The End.

Like all good things must come to an end, so must this newsletter.

The relationships that I most pine for in my life are the ones that I didn’t end when I could have. I strongly believe that all relationships come with an expiry date, some that we heed to, and some not. Occasionally when we do pay attention to the expiry date, and sever ties, it makes us feel good. This pleasure comes from closure. It comes from satisfying our innate need to be in control. When we are no longer in control, pleasure becomes elusive.

It’s been a pleasure writing this newsletter. It’s been a pleasure because I never thought I could get through 19 (including this one) consecutive weeks of writing mostly because I have close to zero willpower. I’d rather celebrate my willpower at this point, than go any further and watch it wither or even worse, vanish in thin air. I have learnt a lot through this journey. Sitting on the fence as an observer is wildly different from experiencing anything. Through my many clients, I have had the (mis) fortune of experiencing the Indian arranged marriage market first hand and I’ve realised how little of it I truly understand.


He: “Hello, My name is so & so. I got your number from my wife. So, this matrimonial thing - is this like a hobby or you do it full-time?

Me: Hi, yes, I do this thing full-time.

He: Where do you live?

Me: Jayanagar

He: Where there?

Me: *Silence*

He: I am asking because I know the area really well. We are quite a famous family in South Bangalore. My brother is so & so.

Me: Oh okay, great.

He: Are you married?

Me: Yes

He: What does your husband do?

He: What about your parents? Where do they live?

He: What community do you belong to?

Me: Sorry, what does that mean?

He: Caste, ma?

Me: Errm..technically we are brahmins, but we don’t practice.

He: Oh, that’s not right at all. You should practice.

Me: Well, I understand you want a Brahmin daughter-in-law and I respect that. I don’t really care about caste, and I’d greatly appreciate you letting me have my views. Thanks.

He: We are basically Madhwas. Our son lives in the US. We want a good looking Madhwa girl.

Me: Yes, I know. If I could speak with your son once to learn more about him so I know what type of a girl would suit him, that would be great.

He: I have spoken to him this morning and asked him to talk to you. You can contact him on WhatsApp anytime.

Me: Okay, thank you. I’ll do that.

He: We want a good looking girl, we won’t compromise on that no matter what our son says.

Me: Right, let me talk to your son first.

He: We have a lot of contacts in the area, if you find us a good bride, we can help you build your business. If we just put in a word saying we know you, you can build a good reputation in the community. We live in JP Nagar, you should come home sometime.

Me: Sure, thank you.


Right after this conversation, I put out a tweet because I was so angry. Mostly, because I took it very personally, as I always do. May be that’s the problem, I thought.

So, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this conversation, mostly because I was well aware that I was taking it personally, and not seeing what lay beyond my own narrow view of this market.

But now, thinking out loud, writing it down and distancing myself from it has helped me see a different side to the conversation.

My caste meant familiarity to this man. Just as being in the same neighbourhood did. My caste has nothing to do with whom his son marries. Just as where I live has nothing to do with whom his son marries. He knows that. By calling a complete stranger like me, and giving me the responsibility of finding his ward a life partner, he was walking into a dark room. He wanted to be able to trust me. He wanted me to trust him, so I’d do my best to serve his interest. He wanted to build familiarity, for both himself and me.

It wasn’t about him. It wasn’t about me. It was about us.

I do it too. I ask people where they work or where they went to school, so it’s easier to find mutual connections. Why? Why does it matter? Would I give them a job? No. It helps build trust. That’s it. There is no other hidden agenda to it. Just as was the case with this man. I might see the world through one lens, where-as someone else might see it through another set of lenses. But we are all doing it to serve the same purpose - to build trust. To enable transaction. To enable trade. To enable progress.


Trust.

We are comfortable letting a stranger bring our food, thanks to Swiggy and Zomato. We are comfortable letting strangers drive us, thanks to Uber and Ola. We are comfortable letting strangers live in our homes, thanks to Airbnb. But we’re still not comfortable letting Shaadi or Matrimony pick our life partners.

  1. It’s a much much bigger decision. So, the level of trust a platform needs to enthuse must at the very least be linearly proportional to the size of the problem.

  2. Given the complexity of the problem, the resources needed to make a decision are far more, even for the most basic of users.

  3. The design and experience of providing access to these resources is crucial because most of the times the decision or its thought process isn’t even entire objective or rational.

  4. You don’t get second chances.

How is trust even built?

I am reminded of this really cruel joke.

Q: How do you mess with Stevie Wonder?

A: You simply re-arrange his room.

So, yeah. That’s not how you build trust. Familiarity builds trust.

Right. But how?

Through caste-based platforms? That one’s been tried. Through school-based platforms? That one’s been tried too. Are we closer to cracking it? I don’t know yet, but that’s what I am about to go find out. I don’t know if I’ll succeed in finding the answers I seek or not, but at least, I’ll try.


That brings me back to the end now. The last few weeks have been truly meaningful in being able to think out loud, have you validate some of my thoughts and sometimes even be encouraged to go find out more. But you know what, it’s also been damn exhausting, mostly because this whole writing thing has sucked my willpower dry, and I need a little bit of it back now, for other things (the trust thing for instance). Also, I am an introvert. I live in my head most of the time, and coming out to talk to others tires me to no end. So, if you don’t mind, I won’t be entertaining you with my discoveries, or the lack there of. I hope it’s okay.

No, really, it’s not you. You’ve been so kind. But, it’s all me. Also, this closure would mean a lot to me. So, can we end this already?

Hugs.

P.S. - Those of you who wanted to break up with me before I did - Ha, I beat you!

The hot only get hotter.

This isn’t my usual long-format letter. There’s only one point I have to make, which is this - The hot only get hotter. So if you aren’t hot, that ain’t going to change.

If it isn’t already clear, it sucks to be in the marriage market. It especially sucks if you belong to one of the two categories:

  1. Extraordinary women

  2. Ordinary men

The competition is just too intense.

Why?

Simple. Because of a demand supply mismatch. There are more extraordinary women than men, and there are more ordinary men than women. Rather, our bar for what makes someone extra-ordinary is different for men and women.

Now, that’s hardly surprising. So, I am warning you that you may not really learn anything that you didn’t already know. But if you want to just revise, read on.


Women are too picky

He seems a bit short. His family might be too conservative. He was dressed too casual for a date. He doesn’t read. He seems to have always worked in 9 to 5 jobs. He is vegetarian. His mother’s a housewife. He looks different from his picture. He is boring.

So picky, these women. Actually, let me rephrase that…

Our bar for men is really high

Men need to go through several rounds of approval before they come out being extraordinary:

  1. They need to pass the society test - Education, Salary, Looks, Community, Caste, Location, etc.

  2. They need to further pass the parents test - Good upbringing, healthy habits, well mannered mother, father with respectable socio economic status, no unmarried siblings, assets greater than their own so their daughter can lead a comparable life to the one she had back home if not better

  3. Finally, the bride test - IQ, ambition, goals, hobbies, friendships, romanticism, mannerism, spending behaviour and sense of humour, if possible.

I didn’t purposely try to list different things under each round, the harsh truth is that there is little interference between the three rounds, hence, making it a herculean take for most men to pass through all 3 rounds. Optimistically speaking, about 5% of the men in the marriage market at any given point of time come out victorious.

Ok, that’s expected. A lot of things in life do follow power law anyway. But what’s the problem with that?

Imbalance in demand and supply, my friend

While 5% of the men in the market are considered hot, 20% of the women are considered hot at the same level. So, you see, at any given point of time, each hot woman needs to fight off 3 other hot women to get that hot guy. And the imbalance continues. For instance, Kajol had to just fight off one other woman, Rani Mukherjee in Kuch Kuch Hota hai, but she ran away on a train. Imagine if you had to fight 3 other hot women, and potentially even wait for them to die, what would you do? If this isn’t intense competition, I don’t know what is.

Oh, so men can be picky too huh?

Yes, and they are. The general criteria that the average man has (and this includes the top 5% too) are:

  • Women who look reasonably good

  • Women with good jobs

  • Women who have hobbies or interests outside of work

  • Women who come from respectable families

  • Women who can run the house on their own

Luckily for men, the society, groom’s parents and the groom are mostly aligned on the criteria which makes selection far easier.

Well, that’s because men listen to their parents. If women also listened to their parents, then we wouldn’t have this problem.

Again, these ambitious girls.

No wonder we have 95% of the men after 80% of the women

We won’t raise the bar for women, no. We’d much rather lower the bar for men. So, the remaining women (80-95%) have to “settle” for boys from the bottom 95%, if they choose to marry that is. That way order shall be restored.

Still, women are picky - You’ll usually only hear the bottom 95% of men saying this, especially the 15% that get leftover. Because it’s true, women have more choice here. Every woman has more than one man to choose from. They can afford to be picky.


So, depending on where you are in the market, the hot get hotter. The ones who suck suck harder.


Moral of the story (Yes, there is moral today): It’s a dog eat dog world. Everyone’s fighting off competition, to be able to have one shot at getting themselves a good partner for life. So, if you think you can sit back and have love chase you, good luck. But if you don’t, I have something to tell you…

Go read your own bio/ about me on every matrimonial site/ dating app. Is that how you want to represent yourself? Would you swipe right on yourself? Would it ever make anyone read on? If not, go change it today. Yes, change it because that’s your only shot at getting someone worthy to come find you. Because you know what, they’ve got 2 seconds for your profile, so you better make it count. If you don’t want to fight, go home. I mean it.

P.S. - Through a program called Market-Manager, I assist singles in their matrimonial search by creating and managing their presence on matrimonial sites. I work with both men and women, and unfortunately, I’ve been fortunate to witness the stark difference in how we size up men and women in the market.

There’s no such person on Earth, ok?

Hello hello. Winter is here, are you all gearing up to mate? Ok may be not. Atleast meet, maybe?

Well, I hope so.

I on the other hand, have tucked myself well into a shell this winter. This month has been full of introspection, thanks to three triggers over the last couple of weeks. I have been thinking a lot about relationships, marriages, and why modern day marriages are so complicated to be arranged.


Trigger 1: The dating report

A lot of people shared this dating report with me. It’s got a lot of numbers, graphs and all that jazz but mostly very little new information. My first thought when I read it was “Meh, tell me something I don’t know”. Then I was wondering why I felt that way, and so re-read it. This time around, I realised that this report was talking about friction in the market and how some of these points of friction had been solved by modern day dating.

Having been in this space for over 6 years now, I am so stuck in my ways. I have a view about what the problem is and I have been busy attempting to solve for it. Just as everyone else. That’s the problem with being too passionate sometimes. Honestly, there are so many points of friction in the market, some bigger than the others, that really need solving. That too, much more than the ones I am trying to solve for. So, it made me pause, take a step back and think.

I’m still thinking. So, may be more about it when I’ve thought?


Trigger 2: The podcast

This time on The Knowledge Project podcast, Shane Parish interviewed Esther Perel, a renowned psychologist from Montreal. Her claim to fame is this TED Talk, or that’s what I think. It’s a brilliant take on infidelity. In this podcast, she talks about relationships, desire and so on. She said something brilliant - Previously, people loved someone and married someone else because what we seek in love (uncertainty) is wildly different from what we seek in a marriage (stability). For the first time ever, we seek both stability and uncertainty all at once in a marriage, which makes modern day marriages complicated in a way that they never were.

I wondered if this problem actually exists in the marriage market too. People looking for wildly contrarian qualities in a potential spouse, making it almost impossible to find this person and having to employ people like me.

She: You know, the guy is just really great on paper. Well educated, well read, liberal and doing okay career-wise. But you know, I don’t feel excited about being with him. He’s probably a tad bit too practical and boring for me. It feels like we’ve already been married for a decade now.

Me: Wait, isn’t it great that you feel that way? I mean, if eventually practicality is more important, isn’t it great that you get to see it right away?

She: No, I am okay with dealing with it eventually, but not in the beginning. I want excitement and butterflies at least in the beginning, so I can look back fondly at why I was with him in the first place.


Trigger 3: The conversation

I had a conversation with someone who used to previously run a start up in the matrimonial space. We chatted about the market, and the points of friction that continue to exist despite being over two decades since technology intervened.

He said something interesting, or I don’t know if it was my interpretation of what he said - Traditionally, we “selected” partners from the handful we had an opportunity to meet/ connect with given the lack of a larger network. However, today, thanks to the internet, that network has increased multi-fold and our arranged marriage brain doesn’t really know how to deal with the volume. So, we use the obvious strategy of elimination to arrive at a reasonable volume of prospects to choose from. Except, the process becomes asymptotic, thanks to the illusion of endless swipes.

It’s been the only useful conversation I’ve ever had with anyone in this space. I’ve spoken to founders of several different apps/ sites and I think every single time, everyone has been so obsessed with the problems they are trying to solve that I hadn’t met anyone speak so dispassionately about the market.

No wait, he was really passionate, may be also because he sees himself re-entering at some point. He brought a very complementary view to mine, that probably added value to our conversation. I know I want to re-invent the space, with not very concrete ideas on how. I could appreciate our discussion a lot more since it wasn’t weighed down by our individual baggages. At the end of the conversation, yet again, I wanted to pause, take a step back and think.


The three different triggers made me start wondering about what makes finding a match utterly challenging for some people despite networks being much larger than they were a few decades ago, thanks to the internet.

Is it you? Or is it the market?

Let me lay it out there right in the beginning, that it’s not you.

It’s market design.

(Oh lord, I really hope this doesn’t make my husband plug a link to his book in the comments section now)

They create an illusion of infinite choice. They fundamentally alter the way you choose by driving you into an elimination mode rather than selection. They make us feel so powerful, and entitled. They re-enforce a belief that it’s okay to want what you want and the app will eventually find you what you asked for. Sometimes the app will even make you believe that it is all part of the machine learning to help bring you closer to your soulmate, but honestly, the only thing that the machine learning can do is to get the app some funding, nothing else.

You are on your own.


Am i being unreasonable? Am I being too dreamy? Unrealistic? Have you ever thought this way? May be this one is for you then.

Let’s say you are looking for a well-educated, well-read and well-travelled successful IAS/ IPS/ IRS officer who is between 25-35, whose native tongue is Hindi and lives in Mumbai, and has had an upper middle class upbringing. Also, let’s imagine you are quite successful yourself, and you totally deserve to be with this person.

In 1980, your family would have put the word out, and you’d get 4 or 5 prospects (if lucky) that would vaguely fit this bill (maybe not IAS, but some govt/ PSU job, who knows), you’d pick one, marry and move on with your life.

Now, in 2019, it’s highly likely you won’t find this person.

Why?

Think about it - how many such people do you think really exist now, and are single? 5? What are the odds you’ll find some fault in them? 90%? That leaves us with one man. Next, what are the odds that this one man will like you? 50%? That leaves us with half a man. That’s not even a full person. But wait, we’re not done yet.

Next, what are the odds that this half man is on the same platform as you are and that too, at the same time and you happen to find each other?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

I could make a McKinsey case out of it, but let me give you the answer anyway - There’s no such person on Earth, ok? So, why then do you think you need to marry this man?

Today’s dating sites and apps are clearing houses. They are built to clear the commodities in the market.

So, if you are one of these trying to make a very niche trade, good luck. Wait, I don’t mean it like that. You will meet someone. Someone nice too. But I can assure you that you will almost NEVER meet who you set out to meet. Sorry.

Right, what now?

You have two options:

  1. Don’t settle: If you know what you want, and firmly believe that this person you want is really out there, wait. Don’t be in a hurry. You’ll meet him. Someday.

  2. Settle: Figure out what parameters in your search are worth relaxing, and anyone who fits the bill, give them a chance. Once you have a shortlist, select rather than eliminate, because you aren’t selecting candidates for JEE advanced. You are choosing that one person amongst the 1 person you want to be with amongst a handful of possible matches.

If you can’t decide between the two, come to me. But if you do decide on your own, remember to make it work. If you can’t, again, you’ll have two options. But remember, you’ll be back to square one. Just saying.

Ambitious girls

The marital apocalypse

I think in the last decade or so, we’ve witnessed the advent of a new species in the marriage market…

Ambitious girls.

No, they are not the forward thinking liberal feminists.

Then? Who are they?

Women who not only have well-paying jobs themselves, but also want their spouses to have flourishing careers.

My god. How dare they. Where did they come from?

Thanks to feminism, gender equality and all the other social evils of the 21st century, these women received more education, exposure, encouragement and opportunities from their families and the world in general, to do well for themselves.

But, what does this have to do with their spouse now?

Right. The thing is, while women were making all the progress, we didn’t bother evaluating its impact on the institution of marriage, or on the selection process. We still need men to be more financially better off compared to the women. Yet, we are the same people who get frustrated with gender pay gap.

Why? I don’t know.

What do these ambitious women want, anyway?

  • They want a man who is successful, and continues to be so. They want men to be passionate about what they do, and continue to nurse the passion. No, it’s not the money they’re after, but if that’s an unavoidable consequence, why not.

  • They want a man to believe in gender equality, and partake in household chores.

  • They want a man to be emotionally available and intelligent.

  • They want a man who is able to balance work, family, friends and hobbies.

  • They want a man who will will encourage their professional endeavours or at least not get in the way.

Errrm.. why not just become a lesbian, instead? Might be far easier no?

Honestly, how many men, married or not, do you know what can actually be all of the above? And how many women do you know who’d want anything different? Now, what are the odds that this little group will end up liking each other?

Probably, one in a million?

Ok no, may be one in a thousand?

Wait, no. One in a hundred?

Ok, forget it. One in two?

There is still a 50% chance that you won’t be the woman who gets this man!

And that my friend, is not a good number.


Where can you find this item?

Matrimonial websites, mostly. They are smart, and so, they prefer to screen your CV before they waste their time on you. Because, after all, they are fairly successful themselves. Ambitious girls are pretty easy to spot. One of the great things about ambitious girls is that they aren’t shy, and hence, don’t like to hide. They’ll tell you that they are ambitious, just so you don’t blame them later for not warning you. Even if they don’t tell you directly, you can sniff them out, especially on matrimonial websites.

  • They are “managers” or have a masters degree

  • Their salary expectations from their spouse are much higher than their own incomes

  • Software engineers, especially the ones who boast of “on-site” experience

  • They have squint eyes, I think - “I live in the present, with an eye on the future”.


Uncle1: I see there is an appendix attached to your daughter’s horoscope. Your daughter says she goes swimming, clubbing and what not. How is all this going to work in Brahmin families?

Uncle2: She is our only daughter, we don’t have a choice but to accept what ever she chooses to do with her life. Now, if you want her as your daughter-in-law, you might have to do the same. Else, you’ll have to find someone else.

BrahminUncle1 (worried that their 30 year old ward remains unwanted): *faints*


How do you marry one of these?

After everything I said so far, you still haven’t shit your pants? Impressive.

Once you’ve found them on matrimonial websites, or wherever really, talk to them. Ask them what they’re looking for. Tell them what your deal is and why you dig them. Tell them what you can offer and how you intend to offer what you don’t already have. If they’re convinced, and if you’re lucky, you might just be able to marry them. If not, try harder. Not to convince, but try harder in life. Because, men who are successful may not be in plenty, but they are more successful than you can ever be.

How do you avoid marrying one of these?

This can be tricky. But when you spot the signs I mention above, just run. Or ask your mum to find you someone, that’ll do the trick.

Ok, you are one of these ambitious women, eh?

Girl, I get you. It’s fair that you ask what you ask because you earned it. But is it realistic? I am not sure babe. I told you, there’s at least a 50% chance you won’t find what you are after, but if you still want to try, go ahead.

Now, are you wondering what you should do, to marry the man of your dreams?

Just pray. Everyday. Do Mangal Gauri Vrath (Google it), even. Yes, that might work.


On a more serious note, I think women spending more time outside of home does affect the dynamics of a marriage.

Traditionally, men worked, brought home the monies (or not). Women ran the household, took care of children and the world was in order. Now, when both men and women work, there is still household and children to be cared for. This can either be shared between the couple or be outsourced to a third party (including generous grandparents) or a combination of the two. When outsourced to a third party, there is no reason for the outsourcing agency to be managed just by the woman, because managing outsourcing agencies has never been a woman’s area of expertise. Unless you want to prove me wrong by admitting that women make for better managers.

While women working stirs things up a little on the household front, it does definitely ease the financial burden on a family. Men are no longer the sole bread winners, nor do they have to crumble under such pressure. A couple can alternate by supporting each other because both are now “able”. I know plenty of men who will happily stay home while their wives work, because honestly, who the hell likes to work. But does this mean they’ll run the household on their own? Hell no. They haven’t evolved to operate like that. It took women a few 100 years to work, and work well. So, may be in another 100 years, we could expect the men to run a household as well as your grandmother.

If a man says, he wants to stay home and support the family while you work, encourage him. Don’t nag him because he vegetated on the couch all day watching TV while you slogged your ass off earning a living for the fam. Don’t nag him because you still had to come home and do the dishes. Actually, don’t do the dishes. Order in. Actually even eat before you get home, so you don’t have to worry even about who takes the trash out.

Let him figure it out.

There’s no gain without a little pain.

But if he continues to be a sloth, beat the shit out of him. Just as men did with women, all these years.

P.S. - Don’t try this at home.

Fantasy league

…The more efficient marriage market.

This is my 15th newsletter, can you believe it? Well, I definitely can’t. I couldn’t have imagined writing this regularly about six months ago when I was still employed with Amazon. It’s not like I didn’t have time - I used to run M.B.A part-time. It’s unbelievable what a little mind space can do. Creativity on the other hand is scarce, no matter how much time you have.

Of the last 14 editions of this newsletter, I’d reckon only 2-3 have been worth reading, that too, thanks to my fatigue, fear and cynicism about the marriage market. Some were rants, some theories and others, stories. My favourite, of course, have been the stories because I’ve been able to happily hide a bit of me, a bit of fiction, real life, trauma and hope without anyone noticing.

So, that’s what you’ll get today.


The story has six characters, who are all trapped in a Yahoo Chat room called “So, arranged marriages, huh?” which is meant for anyone who is absolutely tired of having pointless conversations with their arranged marriage dates. This story is called the fantasy league. It’s a league because everyone plays everyone.

Yahoo chat room? What’s that?

Umm, Gen Z, right. Imagine a WhatsApp group, except instead of numbers, people had alphanumeric strings for their identification. You could leave and enter this group as you please. You could say what you want, be what you want. You didn’t have to deal with random forwarded messages, at least not the type that almost always has a moral at the end. It was an era where dick pics became democratic, social discovery was nascent and anonymity was celebrated. Public shaming was unheard of. Who would you shame? Geniedegenie365? Sure.

Anyway, you kids won’t get it. But just play along, ok?

But if there is a version of this in your era that I haven’t heard of, be kind. Tell me, maybe?

Now, marriage? What’s that?

It’s this little institution developed by our society to sell companionship bundled. You get hugs, sex, comfort, intellectual stimulation, money, food, children, loyalty, emotional support and what not, on demand, all rolled up into one person called a spouse. Well, sometimes. Anyway, you can’t complain about quality of each of the services as it’s a bundle unless you want to abandon the bundle altogether.

And arranged? Sounds shady you say?

Well, arranged marriages are usually when the introduction between a bride and a groom is “arranged” by a third party - app, or auntie, doesn’t matter. It’s true that previously, the third party didn’t stop at just arranging the introduction, they’d even make the decision on behalf of the couple. But think about it, we’re not far from that in terms of converting all manual effort into tech. Because, that’s what we’ve been doing in this industry no? Disrupting, innovation and all is too much work anyway.

Next time you log into tinder, imagine, one auntie sitting behind figuring out if you should be matched with that girl or not. And in case you didn’t get matched, don’t blame the app. It’s that auntie who calls herself an algorithm, just so she can sound cool and have her life funded by easy VC money.

Now that all your millennial type questions have been answered, can we get back to our story please?


33MLON just entered the room.

33MLON: Hey there

30MBLR just entered the room.

29FHYD just entered the room.

33MLON: Hey beautiful.

30MBLR: Hai babes!

33MLON: …Precisely why I left Bangalore a decade ago.

30MBLR: Easy bro. Just getting warmed up here.

33MLON: Waking up to a spectacular view of the Hyde Park on a misty Saturday morning in London. How’s it going there in Hyderabad?

31FSFO just entered the room.

30MBLR: Just waiting for Swiggy to arrive with my Hyderabadi chicken biryani. ;)

31FSFO: ooo…yum!! If only there were an app to teleport myself.

30MBLR: You won’t believe it, but I am actually building one right now. SFO huh? Are you in tech?

31FSFO: Now, you won’t believe this, but I am an investor.

33MLON: Hey SFO girl! Welcome to the group. Good to see a fellow investor. What is your area of interest?

32MNYC just entered the room.

30MBLR - Right, what else, Mr.LON? Haha. Kidding bro. Mr.NYC - Welcome man. Now that we have two NRIs in the group, I might as well leave the group no? No way will I have any chance with these two beautiful women anymore.

31FSIN just entered the room.

32MNYC: Hello, from the city that never sleeps!

31FSIN: Hello back, from the city that is about to sleep. ;)

<Back to the future>

33MLON: Yo Hyderabad girl, this ain’t Bumble. We’ll still talk, even if you don’t.

29FHYD: Haha. Touche.


Bumble?

For the uninitiated, Bumble is an app founded by an ex-employee of Tinder and an ex-girlfriend of the founder of Tinder. It’s supposed to be more female centric, lets women take the lead without being apologetic for doing so. They also have some BFF feature now, which allows you to make friends without benefits. No benefits? Wait, who wants that.

Anyway, the deal with Bumble is that when there is a match, the guy cannot ping the girl. The first message has to be sent by the girl, after which the couple can have a conversation. Great, right? No, not really.

  1. It’s women who are still hung up on things like the man must take the lead. It’s women who worry about what men might think if they took the lead. So, as sad as it may sound, women don’t take the lead, not even on Bumble. They settle for the thrill of not initiating a conversation with someone they match.

  2. Getting a match is hard enough, and now you even have to wait endlessly to be spoken to? Men aren’t going to do that. Not for long, at least. So, what happens to the few women who don’t mind taking the lead? They’ll just go to Tinder instead. After all, they have more users, more men and higher odds. Then, what’s left on Bumble? The rest, who haven’t figured it out yet.


29FHYD: Hello :) I am Deepika, a designer from Hyderabad. I love my biryani and my kheema samosas. Wouldn’t trade that for any view in the world. ;)

33MLON: Well, nice to meet you, Hyderabad girl!

30MBLR: Biryani? Looks like we have a match already? Should we get a room?

31FSFO: What about investment for your little app then, Bangalore boy?

33MLON: Hello ladies, I am Rohan. I live in London. I am an early stage investor in gaming and virtual reality start-ups. I love my early morning runs and my coffee, hand-roasted and freshly ground just for me.

31FSFO: Rohan, are you sure you don’t live in San Francisco? Or do you have virtual clones all over the place now? ;)

33MLON: Haha. Mystery investor from SFO, why don’t you tell us who you are.

31FSFO: Alright! I am Shreya. I manage investments in healthcare for a Silicon valley based venture fund. While most of me lives in the Bay Area, my heart still lives back home in Bombay.

32MNYC: Bombay? Awesome, brings back some lovely memories from college. It’s nice to e-meet you, Shreya. I am Ajay, and I live on the opposite coast in New York. I work in Ad-tech as a Data Scientist.

30MBLR: Nice to meet you dude.

Deviyo aut Sajjano, myself Saurabh, software, working as a CTO for a start up in Bangalore. We are building an AI based meditation product that uses body temperature to sense your mood, and chooses the music and pace to guide your meditation, in turn “teleporting” you into a different world. Besides that, I am foodie and love photography. My heart lies all over the world, just like my pins on Tinder ;)

31FSFO: Hahaha. So, that’s your teleporting? I think I am going to go with Mr. London who can at least show me my biryani in virtual reality vs me having to imagine my biryani while trying to meditate!

33MLON: There’s a lot more we can do with virtual reality, you know ;)

29FHYD: Like?

32MNYC: I think that was meant to be rhetorical. Sort of like a pick up line.

30MBLR: Oh really? How do you know, bro? Are you into the PUA scene in New York?

31FSIN: What is PUA?

32MNYC: Hello there! I thought you’d already slept off. ;) PUA stands for pick-up artist. Google it.


Pick-up Artists

I was introduced to this concept by a gentleman from New York. While it is an art, it is based on seduction science, and hence, it mostly appeals to geeks, who unfortunately lack the natural skills to attract a mate. I remember this book, called The Game, being fairly popular in college, that was like a bible for most semi-intelligent men who believed that they could play above their league by just internalising this book. Except, at that point, I didn’t know there was a term for this.

A little bit of manipulation is part of the mating game anyway. Animals do it. Humans do it. Yet, somehow, people find it crass, misogynistic, and what not. I can’t tell if this PUA shit works or not, but is surely an interesting concept. If you can deliver it quite smoothly, then why not. But do I endorse it? No, I don’t know enough about it to like or not like it. So if any of you know more than I do, I’d love to hear from you.


31FSIN: Wow, this is some crazy shit.

30MBLR: SIN stands for Sindri? Because that’s where I am from.

31FSIN: Haha, no. SIN stands for Singapore, before it occurred to me that it should have been SGP. Anyway, I am Gayatri. I am from Chennai. I sell space on cloud for a living, and I use all that money to buy myself books and vinyls. But, where on Earth is Sindri?

30MBLR: See, this is exactly the problem with you Madrasis. You think North India is just one big blob Madhya Pradesh and upwards no?

31FSIN: Woah, sorry dude, I didn’t mean to offend you. I genuinely don’t know where Sindri is.

30MBLR: Chill man, I was just pulling your leg. Sindri is just one little area in Dhanbad in Jhardkand. Sort of like your Anna Nagar types.

31FSIN: Lol.

32MNYC: Vinyls? Wow! I live right above an old record store in New York. So, you are always welcome here :)

31FSIN: How cool is that! I’ll be travelling to the US next month, so who knows? I might just take you up on that offer.

29FHYD left the room.

29FHYD joined the room.

33MLON: For a second there, I thought this room’s turning out to be like any other dating app with a skewed gender ratio. Welcome back, Deepika. You were dearly missed, for a second. Almost. ;)


Skewed gender ratio

30:70 is a good female:male ratio on most dating/ matrimonial apps. This is definitely not representative of our general population which is more like 49:51. Why is that, though? I’m sure there are plenty of reasons, some general, some personal. But at the top of my head, I can think of a few.

  • Women feel less safe in the world. More so on the internet.

  • Women find it harder to accept that love doesn’t always come finding you, you need to put yourselves out there sometimes. Unless you are super woke.

  • Women technically don’t need men anymore. So, fewer women looking for love, I guess?

So sad, no?

…Wait, is that 30 including bots, or excluding them?


29FHYD: Sorry guys, I got disconnected. Also, I didn’t think anyone was missing me much. Not like I have any funding to dispense or offer tech support. After all, I just design homes for the who’s who of Jubilee Hills.

32MNYC: Wow, that must be a fun job. I am a huge Mahesh Babu fan. I try and catch his movies whenever I can. Have you ever met him?

29FHYD: Of course. :)

32MNYC: So cool! Doesn’t it make you wish you had a beautiful house like theirs?

29FHYD: Why? I already have a beautiful home, that makes them wish they had one too ;)

33MLON: Oh then may be you can come and make my home in London, beautiful? Pun intended.

29FHYD: Unlikely you’ll be able to afford me, sweetheart! ;)

30MBLR: Hahahahaha, nice one, Deeps!

31FSFO: Is Mahesh Babu the guy with botox?

32MNYC: Botox? I don’t think he’s done Botox! At least not that I am aware of.

31FSFO: Oh, then why does he have the same expression all the time? ;)

32MNYC: Dude, how dare you! With just one expression, that man has so many fans, imagine what would happen if he got a second expression? He’d get you Mumbaikars as well.

31FSFO: Right, I’ll drink to that one. I have a lot of friends from AP and Telangana here in the valley and so, I must have caught the occasional gossip about Tollywood. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to really believe that I am in America and not in Hyderabad.

33MLON: London is quite diverse that way. It’s a transient city where people from all over just come and go. So, it’s so easy to blend in.

32MNYC: Just like New York.

30MBLR: Yet, you guys still come home and post pictures of your Dosas and sambhers (sic), that don’t quite feature in your diverse habitats, no?

31FSIN: Oh you think you’re the only foodie? ;)


Oh you’re a foodie too, are you?

If singing or tailoring was the most sought after hobbies for a bride of yesteryears, being a hiker or photographer or a foodie is the most common hobby chosen by men on dating/ matrimonial websites. Not that women seek that, but men somehow think they are all fancy hobbies that gets you chicks. Wait, whatever happened to playing the guitar? I thought that was a sure-shot chick magnet.

Now, every second guy is foodie. I wonder if I should read that as - my mum feeds me well, and hence, I need my wife to cook for me. Ok no, that’s a bit harsh. Let’s just say people lack creativity and hence, have decided to glorify something that they have to do anyway.

So.. don’t be surprised, if there is an advent of poop collectors or sleeping enthusiasts on these platforms soon. Just saying.


33MLON: Let me guess, Saurabh, your visa to America got rejected? That’s why you are so bitter about NRIs, correct?

30MBLR: Bro! How did you know?! Now not only do these women know that I am not an NRI, but I don’t even have a fucking visa stamp on my passport no? Tch.

31FSIN: What is that I smell? Sarcasm?

30MBLR: :D Mr.Rohan, I live in India by choice. I founded my company in Silicon valley, and moved back home early this year so I can be around my family. Oh and did I mention? I decided to build this company after travelling around the world for a whole year meeting people from very diverse backgrounds, only to realise that no matter what you do or where you live, there’s just one thing that unites us all today - stress, and loneliness. And so, through my product, I do my little bit to help.

31FSFO: Wow. That was a way better pitch for your product, btw.

33MLON left the room.

30MBLR: Gayatri, do you smell something burning now?

29FHYD left the room.

31FSIN: Hahaha, so sad man.

30MBLR: Oh great, so it’s just the four of us now? Shreya, what say, we get out of here, and get a room too?

31FSFO: Haha, thanks. I am flattered.

32MNYC: Thanks man, carry on. I’m sure it’ll save Gayatri and me some transaction cost if we just continued hanging out here if you all just left us alone.

30MBLR: Wait.

30MBLR:

31FSIN: Hahahahaha

32MNYC: Lol.

30MBLR: 31FSFO?


30MBLR: Fuck! Should have bloody seen this coming.

30MBLR left the room.

31FSIN: So, Ajay, did you go to college in Powai?

32MNYC: Indeed.

31FSIN left the room.

32MNYC: Sigh!


Every match makes you wonder if this would be the last conversation you’d have trying to impress someone. The pretence, the pressure, the frustration, the anxiety and the need to cover it all up, makes us seem uninterested or detached. It’s hard to be any other way when your excitement has been stabbed over and over by so many people, especially when they didn’t intend to.

This Yahoo! chat is just what your interaction data from any dating app/matrimonial website would look like in the bank-end. Conversations with multiple people, all put together. Some with men. Some with women. Some with bots. But wouldn’t it be more efficient if it looked like this on the front end? What if likability was transitive, and all the people you had mutual matches with brought in other people they had mutual matches with and in turn, you formed a group of like minded individuals who could group chat and pick partners more efficiently?

Men would still have to fight each other off. But, would more people talk then? Would conversations be more interesting? Would we save time by eliminating more people at once rather than one after the other? Do you think the reduction in transaction cost would get us to our soulmate faster?


Wait, do you want to be a part of that Yahoo chat?


The end.

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