Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Matrimonial Act

The Matrimonial Act

Tongue-in-Cheek
by Cecil Pinto


From Non-Banking Finance Companies, to Pyramid Schemes disguised as Multi Level Marketing, Goa has seen a host of con artists take advantage of our trust and gullibility. Sleep inducing biscuits, magic mattresses, gold polishers, mute donation seekers, miracle cures... I'm pretty sure even the famous Nigerian e-mail scam was inspired by a Goan's greed for getting something for nothing. No sooner the Government and Police machinery discovers one con game another one surfaces elsewhere.

I recently spoke to Kashinath Bhonsle, newly appointed Chairman of the Economic Offences Cell (CEO-C), about measures that are being taken to outwit the crooks.

"This month we are drafting the Legislation that will be named the Goa Matrimonial Act 2004"

"You mean the Holy Act of Matrimony, that's one of the Seven Sacraments?"

"No, this nothing to do with the religion. It concerns only the wording of Matrimonial Advertisements. The Goa Government is very concerned about all these men and women who are falsely representing themselves in matrimonial advertisements. They are painting a very desirable picture, but then end up very disappointing."

"But surely that is not an economic offense? These cleverly worded matrimonial adverts are as old as history, and first-meeting-shocks are nothing new. There is no state in the country, or in the world, that has legislated matrimonial adverts!"

"Please don't tell me about other states. Goa is unique state. For example which other state can boast that projects are completed so much before schedule? See our bridges and roads and bypasses. All completed months before scheduled dates. In fact just last week the bridge that was inaugurated was completed even before the tenders were opened! The Goa Government is very forward thinking. We are anticipating matrimonial
advertisement will soon be used for luring people into Pyramid Schemes and hence are taking advanced action for preventing this."

"Fair enough. What measures does the Goa Matrimonial Act propose?"

"No publication in Goa will be allowed to carry matrimonial advertisement unless it is accompanied by Special Notarised Affidavit stating exact facts. We are appointing special Matrimonial Notaries in every major town to authenticate contents of matrimonial advertisement before it is released."

"What all will these Matrimonial Notaries do?"

"They will check that each and every word in the matrimonial advert is having physical proof as backing. For example they will measure the exact height of person if he or she wants to mention height in advertisement."

"Why is height so important in choosing a lifemate?"

"I don't know, but we suggest in the act that only midgets and giants should mention exact height. For others we have three categories - Short, Medium and Tall. For age authentication we will need valid Birth Certificate. All relevant Degrees and Diplomas, of course, as proof of qualifications. And Proof of Income for any 'currently earning' claims.
Exact Annual Income will need to be mentioned in the advertisement. No vague terms like "six figure salary" and such. You tell me what is a "six figure" annual salary?"

"I don't know."

"Ok. One fellow earning Rs. 1,00,000/- a year. Other fellow earning Rs. 9,00,000/- a year. Both are six figures. What we can do? We need exact figures. And anyone claiming earnings from ancestral property will have to bring in proof to show he is indeed one of the owners of the property and has a right to any income. The paperwork for migrating to Canada is going to look easy when compared to the documentation we are demanding for placing a matrimonial advertisement. Gulfee, Shipee, Green Car Holder,
Portuguese Passport Holder, Bulb Holders.. all these terms will have exact definitions with years of service / domicile compulsorily mentioned clearly. A fellow recruited in a tiny firm in Oman six months back cannot be in the same category as a fellow who has worked for twenty years at Aramco in Saudi Arabia. Of course the Oman fellow will have more hair. But that is different matter."

"What about subjective fields like complexion?"

"Nothing that is observable and recordable is subjective. We have designed Skin Shade Chart that has every possible skin colour ranging from 'Sickly-Pale-White' to 'Nearly-Coal-Black'. Each shade has special number which will have to be mentioned in the advertisement so the prospective spouse knows exactly what colour skin to expect. We are also trying to work on a Texture Sampler that will categorise skins into Oily, Soft, Dry, Tender, Snakelike etc etc"

"But from which part of the body will you compare a skin sample?"

"From one of the buttocks of course. This is the most neutral area. Other parts of the body are unreliable as they could be subject to tanning or excessive use of fairness cream"

"Anonymity will no longer be possible I presume?"

"That is major problem area we are examining. With Post Box numbers and E-mail addresses someone can just create fake identity. We are also understanding that sometimes people don't want everyone knowing that they are looking-around or on-the-market so to say. So we will allow them little anonymity in the sense that they can use Post Boxes etc. but we, as the Matrimonial Act Agency, will know exactly which Post Box identifies which individual and will reveal this in case of dispute."

"Brilliant! Any other matters the public should know?"

"Well we are trying to define many other ambiguous areas. For example what is 'cultured' family? Whose culture? How do we define terms like 'decent' and 'affectionate' and 'home loving'. We are designing Personality Tests in these areas. But family background is a bit more difficult to pin down. We had a problem with 'owning own accommodation' which could be one room in a chawl in Baina or a six bedroom bungalow in Dona Paula. But now we have special Matrimonial Act Evaluators who will assess the property, and
ownership, and define its exact market worth in rupees. This figure will have to be compulsory mentioned in advertisement. We are also trying to get consensus on 'beautiful' and 'handsome'. Also whether a Catholic who mentions his caste can still be called a Catholic. And other areas such as....


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The column above appeared in the October 2004 issue of Goa Today magazine.
Cecil Pinto can be contacted at cpinto@sancharnet.in
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