Indian Dating and Matchmaking in Australia - Meeting People from India in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Other Places

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In recent years, Australia has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for Indian immigrants. The educational and economic opportunities that the country affords have encouraged large number of Indians to migrate to the continent Down Under. This change in turn has led to realignments in the community’s cultural practices as is evident in dating and matchmaking within the Indian community in Australia.

Today, Indians in Australia make up one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country. The Indian community includes diverse groups like those who are Australia-born and only Indian by ancestry, those who were born in India but have migrated to Australia and those Indian citizens who are in Australia on temporary education visas. In fact, according to statistics provided by the 2006 Census of Australia, 147,106 residents declared that they were born in India and among these 79025 people already possessed Australian citizenship. The number of Australian residents who claimed to be of Indian origin was still larger at 243,722.  The cities where most of the Indian or Indian-origin population is concentrated in Australia include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane while the states with the largest Indian-born residents are New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

The history of Indian immigration to Australia goes back to the last years of the nineteenth century when able-bodied males from the north Indian state of Punjab took the ship to the southern continent in search of jobs. The first wave of immigrants were absorbed in the agricultural fields as well as in the extensive road and rail building projects being undertaken by the Australian government.

Some of them also found jobs in the several gold mines of the continent. However with the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901, Indian immigrants were barred from entering Australia in the beginning of the twentieth century. Things turned around after the Indian political independence from Britain in 1947 as well as the end of the Second World War. Anglo-Indians and Indian-born British made up the second major wave of immigrants from India to Australia. In recent years, professional and skilled workers from India have migrated to take advantage of Australia’s expanding economy. Yet another significant segment of Indians in Australia is composed of students who flock to vocational and technical educational institutions in the country.

Dating among Indians in Australia is largely the result of exposure to the Australian way of life. Since various communities in India have traditionally believed in the system of arranged marriage, dating is still a relatively recent phenomenon in India. However with the impact of mainstream Australian culture and the huge geographical distance from the country of origin, the younger Indian Australian generation sees dating as an intrinsic part forging relationships in their adult lives. On the other hand, even though Indian families have tentatively accepted their children’s preferences in matters of personal choices, the majority of them consider dating as part of the matchmaking process and not part of a healthy social life that an adult is expected to have.

Matchmaking in the Indian community has traditionally been the forte of parents and extended family members. However in a new country, this job is often taken over by community elders. Weddings, cultural events and religious celebrations organized by community associations are thus favorite meeting point for families looking for a bride or groom for their children. Such associations could include any Indian living in Australia or be set up to promote social and professional networking among certain groups like Bengalis, Gujaratis or Punjabis living in Australia. Cultural events and social get-together organized by these associations are also popular with young people since the Bengali Durga Pujo and Gujarati Dandia celebrations not only allow young men and women to get in touch with their cultural roots but also offer ample opportunities to check out eligible dating or life partners.

The mushrooming of dating and matchmaking websites specifically catering to Indians in Australia is yet another evidence of the fact that the young people in the community are eager to network and interact with each other. Sites like Indianshaadi.com.au enable one to find other Indian singles in Australia while popular Australian dating portals like Rsvp.com.au or datingdownunder.com.au have separate sections for Indian members. Interestingly the Internet is also being used by young people who are not just looking for a dating partner but interested in a more committed relationship like marriage. Where these sites score over traditional methods is that they allow Indian men and women with common cultural and ethnic backgrounds to get in touch with each other which might otherwise be difficult in a land where they are a minority ethnic group and where they lack the traditional matchmaking resources.

Where Indian dating and matchmaking seem to part ways is in the specifics of the identity of the partner. While many young Indian Australians may face no pressure when simply dating other Indians, when it comes to marriage, most Indian families are still rather traditional. They would prefer their children to marry not only from within their own race and religion but also community and caste. Often this rigidity is not only about parental control but takes on larger issues of cultural fidelity and ‘Indianness’. However growing up, working and living in a multicultural society, second and third generation Indian Australians are increasingly becoming aware of the irrelevance of such regressive notions as caste in finding true happiness with a life partner.

In recent years there has been a huge surge in the number of students from India enrolling in private Australian colleges for vocational or technical courses. In 2009 Prime Minister Rudd declared that there were an additional 90000 Indian students studying in Australia. Even though this influx is at least partially fueled by the demand for Australian citizenship, it has resulted in a substantial increase of the young segment in the Indian Australian population. The campuses have emerged as hotspots for finding dating partners within the community. In fact last year’s spate of attacks on Indian students may have further encouraged members of the Indian Australian community to socialize within similar racial and ethnic groups.

Dating and matchmaking within the Indian Australian community is a complex phenomenon. Like other cultural practices, these too depend on variables like the duration of the families in the host country, their educational and economic backgrounds as well as cultural moorings. All these factors play important roles in the negotiation of identity in a new land and one of the ways in which this is expressed is in the community’s dating and matchmaking practices.