Christopher Thomond Jayasree Sen Gupta wanted to get married. In her mids but living on her own in Leeds, she rarely met suitable men.
She knew her ideal man would, like her, have an Indian heritage and, also like her, be a music lover. But how to find him? In the past Gupta may have left that question to her mother and father, settling for an arranged marriage and, possibly, a life empty of love and filled with unhappiness.
But her parents live in India, and she was not keen to emulate her friends by trawling the bars and clubs of the city in search of her elusive Mr Right. So, in May , Gupta signed up with Shaadi.
While internet dating is commonplace, Shaadi. When she wrote her profile, Gupta was very clear about the type of man she was looking for — from the qualifications she expected him to have, to the enthusiasms she wanted him to share. Duly impressed, he left India the following month for Leeds.
They were married five months later. Anupam Mittal is a younger member of the ludicrously wealthy Mittal clan, and although he is in his mids and still unmarried, I suspect it is out of too much choice rather than too little.
So I started thinking about how to take the spatial and geographic limitations away and the answer was simple: The site has m page views a month; 6, new profiles are added every day and Mittal claims that his site is responsible for a million marriages around the world.
The secret to its success is the almost comical specificity that members can indulge in. As well as nationality and religion you can look for someone who is childless or divorced. And while the new technology allows users to find matches from across the globe, the site is tailored to the typical criteria of traditional matchmakers, with questions about family values traditional, moderate or liberal , profession and even complexion.
So if you are looking for a doctor from a Muslim background living in Birmingham with moderate family values who eats meat and is fair, you can adjust the search accordingly. By allowing members to be so detailed in their search, matrimonial websites put power in the hands of single Asians and not their parents.
Yet the men and women I spoke to who have used the website were still conforming to the hopes and expectations of their family. Anupam Mittal, the founder of Shaadi. Most would only speak to me on the condition that their identity was protected. When I ask year-old Zeenat in Manchester what she is looking for in a husband, she says he has to be "British Pakistani, educated, job, non-smoker, born and bred in the UK.
Manpreet, a turbaned year-old from London, tells me he would prefer his bride to be a fellow Sikh. In the past when parents chose potential partners, one of the first questions would be: In the murky, unreliable world of the internet it is difficult to know the true intentions of the person tapping into your inbox.
Naveed, 32, who works in IT in Manchester, recalls one girl who had one fake profile she used to attract men initially, before showing them her real profile. Hema claims the men she was contacted by "always wanted to talk about sex and nothing else". I met people and obviously their agenda was not marriage. I had one man tell me he was married and he just wanted me for an additional wife. Her husband is an asylum-seeker whose status in this country is uncertain.
I was struck by how pragmatic the people I spoke to were in their ambitions. There was much talk about marriage, but little talk of romance; the notion that love was maddeningly unpredictable, that it could strike and make the most unlikely couples deliriously happy, carried little resonance. They were interested in solidity and stability, and hoped that by choosing someone similar in background and faith there was more chance of finding someone to share one's life. With the exception of Jayasree Sen Gupta, everyone I spoke to had been disappointed in their online experiences, and it led me to wonder if perhaps the problem was not with them but in the very idea that the search for a partner should be defined by race or religion.
That was also the conclusion that led Rekha, a year-old project manager from south London, to abandon Shaadi. Maybe I need to meet an Asian guy who is a bit like me. If I meet someone I fall in love with I won't care what his background is — and now, finally, I am ready to tell my family that they shouldn't care either.