Marriage: Make Me a Match ...or Not!
By Teenaz Javat
For Maheen Adil, religion and culture are two different entities, so when her three children (13, 14 and 20 years of age) are ready to get married; she will insist that they choose partners who are from her religion, which is Islam.
“My daughter is 20 and I am as ready as one can be when she pops the question of getting married,” says the freelance journalist who lives in Toronto.
“I have drilled it into their heads that they must marry Muslims. Their chosen partners can be Indonesian, Somali, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Bosnian, Arab, Indian or Canadian but he/she must be a Muslim. To me that is very important as it is a way for them to stay on a certain path,” she adds. When the time is right she is not opposed to seeking out the services of a matchmaker, though she personally prefers going about it through ‘word of mouth’.
“If by their mid-20’s they are still unmarried for whatever reason, I will start asking round within my community for eligible partners. I know, that the success rate of this ‘word-of-mouth-communication’ which I call it, is quite high.”
Even in these days of Shaadi.com (a South Asian dating site) and eHarmony, parents still look to people like Aban Percy Vazir, who practice the disappearing craft of “matchmaking”.
“You will be surprised,” says Vazir who started this volunteer service from the basement of her home in Toronto’s west end, “in just two years of sending out word that I am ready to offer this service, I have a roster of 200 boys and 200 girls who are at any point in time waiting to get hitched,” she says with a gentle laugh. “I think it is the personal touch which we bring to the game, which I’m afraid, a lot of parents and children miss out on when they simply try to find their mates on the internet.”
“It will surprise you to know that the age group that I cater to is from 19 to 70. Several seniors who came to Canada in the early 1970’s are looking for companionship. They approach me in confidence to help them find life partners. In some cases they are divorced, widowed, empty nesters or just lonely. The introductions do not always end in marriage. But they find life-long friendship and companionship,” she adds.
Vazir started this service as a hobby, when six years ago she and her friend, Kerman Katrak took a bus-load of south Asians from the GTA on a trip to Prince Edward Island. On their return to Toronto the group suggested they wanted to continue to meet with each other. So Vazir and Katrak decided to hold a social evening at a local community centre in Toronto. Soon, some of the younger members started playing table-tennis, cards and carom. Vazir, who is also a gourmet chef, cooked up simple south Asian delicacies like biryani (meat and rice dish) with raita (yoghurt tossed with vegetables), shrimp curry and boiled rice and soon the event morphed into a monthly social evening followed by dancing.
Over the past few years at least six couples have got married after meeting each other for the first time in one of Vazir’s social/games night. There are over a dozen who are going steady.
Vazir finds this very encouraging as she sees a sharp trend among newcomers who want to get married to someone from their own faith. “My services are sought mostly by parents who have brought their children to Canada between the ages of 10 to 12. The children who are born in Canada find the idea of matchmaking quite revolting. A case in point is my own daughter. I came here 30 years ago and my Canadian-born daughter will never ever want me to find a life partner for her. She finds this idea extremely strange and revolting.”
Unable to help her own daughter who is still single, Vazir seeks solace in helping other families. A lot of south Asians across Canada and from the U.S.A., United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, India and Pakistan approach Vazir to find a soul-mate for their children. But Vazir works with a caveat (warning), “I make sure the children are aware that the parents have approached me to find a suitable partner for them. If the youth involved are not interested in getting married, then all the effort I put in is futile. I make this clear right at the outset.
“You see, we are dealing with educated and independent men and women who will not be forced into anything. It is important that the parents understand that,” she adds.
This idea of international matchmaking does not sit well with Tazeen and Firoze Rizvi. They immigrated to Canada from Karachi, Pakistan after living in several countries in between. After living in the Greater Toronto Area for the past 14 years, their three adult children would not be coaxed into dealing with a matchmaker to find their mates.
“I came here when my three children were 12, 16 and 17 years of age. Since they had a liberal upbringing, given the fact that we lived in several countries before settling in Canada, I knew right away that getting them to meet up or get in touch with a matchmaker was not going to happen. In fact, my older son already had a girlfriend from his old high school, whom he married several years later after bringing her to Toronto.
“My husband was not at all happy over this but I readily accepted it as I want to ‘live light,’ says Rizvi. Rizvi who is quite liberal, knew at the outset that opposing her son was not going to do the trick. She welcomed the couple with open arms by helping them start a new life – allowing them to live in her basement apartment for free. They recently bought their first house in Mississauga for their growing family.
“I am now basking in the glory of a loving grandchild with another one on the way. Had we opposed this marriage, we would have been the losers,” she says. Rizvi’s other children have found life partners arranged through connections within the community, so she has never had to use the services of a matchmaker per se. “My older son who found himself a wife told me, ‘Mum I have my dreams with her’, alluding to the life partner he had chosen for himself, but my other two children went with the arranged marriage route. I am happy accepting both, as in the end they have to live with the decisions they make.”
Matchmaking by the numbers
● Age group Aban Percy Vazir caters to is 19 to 70 years of age
● Woman ideally should be under 30 years of age
● Men must be under 40 years of age
● Start the process when girl is 25 years
● Start the process when boy is 30 years
● 90 percent of clients are newcomers to Canada
● 10 percent of clients from parents with children born in Canada
● Ideal candidates are immigrant parents who come to Canada with teenagers
● Kids less exposed to Canadian culture are more open to seeking out matchmaking services