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?
He: Where there?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Given the complexity of the problem, the resources needed to make a decision are far more, even for the most basic of users.
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.
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?
P.S. - Those of you who wanted to break up with me before I did - Ha, I beat you!