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Long-distance relationships, office romances, and marriages arranged online are new items on the romance menu.

The Internet Changes Arranged Marriages continued...

The sites aren't labeled dating sites, although in practice, some people use them as such. Instead, they are marketed as marriage sites, which are more culturally acceptable to conservative Indian communities.

One U.S.-based site,, was launched in Massachusetts in 1996. Its founder was an Indian father, Narain Bhatia, whose daughters had reached marriageable age.

But parents actually post only 5% of profiles, with sons and daughters posting the rest, says president Bharat Manglani. At another site,, parents in the U.S. write 10% of profiles, compared with 35% in India, says Vineet Pabreja, Shaadi's general manager for North America. When parents assume the lead, they vet the candidates before the young people meet.

While such arranged marriages still exist among Indian-Americans, they're becoming the exception, not the rule, Pabreja says. The sites are creating a power shift between parents and children -- a blending of Old World and New.

The sites allow offspring to write their own profiles and to search actively on their own behalf. Furthermore, they can choose their own spouse from a much larger pool than a local matchmaker or well-connected auntie can produce.

It's a change that Indian parents, whose own marriages were typically arranged, are learning to accept, Pabreja says.

"In the U.S. and Canada, parents -- observing the way the American system works -- have come to accept the fact that they may not always have the final decision in whom their kids intend to marry. There will be a select group of parents who will still require their children to comply with their choices," he says. "But what we observe, by and large, they have come to accept the fact that kids will make their own choices.

"But having said that," he adds, "Indian parents do take a lot of interest, even though they realize that they may not have the final decision. They do take a lot of interest in whom their kids are dating and whom their kids intend to marry, and giving suggestions of all sorts."

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