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Four users on the GTA’s largest South Asian dating website——share the secrets of ethnically loaded matchmaking

Shades of Brown

For members of traditional South Asian communities, marriage—in Hindi and Urdu, shaadi—is the single most important event in life. To help unmarried South Asians find a suitable partner, Anupam Mittal, a Mumbai entrepreneur, launched the dating website, and it became so popular in the GTA that the company chose to open a satellite office in Mississauga last year.

Like Lavalife, and other dating sites, Shaadi contains pages and pages of users’ profile pictures, interests and hobbies. But Shaadi bills itself as a site for people who want to marry, not a hangout for promiscuous daters, and it requires that its members indicate skin complexion and religion and caste—decidedly old-fashioned ideas that have created something of an image problem. Many of its members deny they use it out of embarrassment. And yet that hasn’t diminished the site’s popularity; 24,000 of the GTA’s 684,000 South Asians now use Shaadi’s services, including parents who set up profiles for their eligible children—a computer­-age variation on the arranged marriage.

Justin Thomas, 31, and mother Valsa Thomas, 57

Justin Thomas, 31, freelance software developer and mother Valsa Thomas, 57, oncology nurse

Umbreen Tapal, 29

Umbreen Tapal, 29, marketing analyst

Sathish Balasunderam, 35

Sathish Balasunderam, 35, real estate lawyer

Sampada Kukade, 32

Sampada Kukade, 32, communications officer