Via Manish’s News Tab, here’s an article about Indian detectives who research potential spouses on matrimonial sites in the Washington Post. The best example in the article of a wedding detective’s intervention is probably the first one:
Judging by his online profile, the groom was suitable and eager to be a good spouse: a quiet, stay-at-home kind of guy who never drank and worked as a successful software engineer. Perfect, thought the bride, a shy 27-year-old computer engineer.
Too perfect, according to Bhavna Paliwal, one of India’s wedding detectives, who are being hired here in growing numbers to ferret out the truth about prospective mates.
“These days, you need to check the facts. And in India, it’s the servants who will tell you 100 percent everything,” Paliwal, 32, said in her office, located in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood of New Delhi. “The key is talking up the drivers, the cooks and the housekeepers. They are busybodies and aren’t afraid to tell you.”
In the case of the computer engineer, Paliwal found out that the 29-year-old groom-to-be had been less than honest. He had been having an affair with his housemaid. He spent many of his “quiet” nights straddling barstools around town, drinking heavily. There were signs he could be prone to violence, having been in an altercation that left him with a knife wound on his stomach.
As far as Paliwal was concerned, he was busted. The marriage was called off. (link)
Interestingly, it’s women detectives who are better at this work than male counterparts. According to this article at least, it’s women who are better able to get the scoop out of servants and doormen.
Reading articles like this makes me think that the internet matrimonial system is really quite flawed. It’s a cross between the old arranged marriage system and an internet personals ad on Craigslist. In the old system, one’s parents would do much of the work because they “know better”; they know people who know people, who might be able to speak for a seemingly suitable suitor… In the new internet matrimonials universe, family networks that build trust are of little relevance, and this becomes especially dangerous when people are trying to find partners in distant countries. It pretty much comes down to the “biodata” people post on the internet (perhaps matrimonials sites should start incorporating some of the elements of social networking, which might be another way to build up a sense of trust?). In short, internet matrimonials are an uneasy hybrid of old and new social forms, which potentially preserve some of the bad parts of the arranged marriage system (i.e., fetishization of caste), without giving potential couples any of the benefits of the western system of dating, where one make a strong effort to get to know one’s potential partner.
Still, if this wedding detective thing is here to stay, people in India will definitely be looking for people who can do the same work in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. (Entrepreneurs, take note!)