A marketplace of mothers playing salesperson with the grooms as buyers.
Are you a single and extremely eligible British Asian man looking for a fair and docile wife?
Or more importantly, are you his discerning mother who knows that no one will ever quite deserve your son, but you’ll try to find someone as close as you can?
Well, rejoice, the search is almost over! For now, you have My Soni Kudi, a matrimonial website with a difference!
This exciting matrimonial site’s mission statement is “to offer only the best brides for your needs in a convenient, categorised and easy-to-pick website”.
As they promise “every need, however extravagant, is acknowledged and fulfilled.” They guarantee that their “almost ‘made-to-measure’ brides will wow, astound and impress you, you son, you relatives and your neighbours!”
The Bahus on ‘Offer’
Handily, the website is very easy to navigate – perfect for even the most technophobic mother, or even grandmother!
You can look through all 35 profiles or filter by 20 categories including “fair skin”, “long hair” and “slim”. But don’t worry, it isn’t all about appearances.
There are generally “sanskari” brides or you can select individual traits such as “errand runner”, “home care expert” or “bachat focused” – why not make sure your busy and ambitious son can concentrate on his career and come home to a perfect household? These categories also appear on individual profiles under “special features”.
Nevertheless, the website is filled with crystal-clear images of the brides. And profiles helpfully provide their age, height, body shape and the all-important skin colour category. This is essential when trying to avoid meeting a bride who says she’s “wheatish” but is actually “dark”.
Still, for those who prefer a more dusky skin tone, there is the special category of “black beauty”.
Finally, alongside education, location, mother tongue and a rating out of five, there’s a personal touch. We took a closer look at some of the profiles and saw that they include a paragraph for brides to share a few words of their own.
Although if you’re looking for a “sanskari” bride, this might not be what you’re looking for or can any of My Soni Kudi’s neat categories really help you find love?
The Brides in their Own Words (Or their Mother’s)
First up is ‘Smita Tolani’, whose four-star rating and education in interior design made us wonder if the website really thinks that this is all you need to make a happy home.
‘Smita’s’ mother modestly tells us:
“Having trained under my expert guidance, she is a delightful girl who will bring happiness and peace into any home she goes to.”
‘Smita’s’ mother also claims that you will open a restaurant after eating her food. Yet, the all-important groom reviews on profiles beg to differ.
While ‘Nitin’ is full of praise, ‘Vinay’ tells us:
“This family and the girl were too good to be true. After meeting them and visiting their house we realized that the Mexican starters they served us were not made by ‘Smita’ but were catered by a well-known caterer in Delhi. Please be careful in all your dealings with them.”
Again, it’s questionable whether any of the qualities or categories on My Soni Kudi are really a recipe for happiness.
The focus on brides having certain ideal qualities perhaps hinders the opportunity for couples to get to know one another. Instead, these out-dated expectations put unnecessary pressure on brides.
With such a modern approach to love, surely expectations should move with the times too?
Undeterred, we thought an “NRI ready” bride might fit in with our focus on British Asians. From Pune, Maharashtra, ‘Christobel Peters’ already speaks English and is a “happy, fun-loving girl” looking for someone to sweep her off her feet.
But clearly prospective grooms don’t share her request for “good vibes only”.
‘Pushpush’s’ three-star review eloquently states “what a darky”, while ‘Sunil W’ explains his four-star rating as follows:
“Five stars for hotness, one star for suitability. She is not the sort of girl who will make a good bahu – only meet if you want a good time.”
It’s fascinating to see the ratings left by prospective grooms. In fact, the whole of My Soni Kudi is almost mind-boggling thanks to its attitude towards the brides.
Already, the website’s ‘About Us’ feels as if it’s equating choosing a bride with buying a hoover. The silencing of brides by some mothers in the personal note section only adds to this.
On My Soni Kudi, we’ve stumbled across a marketplace of mothers playing salesperson with the grooms as buyers.
Cheery promises like “find the one you want to take home today” reinforce the disregard for brides as simply commodities.
The website displays a wholly negative portrayal of the interactions between men and women. Then some of the grooms’ ratings only exacerbate this off-putting attitude toward women.
The Grooms Weigh in on My Soni Kudi
In a charming one-star review from Rishi, he complains about ‘Ambika Sohni’:
“She is with different guy every night see on Facebook. Yet she says no to me! Who does she think she is?!? #Q%(@!(#(%@#%”
Similarly, profiles like ‘Neha Desai’s’ show the dark undercurrent to the site’s humour.
When reviewing Neha, Pratik’s review exclaims:
“Who does she think she is? How can she refuse?”
The two accompanying reviews condemn Neha’s independence and sheer audacity to enjoy clubbing. Because of this, she doesn’t suit the prospective grooms’ requirements.
Still, these comments reinforce the unfair attitudes towards women both on matrimonial sites and in the real world.
Reeking of slut-shaming and a sense of ownership over women’s bodies, the comments fail to surprise. Ultimately, the ideas behind their opinions are rampant on matrimonial sites.
Society still demonises South Asian women for casual sex and going out. Yet, it then criticises South Asian women for not being submissive to men’s demands.
It’s obvious to see that these expectations for women inevitably creep over to the online world, resulting in a negative portrayal of women on matrimonial sites too.
Of course, despite My Soni Kudi’s professional look, a further inspection does make it clear that it’s a parody. Nonetheless, the site’s familiar language and attitudes do make you think twice.
While clicking “I’m interested” under a bride reveals this is part of “a social media experiment undertaken by ZEE TV”, what does it really achieve in terms of changing these attitudes?
The TV Show Behind it All
Zee TV’s claims its aim is to:
“Understand how India looks at its daughters – as powerful, capable and independent beings with dreams and aspirations of their own, or as things to be owned and molded to be someone’s idea of the perfect bride.”
The website is part of a marketing campaign for Zee TV’s show, Kaleerein. The plot follows a girl called Meera. She chooses to keep her individuality rather than change to fit the expectations of a groom and mother-in-law.
Similarly, the campaign intends to create a discussion around the issue of the expectations on women to change after marriage.
The website also highlights how the ingrained focus on features like skin colour still infiltrates the world of online dating.
Yet, for young people seeking using modern matchmaking methods, these values seem unfair and unnecessary.
Even for mothers-in-law helping their sons, these values seem to widen the gap between generations rather than bring them together.
Rajan* tell us:
“I would be so mad if I found out my mum had used something like this website. I wouldn’t mind a girl from the same background or someone who my parents would like.
“But I’d be the one spending my life with the girl and I wouldn’t want her to be a different person after marriage.
“The website is funny, but I don’t use online dating sites because of it. Things like cooking don’t matter to me, but what music she likes or what she likes doing.
“I’m a terrible cook but we’d work it out together.”
Does My Soni Kudi Work?
Social media also disapproved of the site. Twitter initially exploded in a flurry of anger with the hashtag #ChangeHerNot.
However, will the people who need to hear this message actually see it?
A lot of the negative reviewers on Facebook have still not realised that the website is a parody. If the intention is so unclear, those who perpetuate harmful expectations are unlikely to appreciate the site’s message.
Instead, the mockery can leave a bitter aftertaste. My Soni Kudi may cast a critical eye over the attitudes of men, but it’s unclear if humour alone encourages change.
After all, some of the brides display the same behaviour with ‘Ambika’ telling us:
“I’m looking for a well-educated, modern man who will treat me like the queen I am. Only MBAs and above, please!”
Furthermore, there’s a noticeable difference between the more ‘Western’ girls and traditional brides.
The more traditional women tend to have poorer English spelling and grammar and come across more ‘simple’ regardless of education. Comparatively, some of the girls are more fluent, yet receive comments about drinking or wearing “small clothes”.
Here, My Soni Kudi appears to harmfully reinforce stereotypes and divide women rather than break down common perceptions of women.
My Soni Kudi clearly doesn’t work as a matrimonial site, but it’s debatable whether it fulfils its mission at all.
The question remains whether this is a real effort to create change or a publicity ploy, masquerading as social awareness?
Clearly, the team behind My Soni Kudi may have some good intentions at heart. Nevertheless, the initial drama before Zee TV revealed the site as a parody, has died down.
While progress takes time, it’s uncertain if the project will contribute to this at all. As seen, it arguably perpetuates some stereotypes in its portrayal of women and perhaps does not reach the audience it needs to influence.
However, all hope is not lost. Of course, the experiment is intended to promote Zee TV’s show, Kaleerein.
Instead, the show itself may potentially sway opinion with a hopefully more nuanced approach to changing long-term attitudes toward brides and women overall in Indian society.
After all, what better way to change familial expectations than more directly affecting conversations within the home?