Biodata- short for “biographical data”- a term and a tool that is usually used in South Asian (and other Asian/Middle Eastern) households for the purpose of exchanging information about eligible bachelors and bachelorettes for marriage.
Even Wikipedia notes the importance of biodatas in South Asian Culture.
Biodatas are the ancestors of dating and matchmaking sites. My theory is that biodatas were created when Indian subcontinent folks who had moved out to the UK and the USA for education purposes back in the 1960s were trying to get brides from their homelands. I welcome other theories in the comment box.
Data ranges from a simple name, age, and education format to detailed treatises outlining family trees, caste identification, and an elongated history of why people switched their profession from one industry to another.
In the world I live in (which does not include dating in the conventional sense), exchanging biodatas is a favorite pastime of moms, aunts, and matchmakers alike. Occasionally, fathers get in on the scoop.
It can be embarrassing, awkward, and sometimes funny (of course, after the wounds have healed). But mostly awkward.
It is especially uncomfortable when you, the subject matter, are not supposed to “know” what’s happening in a sense. That is, it’s not actually proper for the girl to initiate her own set-up. But in the internet era, it is oftentimes the very subject matter that is taking care of these “administrative” duties.
Accepting the “can’t beat ’em so join ’em” attitude, I decide that I want to be creative with my “biodatas.” Unfortunately, most people don’t understand or appreciate aesthetic and functional harmony. Therefore, I must succumb to boring bullet points and short brief sentences: Education..Ethnic Roots… Father’s name….oh, and the looming, ominous, thunderous question: age.
If it were up to me, I would write a sonnet, an essay, or a legal brief. At least there is a chance that I might attract the type that I am looking for.
Online matchmaking and dating sites are now “in” but they certainly do not replace the paper version. One may hear of the occasional snail mail exchange in various parts of the world, or even the physical hand-to-hand delivery method.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone straight up stamped “Where Have I Been” on a biodata and then tracked it through a website as it traveled across the world, just like the way we can now track dollar bills at sites like this. (Let’s leave the correlation between marriage prospects and monetary value for another blog post).
I recall a time when a relative of mine was in the spouse-finding process, and a biodata had been mailed to our house for the family to review. It was interesting to see the paper folded up into eighths, and then attached to that a separate 8″ x 11″ paper with the anticipated black and white photo that had gone through some serious xeroxing.
Thoughts: if we decide to continue the tradition of biodata exchange, then I ask us all, why shouldn’t a biodata – a document that has a hand in determining our futures – be turned into a form of expression? Why does it have to be so dry and paradoxically impersonal?
If we can get creative with our methods, then perhaps we can find the data of our dreams….