On Wednesday, the Bengaluru edition of The Hindu carried an advertisement which covered a quarter of its front page. The advertisers, Young Achievers Matrimony (YAM), were calling for registrations for a matrimony meet on August 12.
This would seem innocuous enough, except that the ad managed a rare feat – it was sexist, classist and elitist all at once.
The attendees could be young achievers or specialists in their field, or from “ultra rich families”, deeming professional or academic achievement equivalent to family wealth.
Also, according to the ad, young achievers were people who graduated from IITs and IIMs, or who worked as Chartered Accountants, or were government servants, such as IAS and IPS officers.
Who else is a young achiever? “Beautiful girls”, according to the ad.
The event also requires a registration fee of Rs 10,000 from young achievers and Rs 25,000 from high net worth families.
TNM spoke to Sreeram N, the man behind Young Achievers Matrimony. One of the first things he does when we speak is vehemently claim that he may have to cancel the event altogether and even shut the company.
“We have made the mistake of putting beautiful girls under achievers category. Now, all of India is criticising us. Who will come to the event now?” he asks.
After repeating this in a frenzied manner a few times, Sreeram calms down. He tells me that he is originally from Andhra Pradesh. YAM was founded only five months ago and has already held one event – a matrimony meetup for doctors on July 1 at Sheraton Grand in Bengaluru.
“Over 300 doctors attended that event and it went very well. It was there that an ENT specialist asked if he could bring his engineer daughter with him. When I refused saying that this meetup is for doctors only, he said that maybe I could add ‘beautiful girls’ as a category in the next event. His daughter is a beauty pageant winner. Thinking of that, we made this mistake,” Sreeram says.
“We did not want to be discriminatory. It is not as though girls who are not beautiful are not allowed. The YAM matrimony meet was for young achievers and actually that is the only criteria,” he adds.
Sreeram says that he intends to publish an apology letter in The Hindu for his error, and has already cancelled the ad which would have appeared in another newspaper on Thursday.
But the most insightful response from him comes when he is told about the elitist aspect of his ad.
“Some of my clients are rich industrialists who ask me if I can get IIM grooms for their daughters, or someone who is an entrepreneur. They ask, that’s why I have to also look for these requirements. If I put only ‘entrepreneur’ in the ad, how many people will come? That is why I put those criteria like IAS, IIT, IIM…” he trails off.
In other words, his response reveals that he only supplies what Indian families continue to look for in 'ideal' matches. Indeed, it is not uncommon for women to be rejected simply because of their looks, achievements notwithstanding. And the perception that IIT or IIM graduates are ideal matches compared to others is also a well-accepted perception in Indian society.
As for the high registration fees, he says that it's because of the place he has rented for the event – The Leela Palace – which is also quite expensive. "The only way we will make some profit is if ultra-rich families register with the higher registration of Rs 25,000," Sreeram says.
TNM went to the office address of Young Achievers Matrimony, and found instead a board of ‘Arya Vysya Elite Matrimony’ and a locked door. Sreeram and his wife, the only two people who run the company, had run Arya Vysya Elite Matrimony for four years. “Business became tough because people started sharing biodata and profiles over WhatsApp. So we could not sustain making matches in just one community,” Sreeram says.
The ad, meanwhile, got substantial backlash, with people calling it out for being regressive on several counts.
The grand National meet of young achievers’ Matrimony. Young achieves are Successful Entrepreneurs, IAS officers etc and Beautiful Girls pic.twitter.com/zcTpCAlYQX— Veena Venugopal (@veenavenugopal) July 25, 2018
There's no way one thing can be sexist, casteist, elitist, and offensive to literally everyone all at the same time.— Andre Borges (@borges) July 25, 2018
Young Achievers Matrimony: Hold my beer. pic.twitter.com/AMqJgXxtmK
Young achievers matrimony meet.— Siddharth Singh (@siddharth3) July 25, 2018
Achievements include successful entrepreneurship, entry into elite universities... or for women, just being beautiful.
(Pic stolen from @KabirTaneja who is a young achiever himself). pic.twitter.com/h5aURz6cJB
It's 2018 and there's a young achievers matrimony meet that promises beautiful girls. This whole thing is regressive on so many counts. pic.twitter.com/qgp8qAXMsZ— Nandita Iyer (@saffrontrail) July 25, 2018
The whole event is shambolic.A young achievers matrimony on Int’l youth day promising beautiful girls and ultra rich families. How is this an achievers meet?Who on earth are they and what were they smoking? #indianmatrimony #newlow— Anashwar Punnakkal (@anashwar25) July 25, 2018
So apparently, being "beautiful" classifies as a "young achiever". There is always a bias towards girls (in matrimony industry) - but explicitly mentioning it like this - WEIRD & STUPID pic.twitter.com/P45j6HbKiO— Harry (@inditripper) July 25, 2018
My guess is participants bring dais, wear a placard, write a speech and trot around their own award after doing setting with "beautiful girl" khopche mein outside The Leela. Then we've got a real Young Achievers Matrimony Meet. Someone call Mr. and Mrs. Sreeram to clarify stat. https://t.co/cqdHho4a4a— Parul Soni (@irreverent_bai) July 25, 2018