Hey readers!

I'm Anum, a staff writer at Images.

Thank you lovely S5 camera for this grainy picture
Thank you lovely S5 camera for this grainy picture

And this is Munnazzah, also a staff writer here.

Hmm... should I go ahead with rishta aunty or not...
Hmm... should I go ahead with rishta aunty or not...

Both of us are strong, independent young women who love our jobs. Obviously though that's not enough for our society. We get a lot of shaadi talk thrown our way, like A LOT. I don't know why Naila aunty is so concerned about my upcoming nuptials or lack thereof but she is. Same goes for Munnazzah, she's loving the single life at the moment, but everyone else around her wants to see her hitched, and fast.

So when Munnazzah woke up to Careem's "Your rishta has arrived!" notification yesterday, needless to say, she had a mini heart attack. Luckily though, Careem never sent me one (thanks a lot, guys!); clearly, even they think I'm hopeless.

Mom, is that you?
Mom, is that you?

Of course our initial reaction was shock, followed by laughter, followed by anger and then some more laughs. We were all just so intrigued and confused. It was so random. Careem and rishta aunty? What is going on here, people?

Also read: 'All I can say about Careem's rishta aunty service is: what in the world?'

So before it was even lunch time, Munnazzah and I had done something we never thought we'd do willingly (okay, more like semi-willingly) — we booked a Careem ride with their Rishta Aunty!

Here's what went down when we left the office to grab some coffee from Espresso with our very own matchmaker in tow.

Spoiler alert: I don't know if we got lucky or what but let me just tell you guys, Razia is legit!

Pre-meet feels

I looked over at Munnazzah and she didn't look so good. "What's up, Muns?" I asked as we made our way to the car with our colleague Jahanzeb who was supposed to provide us with a male perspective on the whole rishta aunty deal. (More on how he should not consider a career in acting later.)

"Man, I have a bad feeling about this," she replied. "It's reminding me of those dreadful drawing-room rishta meet ups I've had to deal with. Ugh. Hate this feeling." Munnazzah wasn't feeling it but she was being a good sport about it; putting on a brave face because this was work, strictly professional.

The weather wasn't as great as it had been earlier this week, it was hot or maybe we were just nervous. We shielded our eyes and made our way to the PSO pump where the driver promised he was waiting.

The three of us set out to look for our ride, a white City. We were a little concerned about our privacy, especially with the Careem driver also being present, so we knew we needed fake identities. Munnazzah became Munira, a laid back, no-fuss kinda girl and I became Amna, who was on the hunt for a green card and wanted to sit at home all day without actually doing any real housework. For his part Jahanzeb got cold feet (eye roll) - wait for it.

He was supposed to be my ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) brother from overseas who was looking to get married, but almost immediately after sitting in the car, he changed direction and told our rishta aunty he's not looking for anyone and won't be a part of this. UHHH #MajorFail. Traitor.

Introducing the Rishta Aunty

"Hey, I don't want to sit next to the rishta aunty," whispered an unsettled Munnazzah right before she slid inside the car next to Razia the rishta aunty.

A note on how this works: during Careem's two-day 'rishta rides' you had the option of booking a Careem which would roll up to your pickup point with a rishta aunty (a professional match maker) already seated inside.

I was hoping Razia aunty would pull out some juicy files with pictures, kind of like Tinder on the Go. Sadly, there were none.

So when we finally got inside our Careem we were greeted by a lady in her 40s clad in a lilac shalwar kameez coupled with salt and pepper hair and a warm, big smile. We exchanged salams and broke into laughter, because come on, it IS awkward.

Razia aunty was graceful and really seemed to be in her element, she wasn't awkward at all. In fact, she helped make us feel at ease.

We started asking questions and she answered them all without showing the slightest bit of annoyance. When she mentioned that she had been in this line of work for years and that yesterday's Careem rides had her booked from 1pm till 10pm (with many of her bookings just being joy rides aka time wasters), I almost wanted to give her a hug.

And that's when it hit us: she was merely doing her job, just like us!

It begins

I was hoping Razia aunty would pull out some juicy files with pictures, kind of like Tinder on the Go. Sadly, there were none.

Since we were clueless about how her rishta system worked, we started off with asking her how this whole rishta biz functions. And surprise surprise, it's not really rocket science.

Razia aunty explained that this is a new concept so people are a little shy. "I'll ask you your demands, age requirements, a few key questions. I can't ask much," she said while pointing at the driver from behind the seat as Munnazzah and I chuckled.

She said if there's someone who matches our interests and checks most, if not all the boxes, she'll pass on the details to us, along with a photo if the person gives consent. Razia aunty said the first right always goes to the girl, she is shown the photo and details of the guy, she decides whether she wants to pass on her details and then her photo and details are shared with the guy/guy's side.

By this point, Munnazzah and I are getting into the groove, giving each other nods of approval. She looked at me and I knew she was thinking, "Let's do this."

But first... what have other customers asked Razia the rishta aunty?

Razia aunty mentioned that different people have different priorities, money and moving abroad being the two highest requests. She then jokingly mentioned a really nice woman she met yesterday who was in her early 30s and was looking for a man who was at least 10 years older than her since "woh kaafi fed-up thi aaj kal ke boys se."

Preach, sister.

When we said we want a guy living abroad, Razia aunty chuckled and said, "Aaj kal toh sab ko bahar jana hai."

Not surprisingly though, she also shared that mostly it is mothers who contact her to get the ball rolling and that most men who come to her are looking for someone who's educated but also domestic, the latter usually being a demand to please their families. Go figure.

Our own requirements

Razia aunty wasn't judgmental at all when Munnazzah rolled out her extensive demands - we slightly went off script and Munnazzah somewhat took over my role.

"He must be 6 feet tall, live abroad, must be open-minded..." listed Munnazzah. "Oh! And educated too!" we both quipped together.

"Of course," came the aunty's reply, as if it was a given. Then she laughed and said, "Aaj kal toh sab ko bahar jana hai."

But what about requirements that are more controversial? Surprise surprise, when Munnazzah stated that she wants someone who doesn't want kids, Razia aunty didn't even flinch, much less go haw haye like most aunties would. All she said was that this was something personal and it was definitely going to narrow down the pool since "laakho, hazaaro mein eik koi aadmi hoga aisa."

However, not once did we get the feeling that she was judging us for it. Here was an aunty who respected that young millennials, like ourselves have a right to choose what works for us. They are a rare breed. At this point, I actually wanted to ask Razia if she had a son; forget about guy, she was the ideal mother-in-law!

"People will say we want a doctor bahu 'jo gol roti bananay wali bhi ho. You want an educated girl, you can't have these kind of expectations from them," said Razia aunty.

However, I resisted the urge and then when it was my turn, I told her I'm looking for someone who can make me laugh. She explained that character traits like that are too personal for them (rishta aunties) to judge.

"Acha forget funny, he should be well-dressed!" I said, to which Razia aunty laughingly responded, "Haan agar funny hoga toh phir stylish bhi kaise hoga?

"Sometimes people make such far-fetched demands that I just feel like saying 'here's a box, why don't you mix and match the qualities you want from several individuals'," she added.

"People will say we want a doctor bahu followed by 'gol roti bananay wali.' Here you are looking for an educated girl and then you follow it up with something like that. Young working women will do the best they can, you can't have these kind of expectations from them."

You the real MVP, Razia aunty.

I went on to tell her that I wouldn't want to be part of a big, joint family to which she politely suggested that this is something I can overlook.

"Sometimes, just one saas is the equivalent of 10 and sometimes, your husband also turns out to be like the typical saas, so this is something that's just your luck, God knows better," she explained.

And weirdly enough, it actually made sense.

Sadly, our ride was just 20 minutes long so this was when we had to bid farewell. Razia aunty shared her contact details with us and we said our goodbyes.

Then off she went to play cupid for someone else.

Some concerns

At the beginning of our ride, Razia aunty put us at ease almost immediately. Unfortunately we couldn't say the same for our Careem captain.

Note to all rishta riders: your Careem captain will be privy to any/all your personal details that you share with the rishta aunty and if he's anything like ours, he might be smirking or will give you a high-five, which is what he did with Jahanzeb at one point. In return, I got a kick from Munnazzah.

When we were talking to Razia aunty about how we want a tall guy because duh who doesn't, the captain laughed, cut in and said "Aisay toh market mein kum aatay hai." Hmmmm.

Munnazzah later told me that each time either of us spoke, he'd look back from his rear view mirror.

It was definitely awkward and it made us uncomfortable; we didn't want him to see us as anything BUT customers.

Another thing that had us shook was Razia aunty saying that these days hiring a rishta aunty will set you back a whopping Rs 1 lakh — and that's the minimum!

The verdict?

I'd say don't knock it till you've tried it. Unfortunately, you can't try it in a Careem anymore since the car-hailing company told us it was only a two-day thing.

"Yes, we were thinking about it but we're in all likelihood doing it for only two days. The demand is high but we're not planning on doing it again - there's no way we can accommodate everyone," said a Careem representative.

Bummer.

That being said, I'd say Careem messed up in the way they blatantly marketed the whole service like a gimmick, which would explain the backlash. We hate the concept of rishta aunties because more often than not, their help is enlisted against our will. behind our backs but this service gave us some agency back.

We get to meet the rishta aunty on our own terms and tell her exactly what we're looking for.

I went into Careem's Rishta Aunty service with zero expectations and I have to say, I came out of the car actually thinking this isn't such a bad option. In fact, if most rishta aunties are like Razia, I don't get the hate!

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