A date for dinner: Heart Searching: Amid changing attitudes in the Asian community, Dolly Dhingra tries to find a first-class male

The ad sounded ambitious: dinner parties with at least eight suitable partners each evening - I hadn't met that many in 27 years. The annual registration fee seemed minimal at pounds 10; what had I got to lose?

I had decided to subscribe to Eastern Eye - a badly written rag for Asians, full of movie gossip and problems of suicidal brides-to-be living in the Midlands - after discovering that the lonely hearts column in Time Out only had an average of two Asian males a week.

I came across the Asian Dinner Dating Company ad in the Connections and Matrimonial columns. It included a detailed personal questionnaire, and a chance to describe your ideal partner. In the hope of finding a first-class male, I eagerly sent my cheque by first-class mail.

Returning to work, I was too busy to dream about the man who might father my children. It was early one Saturday morning when a chirpy voice on the phone said: 'I'm sorry, did I wake you up?'

'Depends who it is,' I replied.

'The Asian Dinner Dating Co,' the voice answered.

'Oh no, of course you didn't. I've been up since the crack of dawn.'

She explained that, due to a cancellation, a place had become available at a meeting tomorrow. This gave me no time to be nervous, so I agreed to attend. The venue, rather than being a local curry house as I had imagined, turned out to be one of my favourite Indian restaurants, The Red Fort.

Approaching the restaurant, I passed an Asian man who crashed his rather ostentatious car while attempting to park - frightened that I might be sitting next to him all evening, I pretended not to notice. I looked around for an Indian equivalent of Cilla Black, and was surprised to be welcomed by two finely dressed women, probably younger than myself. There were four tables of eight, two each for the Muslims and Hindus. I was the only Sikh that evening and made my way to a table with two Hindus who had already arrived. I sat next to a lively nurse from Harrow and a rather desperate-looking accountant.

Within 15 minutes we were all present and familiar with each other's occupations and postal districts, and discovered that we were all of a type - left home to go to college and now in professional jobs, we seemed to have lost touch with our Asian community. We complained that there were few or no Asians at work and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to make contact with any, let alone like-minded, Indians.

The nurse confessed: 'My parents are finding it very difficult to find a decent match for me. I am not after the traditional Indian male. I am intelligent and earn a decent salary. I don't want to spend my married life being a submissive daughter-in-law.'

Sanjay, a 29-year-old financial adviser, explained that he was looking for a partner with some creative flair and was not interested in the young, pretty, domesticated women that his parents had been recently introducing to him. There were heated debates on how arranged marriages were perhaps a way of satisfying all members of an extended family, rather than just two individuals, whether we planned to live with in-laws, and if we could ever envisage settling in India.

Halfway through the evening, the eight of us had all become rather cosy when Sabina, the organiser, came to tell the men it was time to change tables in order to meet the other four women. We were introduced to the next set of males, a mathematician, a businessman, a computer analyst and a social worker. It took a while to warm up again, but as the evening progressed people began to relax, and as always there seemed to be a direct relationship between units of alcohol consumed and confessions per minute.

Neelam, a researcher, spoke frankly of how she dreaded the old idea of viewing brides: 'I hate the idea of a prospective husband coming to my parents' house and me having to dress up in a sari so he and his family can have a good look. I would much prefer wearing jeans and having a conversation about how bad Bollywood or Bust is.'

As coffee was served the organisers sought some feedback. Sabina, who is now married, set up the service because she had once experienced the disillusionment that we were going through - 'I thought I'd never find an Indian man that I wanted to marry.' Genuinely concerned that the organisation should cater for a particular class of person, she said: 'Some women call me and say that they won't consider a man who earns less than pounds 25k a year, from a well-established background. I suggest to them tactfully that maybe they would be better off with the old arranged marriage system. We are only concerned with providing a service for intelligent, aware individuals.'

By the end of the evening, although some members exchanged phone numbers, there was little romance in the air. It had been an evening of shared experience, fine food and a lot of giggles. At pounds 45 it's a lot cheaper than a dowry.

The Asian Dinner Dating Co, 40 Wessex Street, London E2 0LB. Tel: 081-503 6194 or 0956 230414.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence