What does it take to plaster a tube station with advertisements seeking a bride? About £2,000, a healthy dose of hope and complete indifference to whether or not other people will treat the whole exercise as a massive joke (Warning: They will). Jeevan Bhachu, an Indian-origin marketing professional and part-time DJ from London, who has placed massive billboards on the platforms of the Central and Bakerloo lines at Oxford Circus, remains unfazed by the prospect of public ridicule. In an interview that appeared after his public appeal caught the eye of the local press, Jeevan stated that in his search for the right woman, he’s willing to expand coverage to even more Tube stations.
Jeevan’s humour-laced, but earnest, quest for a saathi — “Best Indian you’ll takeaway” — is inspired by another seeker with subcontinental roots, Muhammad Malik, who had unleashed a similar billboard campaign across major cities in the UK in January. It could be said that both campaigns operate in the hoary tradition of personal ads in newspapers and “matrimonial” websites in India — of course, on a much larger, far more creative scale. But the affinity shouldn’t be stretched. While there’s always been something cringe-worthy about matrimonial ads that demand “fair and lovely, convent educated, homely brides”, the grandness of gestures like those by Jeevan demands admiration. Lovers of yore scaled mountains and battled dragons to prove their earnestness; In the age of internet virality, Romeos (even if they’re only potentially so) splash out on meme-worthy ad campaigns.
To be so openly earnest about one’s quest for a life partner at a time when romance is reduced to the direction in which one swipes takes courage, especially as — thanks to social media — ridicule becomes very public very quickly now. Could it be that the barbs of the cynical don’t sting those who are waiting to be felled by cupid’s arrow of true love?