I am not a software engineer, I do not like working in MNCs, I am a startup girl, there’s nothing mainstream about me,” she said. So she took down the profile within 24 hours and created a matrimonial page for herself, marry.indhuja.com.
The specifications: a man who did not hate his job, who was not too into his family, somebody with a great voice and personality, and the ability to hold a conversation for at least half-an-hour. “I meant it as a half joke and I braced myself for the flak,” she said.
In the ad she painted a portrait of herself with small details. “I wear glasses and look dorky in them,” she said. “Not a spendthrift or a shopaholic,” she described. Not a TV or book fan. “Not marriage material”. “Won’t grow long hair, ever.”
Nothing could have prepared the 5ft 4in, 63 kg, travel and English movie buff and self-described tomboy for the sensational response. “Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair. You rock,” tweeted one woman. “You spoke the mind of many Indian girls, I’m 23 too, hats off to the clarity,” tweeted a Varsha Kulkarni.
“They did not want to get married young, they yearned for a bit of freedom in their lives. But who decides a woman can’t marry after 30?” asked Pillai. Some women advised her not to jump in too soon. There were a few critics too, they berated her for “behaving like a kid” and for being “immature”.
Despite the thousands of responses, Pillai said only a few interactions intrigued her. After reading that she loved the movies, one man quizzed her on the plot of the film Interstellar and tried to gauge her understanding of it. One asked her to justify her requirements about bearded (“beards make a man look manlier”) and another about non-family men (“I marry the guy, not his entire family”). The truth, said Pillai, is that she is not ready to wed yet. She wants to travel across India and see the world before contemplating marriage.
Her parents in Salem were aghast at her daring but have since calmed down and are now beginning to enjoy the entertainment. “They appreciate that I want and deserve more,” she said. Her matrimonial ad story has become fodder for the Tamil press. Her father, who works in real estate, is now providing her matrimonial page link to proposals that come their way. “Dare those guys come back?” asked Pillai.