What does it take to coat a subway station with advertisements looking for a wife? Around £2,000, a healthy dose of hope and complete indifference to whether or not others will treat the whole exercise as a huge joke (Warning: they will). Jeevan Bhachu, an Indian-born marketing professional and part-time DJ from London, who has placed massive billboards on the Central and Bakerloo line platforms at Oxford Circus, remains unfazed by the prospect of public ridicule. In an interview that appeared after his public appeal caught the attention of the local press, Jeevan said that in his search for the right woman, he was ready to expand the coverage to even more subway stations.
Jeevan’s humorous, yet earnest, quest for a saathi – “The best Indian you’ll take home” – is inspired by another scholar with sub-continental roots, Muhammad Malik, who had launched a similar poster campaign in major UK cities in January. Both campaigns could be said to operate in the old tradition of personal ads in newspapers and “marriage” websites in India – of course, on a much larger and much more creative scale. But the affinity should not be stretched. While there has always been something zany about marriage advertisements that call for “fair and charming, convent-educated and hospitable wives,” the grandeur of gestures like Jeevan’s commands admiration. Lovers of old climbed mountains and fought dragons to prove their seriousness; in the age of internet virality, the Romeos (even if only potentially) are embarking on meme-worthy advertising campaigns.
Being so openly serious about finding a life partner in a time when romance is reduced to the direction you slide in takes courage, especially since – thanks to social media – ridicule becomes very public very quickly. now. Could it be that the spikes of cynics don’t sting those who wait to be struck down by Cupid’s arrow of true love?
This editorial first appeared in the print edition of March 10, 2022 under the title “Jeevan seeks saathi”.