Kids Corner


Planning To Get Married? Hire A Detective, Check Out Your Mother-in-Law




Agencies say they've seen a huge rise in pre-matrimonial investigations to check a suitor's background, because more people are meeting online and families are less involved.

"It's not spying, we just wanted to know about my sister's boyfriend before she married him," says Anita (not her real name).

She hired a private investigator to verify her now brother-in-law's background. Her sister met and fell in love with him at work, but Anita and her parents wanted to "authenticate" his family's status and finances before the wedding went ahead.

She enlisted the services of one of India's many pre-matrimonial detective agencies, which spent a month drawing up a report into his earnings, family history and past relationships, among other things.

"He told us he was from a good family, but we needed to ensure he was telling the truth.

"Earlier in India with arranged marriages which were set up by the family, relatives would know about a partner, but now you don't know if he's married or has children or whatever, so we needed to hire someone to check all this," says Anita, adding her still-happily-married sister never knew about the detectives.

Anita turned to the services of a Mumbai-based agency which has been carrying out "pre-matrimonial" checks for more than 40 years.

The vast majority of enquiries come from parents who want to assess the "character" of their future son-in-law, says Rahul Rai, who runs the agency.

"When we talk about character it could be some personal habits they have, it could be their lifestyle - maybe he's involved with someone, maybe he's into prostitution, maybe he's a drug addict.

"Some have very specific requests like checking the sexual preference of someone, if they have doubts."

Finances and Relationships

The nature and scope of investigation depends on the moral or cultural values of parents. Someone from a more traditional Indian family might want to check up on whether a bride or groom drinks or smokes.

Others might be keener to learn whether there are any past relationships, something which can still be frowned upon in India. Conducting a review of a groom's financial dealings and business assets is also common.

Mr. Rai usually assigns a team of two or three people to every case. Research is a mixture of discreet enquiries through the social circle, online searches and on-the-spot surveillance.

"The most important thing is to maintain a safe distance at all times. They can never know you're watching them," says Jay Prakash, one of Mr Rai's detectives.

Mr. Prakash, a softly spoken and casually dressed 31-year-old, laughs off any comparisons with James Bond, but his job involves spying on people, sometimes for hours on end.

Mr. Prakash - who has been doing the job for seven years - might end up watching a groom at a coffee shop, a hotel or a bar. There, on the request of the concerned parents, he might be asked to collect details on the man's drinking habits and the company he keeps.

Gadgets are often used to collect evidence of indiscretions. Mr. Rai's team use spy cameras hidden in watches, key chains, lockets and shirt buttons.

It is normal practice for Mr. Prakash to wear disguises. He dresses as beggars, watchmen and drivers to gain access to a subject's house and life. There is no limit to what persona he might take on. Prakash once posed as a pimp, after the parents asked for a "honey trap" test.

Investigations Mr. Rai has worked on have yielded some interesting findings. In one case the groom was already married to a number of women, a fact discovered after weeks of covert surveillance. In another, a family's financial claims were found to be false. "They didn't own the business they said they did, so the marriage was cancelled," he says.

Other claims are harder to verify. "We were spying on one boy and our investigation concluded he was gay. The family were asking for proof, but to prove someone's sexual preference is very difficult. We did give it a try but couldn't provide documentary evidence. The couple got married in the end but later divorced."

A growing number of cases also concern the character of the would-be mother-in-law, says Usha, a private detective with another Mumbai agency.

In India, it is still common for the bride to live with her in-laws.

"We study the mother-in-law," says Usha. "How many times does she get angry, how many times does she throws the vessels out, how many times does she go shopping, what does she spend her money on. We understand everything about her and then put it in writing."

Pre-matrimonial investigations are increasingly common. There are around 15,000 such companies offering across India, conducting an average of 50-100 investigations a month during peak wedding season, says Kumar Vikram, chairman of the Association of Private Detectives of India (APDI).

That amounts to one million active cases during this period, a growth of 300% in the past five years, he says.

More Indians are choosing their own partner online, instead of having an arranged marriage through their parents, Kumar says. As the internet spreads throughout India, people in smaller cities and towns are meeting through the web rather than family connections.

The private investigation business is not regulated in India. "It is neither legal nor illegal," says Rai, who adds a bill has been going through the Indian parliament for some time in an attempt to create a set of guidelines for the industry.

Kumar denies this practice amounts to any sort of spying, and says in the Indian cultural context it is perfectly ethical. "The matrimonial concept is very different from the Western one. You are sending your daughter to someone's house, so you need to find out where she is going.

"There is an acceptability, not defined in the law books, that each family will carry out their own investigation with their own methodology and find out information about each other."

But not everyone is supportive of the practice. For some the idea of these checks amounts to an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

Manish, whose name we have changed, suspects he may have been the subject of such enquiries. Friends of his were approached by a very old acquaintance who was extremely curious about his past relationships.

"One of my old friends was asked whether I had a girlfriend at college, by someone they barely knew. I did have one in the past, but didn't want it to affect my wedding. I'll never know 100 per cent whether it was a detective, but I have my suspicions."

Manish believes this level of investigation is unwarranted and can lead to a sense of mistrust at the beginning of a marriage.

Both Mr. Rai and Usha say they have yet to be found out, but the watertight nature of such investigations could be open to question given cases like Manish's.

Both detectives say they've never been wrong about a prospective partner, even if some parents are in denial about the findings.

"We can't predict the future of the marriage," says Usha, cautiously. "Some parents expect us to know how the marriage is going to work out. That we can't do, we can only give a present report."



Does the partner drink or smoke?

Has he/she had a serious relationship before?

Do they take drugs?

What is their sexual preference?

Is the family as rich as they say they are?

What is the mother-in-law like?



[Courtesy: BBC. Edited for]

November 14, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), November 14, 2011, 10:09 AM.

Checking on someone's "character" through spying? What a bunch of immature clowns Indians really are! Totally disgusting!

2: R. Singh (Canada), November 14, 2011, 10:54 AM.

For centuries it was the cruel, heartless and clinical 'caste' system determining marriage partners and other aspects of life. Now it is the new monetary 'caste' system in vogue. This is taking commerce to new heights (or lows?), where only the desis can take it. The only thing left to be outlawed is feelings and commitments to each other as human beings. Tells you all you need to know about a society.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 14, 2011, 3:32 PM.

This is really unbelievable and disturbing! A 'civilization' cannot work out how and why humans 'fancy' someone, like them, tell them so, fall in love with them, and have a beautiful physical and psychological relationship with them as the Creator intended and, instead, embark on some sort of 'thought policing' involving family fascism. Relationships, like Faith, are and should be personal, just as relationship with one's Creator.

4: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), November 14, 2011, 10:09 PM.

Wow - i thought the Chinese were a practical and strange race. A friend from India told me that when he was on an arranged date with an Indian girl, the girl conducted an interview with him during all of that one date - asking about his wage, his family and so on. We both had a laugh - my friend works for television and we thought it was a great idea for a TV show - like a tragi-comedy of sorts. The only thing missing obviously is confidence and emotional maturity. If marriage doesn't work, there is divorce - the exit. People can spend less resources on such activities. The final point is that women are complex creatures and when they become mother-in-laws, then when the menopausal hormones kick in and they can be unreasonable. Solution - hormone shots to calm the mind and emotions and get them active - mind, body and spirit.

5: Avtar Singh (New Delhi, India), November 17, 2011, 2:26 PM.

Dear H.S. Vachoa ji: Although I do connect with your sentiments, with all due respect, I don't agree with generalizing and drawing conclusions like "What a bunch of immature clowns Indians really are!" If I were to take the data published by the author in real terms, i.e. 1 million active cases; that amounts to a mere 0.66% of the target demographic population (considering 747 million Indians in the age group 15-64 and assuming 5 members per family). If I many use the analogy, I'd similarly feel bad when somebody says that all the Sikhs living in the diaspora are "a bunch of immature clowns" as the only time they think of India is when they want to visit the Darbar Sahib or marry a Punjabi girl looking for a foreign groom.

6: Jasleen Kaur (U.S.A.), November 18, 2011, 3:37 PM.

Given the shocking cases of deceit that happen every year with arranged marriages in India, I actually think this is a good idea. Someone from my extended family got married to a guy based in the U.S., got here and discovered that he was having an affair and got married only to please his family! What a terrible loss for the girl! I totally support checking backgrounds to prevent wasting your life on such characters.

7: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), November 18, 2011, 11:27 PM.

Jasleen Kaur and Avtar Singh ji: A better alternative to this would be having an open relationship to build before marriage can take place. If I have to learn to swim, I would start to learn first in shallow water and not first jump in the ocean - that would irrational. Indians, having no experience in dating or relationships, are jumping into marriages and are setting themselves up for disaster. I find them generally emotionally incapable in this regard, even being unable to tackle their meddling parents. Hiring detectives isn't going to work.

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