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Outsourcing love, romance and marriage to the new India

Anita Jain, now 35, is a financial journalist who grew up in America but then chose to base herself in India in the summer of 2005 to find what Vikram Seth would call a suitable boy.

Judging by her encounters with essentially “boorish” young men in Delhi, all I can say is that she has been very lucky — she failed to find a husband.

However, what she did find was plenty of material for an exceptionally entertaining and candid book, Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India (which she will be discussing in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and elsewhere when the book is formally released by Penguin India on August 25).

In October, Anita, currently in California, also hopes to do a book tour of Britain, where Bloomsbury has gone straight into paperback (£12.99).

Incidentally, she came in London in 2000 for an 18-month reporting stint with Dow Jones, Anita tells me. When she was husband hunting in Delhi, she was stringing for the Financial Times in London.

That she has been remarkably frank about the intimate aspects of her life has not gone down well with her parents, who emigrated to the US from Kanpur nearly 40 years ago.

“I’ve just allowed them to read the book — they are not happy,” confides Anita, adding that her parents, to whom the book is dedicated, found it “disturbing”.

Though by western standards her memoirs are “kids’ stuff”, Anita adds that it has taken courage for her to be honest.

What she does not want is for Marrying Anita to be dismissed either as “chick lit” or “women’s writing”. When she writes about dating a Dalit boy, for example, she also attempts to weave in comment about India’s social structure.

What is perhaps more thought provoking emerges from her relationship with “Vikram”, who works “US hours” as “a mortgage underwriter for companies in the US”.

This section on India’s “glorified sweatshops” reminded me of the late Sir John Harvey-Jones, a business guru and a former chairman of ICI, who once told me that bright Indians were wasting their talents working in outsourcing.

Anita appears to agree with critics that thanks to the “internal brain drain”, “India’s youth are now finding themselves stuck in unchallenging jobs with few opportunities for advancement. They stay at these jobs for years, contributing to the productivity of the US economy, not India’s”.

Anita finds it reassuring, by the way, that her book appears to have won her a new band of male admirers.

 Marriage market

Anita Jain’s book came to mind when at a dinner last week I happened to be sitting next to Dr Madhavi Amdekar, a Maharashtrian who is principal of the Khalsa College in London where her husband, Dilip, is the dean.

As a sideline, Madhavi (“Madhuri Dixit is my cousin”) runs Kolumbus International, a marriage bureau, which seeks partly to find husbands in the UK for high-earning, 30-something Indian career women “whose biological clocks are ticking”.

“It is increasingly becoming difficult to find a good match from India, primarily due to the significant cultural differences,” her bureau’s website states, adding bluntly that “after a certain age, it is difficult to initiate new introductions as the opportunities considerably diminish”.

Shaadi.com, the online marriage bureau, wanted her to act as an agent but she turned down the request.

“I deal only with professional Indians,” says Madhavi, who claims her clients include the children of wealthy industrialists.

When she offered a boy earning £100,000 a year, the father of a prospective girl wasn’t impressed: “My daughter earns many times that figure,” he said.

Was it the daughter’s money or her dad’s, I ask Madhavi.

“Same thing,” says Madhavi.

She says she still believes in romance but for many others “marriage is a business”.

 

Indians in Ireland

When it comes to improving India-Pakistan relations, it is worth heeding the advice offered by two eminent Indian residents of Northern Ireland — Lord (Diljit) Rana, a senior businessman in Belfast where he is also the honorary Indian consul, and Dominic Pinto, who was the senior surgeon at the Tyrone County Hospital and took charge after a bomb exploded in Omagh on August 15, 1998, killing 29 people and injuring 220.

Now 71, Goa-born Pinto (“I’m Indian, but first and foremost a Goan — whenever I go to Goa, I feel I’m home”) tells me he would be more than willing to help hospitals in India draw up emergency plans to deal with the aftermath of terrorist outrages — just as he did at Tyrone County.

Rana, meanwhile, who is also highly respected in Northern Ireland, addressed the Pakistan, India and UK Friendship Forum when it held a joint dinner last week to mark the 61st anniversary of Indian and Pakistani independence.

According to Rana, India and Pakistan would do well to study the “Good Friday Agreement”, which has effectively ended terrorism in Northern Ireland.

“It’s important that people of goodwill should be seen to be working together,” said Rana, who has lived in Belfast for 42 years.

As in Northern Ireland, peace can be achieved between India and Pakistan, Pinto, believes. He has concluded that, despite the erosion of tolerance, “India has the greatest democracy in the world — I’m very proud of the way things are moving”.

He knows the price of terrorism is high.

Pinto remembers the day of the Omagh bomb when he heard an explosion at about 3 pm while playing golf with his son, rushed to the hospital and took charge as the ranking surgeon. He declared a girl of 15 to be dead.

“Five days later I found out she was the daughter of a close friend,” recalled Pinto.

 

  Gold isn’t old

Hardly a day has passed when Team Great Britain hasn’t won gold in Beijing — for three days running, it was four a day. It has triumphed in cycling, rowing and in swimming.

Yet, medals are a function of financial investment in sports by the government — something for a country like India to ponder. India has taken one gold — which is what Britain had as recently as 1996.

After Beijing, London is next. The chairman of London 2012 is not a professional politician but Lord (Sebastian) Coe (his late mother was Indian), who won the 1500m gold medal at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

Lord Coe last week told the BBC: “The primary purpose of a medal is that it signifies a big British moment — and big British moments in sport have to have a conversion rate. How many people can you get into the sport off the back of that great moment? We want fewer couch potatoes and more participants.”

GB, at one point, with 18 golds, climbed to third in the medals table last week, behind China and the US.

 Tittle tattle

The cruel irony of Jade Goody’s situation is that, needing to make money after her career was shattered by Celebrity Big Brother, she will now be forced to submit to an all too real reality television show depicting her battle to beat cancer.

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