Everybody has heard that ‘marriages are made in heaven’. They happen when they have to, at the right time. Or rather, when it’s meant to be. It is written. It really is!

But in Pakistan, some parents and families still think that it is impossible to get the two people hitched without the famous rishtay wali khaalaas and khaaloos (marriage consultants).

Recently, I met a far-off relativ e who is somewhat my age. After a few minutes that she spent learning what I am doing in life, she shot some questions in one go that made me get a laughing fit in my head. She started off with: “When are you planning to get married? Do you get rishtaas?” I told her things will happen when they have to and that I am not rushing. “So how will you get married? I think your parents should get in touch with a marriage consultant for you. My mother is in touch with one, and he brings eligible candidates over every now and then. Weird ones come too, but this way I can easily decide who I want to get married to.” Okay lady, too much information. Although laughing out loud in my head, I had a smile on my face while she told me about her candidates. Not being able to control my thoughts, I asked her, “Do you like exhibiting yourself in front of strangers?” And oops. The words did not come out right. I n a nutshell, she was able to conclude that a girl has to ‘arrange teacups in a tray’ and go in front of ‘larkay walay’ or else she will age and never get married. “You will get old if you don’t get in touch with marriage consultants. Marriage is important. I can ask my mom to speak to your mom to hire one for you,” she said. No way!

According to a marriage consultant Ahmed Noor*, he charges Rs25,000 from both the families if he succeeds in getting them married. “It doesn’t happen in one go usually. At times, the boy’s family does not like the girl or her family, and at times, the girl and her family don’t like the boy or his family,” he said. Noor explained that in matchmaking, he has to make families meet many families until the match is perfect. “I have b een trying to find a girl for this boy for two years now. I have taken him and his family to houses of over 30 girls.” Noors said that it is sometimes the boy who doesn’t like the girl, or his mother doesn’t like the family and many more odd reasons. “At times, I have to take the boy and his mother to more than one house in one day to find a girl. It is exhausting, but it’s my job.”

On every visit, he takes Rs500 each from the boy’s family and the girl’s family. “The visits can be numerous. But I take this amount from both families that meet. It doesn’t matter if the meeting isn’t successful,” he shared with pride. So technically, Noor earns Rs50,000 in a month from just a single marriage. Plus, all the Rs500s that he earns from every visit, many of which are uns uccessful.

Families give pictures of girls and boys to Noor. Behind those pictures, things like name, age, date of birth, education status, occupation, caste, religion and sect are written. “Some families, especially in the case of girls, do not provide pictures until they have met the boy’s family,” he shared. If a family is looking for a girl for their boy, Noor shows them numerous photos of girls, and vice-versa in the case of families looking for a boy for their girl. Noor also explained ‘the criteria’. Most families that want a girl ask for: fair skin, attraction and beauty, graduate, good family and should be less than the age of 25. As for families looking for a boy: tall, good-looking, education from famous universities and well-paid. “Sometimes, the families of girls also demand that the boy should be settl ed abroad,” said Noor.

Indeed, marriage is important. But, how can the girl or boy and their families be comfortable in this kind of ‘exhibiting’? For those fathers who do not allow their daughters to talk to boys at their educational institution or workplace, how can you be comfortable in letting your daughters go in front of numerous boys and their families who are brought-in by marriage consultants? Noor explained that usually, the boy and his family look at the girl from head-to-toe and ask her all the questions they can. “They stare at the girl. So if I take a family of five to the girl’s place, they will all look at the girl from every angle.” Dear fathers (who take help of marriage consultants), how can you feel good when strangers come to your house and look at your daughter who is all dressed up for that day? And as Noor said, the process of matchmaking doesn’t happen in one go, but it can take many many families along with boys and girls to meet each other before the ‘perfect’ are chosen.

“This is my job. I don’t work anywhere but I just handle marriage consultancy. I make a living from it,” said Noor. He told me that the society accepts marriage consultancy and that is why the “marriage business” is on the boom all the time.