Aside from New Zealand, India provides more permanent migrants to Australia than any other nation. So for young Indian Australians hoping to meet a suitable partner of the same cultural background for marriage, you might assume there would plenty of potential partners to choose from.
For many though it seems this is not the case, as there is an increasing trend for young Indian Australians to revert to the more traditional route of seeking their parents help and returning to their homeland in search of love.
Sharat Ram, 28, is a Sydney-based production manager who made just such a trip in recent years. He originally moved to Australia in his late teens to study at university, but after completing his studies, he made a very significant trip back home.
“I went back to India specifically to find love,” Ram explains.
“That’s just normally just how it is traditionally done… but things are changing.”
“Traditionally, parents will find a match for you, and there’s usually only a time period of 2-3 weeks to get to know your potential suitor – whether you’re back in India or not.”
Sharat met and married his wife Sharaniya two and a half years ago, with her first ever visit to Australia only after she was already betrothed to him.
Sharat explains “I met her only four days before we got engaged. Now we’re expecting a baby together in June.”
“We try and go home for visits once a year.”
Like Sharat, Tarun Bajaj, 29, has also made the trip back to his homeland in search of love.
Tarun is a bachelor from Melbourne, who is struggling to find a suitable bride before that most important of dates: his 30th birthday.
“I have to get married,” says Tarun, who is one of the subjects of upcoming SBS documentary Untold Australia: Indian Wedding Race.
“If I do not get married by 30, I would be considered as damaged goods.”
Tarun was a teenage student when he arrived in Australia ten years ago and has gone on to build a good career for himself in banking.
No matter who he picks though, Tarun says, “it has to be family endorsed: dad-approved.”
Tarun’s dad is not convinced Tarun will ever find a suitable match as long as he’s in Australia and so is trying to entice him back to India.
So is it really so essential for young Indian men to match with an Indian girl, with the same culture and religion?
“Yes definitely,” says Sydney-based Sharat, of his own family and experience. “But nowadays a lot of people do their own thing.
“It is perhaps less important to match religions than it is to match with similar lifestyles. People from the North of India vs the South of India for example, can have totally different cultures – living habits, food habits. I’m a vegetarian, so I’d prefer to be with another vegetarian – it’s not essential though.”
Sharat, who speaks English very fluently, explained that language can nonetheless still be a major barrier.
“People like me, who come here to study after having grown up in India – we’re not native English speakers. Back home, I speak Tamil all the time.”
Sharat’s wife Sharaniya speaks Tamil too (as well as multiple other languages) but he says that when he was searching for a bride, “it wasn’t essential that she speak Tamil.”
“But it helps to be with someone who understands what it’s like to speak English during the day – at work, university, but then speak another language with your friends and family.”
“Out of my Indian university friends here in Australia, one or two out of ten met and marries a girl here, but quite a few went home to look for someone.”
So what is drawing young people back down this traditional route, toward the homeland?
“Whether you’re a guy or a girl, it’s to do with how you were brought up,” explains Sharat.
“Young people in Australia are very insistent on independence, but people in India stay with their parents often their whole life.”
So, Sharat explains it pays to be with someone else who understands this situation.
However, for Tarun, finding love is tough, both in Australia and India. He has found that potential brides, and their families, expect significant material rewards if she is expected to move to Australia for him.
“Of course I can give her…decent accommodation, clothing and cars to drive,” says Tarun. “But not what they usually get in India - maids, servants, huge term deposits and jewellery…"
If there is perception that everyone in Australian is mega-wealthy though, Sharat, for one, scoffs at the idea – saying that there are other Western nations that are far more enticing.
“People in India, they still like USA better than Australia,” says Sharat. “They have to think twice before they will consider Australia as an option…sometimes they have to think three or four times!”
“Every house had family members in the US – sometimes three of four, so there is a lot more knowledge about the US and a lot more promise of wealth and success.”
“They don’t know as much about Australia, and in the past decade or so particularly, they are concerned about experiencing racism here.”
His advice to other young Indian Aussie who are looking for love? “Whether you’re in India or Australia, you need to be open. You can’t be too fixed about what you want. It doesn’t work that way.”
“People in India have more opportunity to meet the types of people that they’re after.”
Sharat says this can also make Australia less appealing to prospective Indian partners as there’s a smaller pool of people to choose from.
“In Australia, the community is much much smaller – you already know practically everyone, so it can be hard to find the right match.”