Reading between the lines to choose a life partner

Mansi Gupta
Jul 15 · 4 min read

Arranged marriage is still a thing in my north Indian hometown among the educated, modern, elite circles. I haven’t engaged with the process first hand, but I know that it involves photos, bio-datas and a run of first dates. Bio-datas are like CVs for finding the right life partner.

Recently, over the phone, my mother hesitantly told me that an aunty had sent a boy’s bio-data to her [for me]. She probably expected me to shut the conversation down because that’s what I usually do. Instead I asked, “does he cook and clean? and what’s his point of view on feminism?” She never answered my questions, but maybe she saw my questions as some interest and forwarded the word document on to me.

Source: https://www.bonobology.com/the-funniest-matrimonial-ads-in-india-will-die-laughing-and-crying/

It arrived in all caps Times New Roman. I learned his birth date and all his fancy education credentials. And before I got into the boring part showing off the businesses of his extended [usually male] family members (probably to verify that this guy comes from a great family), I read a section labeled “PERSONALITY/INTERESTS.”

Here are my favorite snippets, or what I might call, the red flags: some will say I’m reading too much into it, but what can I say — I’m a design researcher, that’s what I do — I read between the lines.

“HAS STRONG VALUES, BUT IS GENERALLY LIBERAL-MINDED AND SUPPORTIVE OF OTHERS”

Right away I thought — strong values as in you are loyal to your friends or that if/when it comes down to it and one of us has to stop working to take care of [probably] your parents, that would be your wife? But until then, you would be supportive and liberal-minded as and when fits your needs? Like my friend always says, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

For the Bollywood buffs reading, this statement took me back to a scene from Dil Dhadakne Do where Manav (Rahul Bose) tries to defend his liberal self by saying that he allows his wife, Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra), “to work” — not realizing that by the very fact that he feels the need to allow or disallow his wife to do something negates his liberality.

“RESIDING WITH PARENTS AT PRESENT; ALSO OWNS A FLAT IN CENTRAL LONDON”

I wondered why this statement made it into the bio-data. What is it trying to tell me — that he owns property? Probably not. Maybe it’s trying to provide an example of the strong values vs. liberally minded balance. That in the days he might feel liberally minded he might stay at his own place, but when the strong values are prevailing, you as wife must agree to reside with his parents.

“BORN AND RAISED IN LONDON, U.K. AND PLANS TO REMAIN SETTLED HERE”

One of the reasons I didn’t want to engage in the arranged marriage process is because I have seen very few examples where the girls get to choose where the couple lives. It’s kind of a given — that you move to the boy’s [usually parental] home — as the woman in the relationship, you get very little or no say at all. Here, they straight up say it. I didn’t even have to read into it. I wonder if any female has put something like this on their bio-data, where she has planned where the couple will live, and the boy has to adhere to her plans.


Now, I haven’t mentioned one important bit. The contact information at the end of the document is an email & phone number belonging to his mother. She probably wrote it. Either her son is exactly like the way she describes. Or maybe that’s how she thinks he is. Or maybe that’s how she wants him to be.

I began to wonder what my mother would say if she were writing a bio-data for me. Maybe something like: “RESPECTS ELDERS, BUT HAS A STRONG FEMINIST POINT OF VIEW.” It’s true. And that’s where my bio-data will end in the receiver’s recycle bin.


Have you read between the lines in bio-datas? Have you seen any hilarious bio-datas? What are your thoughts on this, I would love to hear!


I am Mansi Gupta, founder of Unconform Studio, a design and strategy shop focused on women and systems level change. We write about design, impact, gender equity, unlearning patriarchy and more. Don’t forget to subscribe to us for more Unconforming Stories.

Unconforming

We are Unconform Studio. We design for women at a systems level. We write about design, gender equity, unlearning patriarchy and more.

Mansi Gupta

Written by

Founder & Design Strategist @ unconformstudio.com & trmtab.com. I write about design, women & systems change.

Unconforming

We are Unconform Studio. We design for women at a systems level. We write about design, gender equity, unlearning patriarchy and more.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade