Marriage Broker Auntie's 1st success in its new avatar

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I’d to put this picture featuring my proud husband because he finally thinks of Marriage Broker Auntie as a real job and not an excuse to spend endless hours chatting or stalking random people on the internet. 😉

For the last one week, I’d been advised to be on bed rest by my doctor but that couldn’t stop me from attending the engagement ceremony of Viggy and Neha, Marriage Broker Auntie’s very first successful match, in its new avatar. As we wished this beautiful couple, took the customary photograph and exited the stage, Viggy’s mum said “Thank you so much, you made my life so much easier”. This was followed by a few aunties hushing “Pushpa Nandish alli illi yellakade inda nodadrunu aaglilla, yuvr mediation inda ne match fix aagiddu” translating to “Despite going to traditional marriage bureaus such as Pushpa Nandish (popular matchmaker in the Lingayat community), the match was finally mediated by this person aka Marriage Broker Auntie”. I couldn’t hold my giggles of pride. It felt so good to hear these aunties look at me with such awe, almost making me feel like the name of the brand justified its purpose. The joy I felt looking at this happy couple and relieved families (given that it was intra-caste, the families managed to find several mutual connections leaving them reassured!) was well worth the time I spent setting these two up.

An orkut testimonial wouldn’t do justice to how well I’ve known Viggy through his peak years (lol!). You know how people say, I’ll know my soulmate when I meet him/ her. I could say that on behalf of my clients once I get to know them well (pretty big claim I know). Besides being a client, Viggy is also a good friend and so I didn’t need him to ever tell me what kind of a girl he wanted to marry. Actually, I am not sure if I could even pen down attributes to such a girl because this knowledge was internalized. When I initially set him up with Neha, I just provided him with all the logistical details (Basic biodata, social links, etc.) and insisted that he speak to her before all the other women he was window shopping in the market back in February. I couldn’t say then if Neha would be the one he’d marry, but I surely felt the two would get along well enough to at least consider. On the other hand, I’d known Neha for just as long but in a shallower capacity as this good kid who was one of my younger sister’s close friends. So, despite getting enough dope on Neha from my sister and her friends, I insisted on talking to Neha myself. After a few conversations with Neha, my instinct to introduce Viggy to her grew stronger. Again, don’t ask me why..it was just a gut feeling.

Anyway, I am really glad Viggy and Neha trusted my gut feeling and took the plunge to be introduced and to get to know each other, else I wouldn’t have enjoyed that delicious meal at their engagement on Sunday! 😉 In all honesty, there is really no perfect person or soulmate for anyone, its all about what we make of relationships that come our way. Although my job was really only to identify two people who would easily connect, respect and like each other enough to consider a life long partnership, the rest is for Viggy and Neha to figure out. I had my success the moment the two of them thought this match was worth a second date/ conversation. This engagement and wedding is merely a cherry on the cake!

P.S – It took me nearly 3 years to find Viggy his woman because I take my time. So, if Marriage Broker auntie hasn’t been able to help you in the last one month or so, don’t lose hope. I eventually come around. 😀

Why blind dates can be a great start in arranged marriage markets.

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My husband and I had known each other virtually for almost two years before we finally decided to meet. There were a lot of pressure in terms of if we’d live up to our perceptions of the virtual personas we were acquainted with. Hence, I was fairly skeptical to even meet the husband and watch my perception crumble like an Oreo cookie. But after a lot of coaxing from his end, we finally decided to put a beat all around South Bangalore so any awkwardness can be drowned down by the people, traffic and noises around. In fact, this also meant, we would also escape eye contact or the lack of it with relative ease, leaving very little scope for judging. At the end of it, our conversation was as distracted and beautiful as our gtalk conversations online keeping all expectations intact. It is very rare that expectations get managed so magically.

A lot of people tell me they want a partner they can have a great conversation with but during an arrange marriage date, all they end up talking about are things like traffic woes (which is why one of them got terribly late for the date!) and quality of service at the coffee shop.They fall into the trap of getting into an interview mode with a long checklist that we want to tick off because meeting someone in person seems like a cue to make the final decision and unfortunately, unable to manage expectations, we let go off something that has a second date potential if not a lifelong commitment. This is because their matrimonial profiles already explicitly states all “logistical details” such as how the guy wants the girl to stay with his parents and the likes. Yeah, that’s never up for discussion, just like the authenticity of his six figure salary or her frauded non-manglik horoscope. Now, unless you discovered that both of spend hours at the Silk Board junction on your commute to work everyday and are great fans of that twitter handle, I doubt you’ll feel a “connection”, let alone jumping with joy to get married to each other.

Jordi, one of my friends from school, has once told me that a great way to start any relationship is a one night stand since you’ve the most carnal need thoroughly tested and the rest is just a bonus if the person turns out to be nice. However odd that may sound to a conservative person, the essence of his theory is that its always good to start with very low expectations and watch yourself be pleasantly surprised along the way. The best way to replicate such an experience in the arranged marriage market is by getting set up on blind dates where you know very little about the other person and you meet them under extraordinary circumstances i.e. other than a coffee day just so you can get yourself out of the typical interview frame and allow yourself to be surprised. The best part of this deal is that you haven’t spent several weeks or months texting each other only to break up awkwardly at the end of it (high transaction cost this is!).

When you’ve no expectations, you’ve nothing to lose..you only have everything to gain!

Why all men don't hit on the hottest women.

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In one of our recent NED talks, we had one of the speakers make a compelling argument (backed with data and all) about why you should hit of the hottest woman in a room. Now, why would any guy not do that you may wonder. Here are a few disclaimers before I explain why. Yes, I do believe beauty does lie in the beauty of the beholder and who I find pretty might not be pretty to you and vice versa. So, here I’m talking about a case of beauty where a majority of the beholders would concur with. Sure, outliers/ exceptions exist but, I am not talking about that here. So, stay with me.

If beauty follows a normal distribution like most things in this world, then there are only  handful of good looking women out there and in all likelihood, they’re all probably in the right profession (models, actors, etc) leaving very few for us common people to hit on, which makes them a scare resource in high demand. But is this reason enough for us to be scared to approach them? Say you’re an averagely good looking guy who wants to hit on the hottest girl in the room, you would dare not hit on this girl because of the following two reasons –

  1. You are not as hot as her for her to appreciate your beauty/ hotness/ charm/ call it whatever for you to catch her attention.
  2. She already has enough sleezy men hitting on her, even if you weren’t, how would she know because the probability she’s got something else apart from beauty that you have got significantly more of, to catch her attention with is very very low.

Let me explain this with an example.. Imagine you are a really intelligent guy and the only way you know how to impress anyone is with your IQ. If she’s got the IQ of a door nail, you could solve a second degree differential equation in 10 seconds but she wouldn’t batter an eyelid if she didn’t care about her own IQ. On the other hand, if she had a crazy stamp collecting fetish and you had a stamp she really wanted, she’d probably trade it for her love. But what’s the likelihood of you figuring this out and also being prepared for it? Miniscule. On the contrary, this explains why nerd boys sometimes get bimbos who are insecure about their intelligence.

This is true of any personality trait really, and not just beauty. This is why you wouldn’t hit on the smartest person or the most talkative or any superlative for that matter.

 

Am I matching girl and boy or girl and boy's mother?

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Marriage Broker Auntie has pretty much always had the opposite mix of genders when compared to other matrimonial/ dating apps in the market – More women than men! Quality of both men and women follow a normal distribution making it incredibly tough to adequately match within the database because this male to female ratio is only going to get worse. I have several hypothesis for why more women feel enthused by the idea of Marriage Broker Auntie than men. Today, I am going to tell you about my latest hypothesis – Very few boys end up being primary decision makers when it comes to the matrimonial market, it’s usually their mothers who take the call and push for a final decision to be made by the boy. Its true.

The men who have signed up on Marriage Broker Auntie are definitely opinionated, strong and independent decision makers. They’ve done that in their professional lives and they continue to do so in their personal lives. I get several calls from aunties who want to get their sons married and I am always open to it because it helps increase my options for matches. God knows what little algorithm they run but they are great in terms of giving me a decisive “Yes/ No” for a recommendation, that too in a very timely manner. However, I always insist that I talk to their wards because my business is based on personality fit and there’s no way for me to know that without talking to the horses themselves. But, I see some hesitation from their end to stop playing gatekeeper. I used to misunderstand that as being overprotective but the intervention is really only to minimise transaction cost.

If these boys were capable of making their own decisions, they would’ve made some decisions on their own even before parental intervention. Sure, sometimes things don’t work out but these boys end up adopting the motto of “when in doubt, postpone”, which further fosters inability to make sound decisions. By breathing down the son’s neck, they ensure the decision is taken sooner than later because beyond a certain age, market value is inversely proportional to age. So, in order to tap boys like this, I am forced to reach out to these gatekeeping mothers which results in me doing an atte-sose (mother-in-law daughter-in-law) match rather than a boy girl match because the boy’s mother tends to be the one who ushers the boy to make decisions. Now, I am not going to sit and judge these boys as mamma’s boys. Its for you girls to go figure out!

 
 

No, I don't do Jataka matches.

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This picture above represents a typical decision making unit when it comes to arranged marriages in India. While in most of the western world, you’d only be concerned about maximising the region “A” where as in India, we like to maximise A, B and C in the reverse order of priority. While traditional matchmaking sites like Shaadi, Matrimony, etc. focus on B and C, the new age dating apps like Tinder, TrulyMadly, etc focus on A. But there’s no player that tries to maximise all 3 regions. Fortunately or unfortunately, there’s a huuuuge market here. It doesn’t matter if you’re western educated, a lot of people still outsource the task of finding a potential partner to their parents (the love failure cases who suddenly become super khaandani by marriageable age!) and all responsibilities come with a few rights. So, parents feel free to include their own filters like sub-sub-sub caste, horoscope matches, societal status, quantum of property in tier-1 cities and what not!

I don’t know if its ever possible to strike a balance between all 3 or if its even optimal to do so, but sometimes by maximising area under AxBxC, we get a chance to make the world smaller and warmer by welcoming a new family of people into our lives. This goes out to everyone in the decision making unit including parents. For the longest time, I acknowledged people’s need to match sub-caste and horoscopes and was even tolerant towards it until a few weeks ago when I had one client who just rubbished my effort of trying to maximising AxBxC by providing a cold “Jataka doesn’t match” feedback when I’d been naive enough to check for the jataka match myself (just in case, although is not my forte at all!!) and finding that the match was decent.

Something snapped inside my head just like it had 2 years ago when a guy had told me he’d be interested in a caucasian blond over all of the amazing women I’d introduced him to. These episodes have got me thinking about my own beliefs and what I’d rather endorse as a matchmaker. There’s no formula to making matches work because there are so many subjective parameters that go into making this decision that varies depending on who you are or who your astrologer is, so who am I to intervene and say I’ve cracked it. Over the last 3 years, I’ve absolutely enjoyed introducing people who’ve trusted my instincts based on my understanding of them and been open to learning about each other. I match based on personalities (which surely reflect one’s upbringing, family values and what not and so I really don’t need to have conversations with parents separately!!) and more often than not, I do take care of logistical needs such as wanting someone from the same city or who speaks the same language at home. But that’s really where it ends.

So, if you are a Mesha rashi Ashwini Nakshatra Vadagala Iyengar from Hassan who wants to do maDi mylage and want one of your kind, go check in your pakkad mane and not at Marriage Broker Auntie! Kthnxbai!

Why faking charm can get you more women in the arranged marriage market

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My cousin sister-in-law is throwing a birthday bash for her two boys this Sunday and it also happens to be her birthday on the same day. In conversation, she mentioned how relieved her husband was to organise his sons’ birthday party on her birthday because this meant that he wouldn’t have to worry about doing anything special for his wife on this day. Now, this is the story of most couples’ lives (Well, if you’re an exception, good for you..and I don’t need to hear about it!!). All men start off by impressing the girlfriend/ to be wife at the start of the courting period and this sets false expectations of how the relationship would evolve over time because women folk are naive enough to believe there’s some correlation between the courting phase and the long term average life!

It’s bitter, but here’s the truth – Married life is like a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream with a  few occasional pieces of nuts or caramel. We might imagine it to be butterscotch or bubblegum but in reality, it’s VANILLA which means most conversations between a couple revolve around grocery lists, paying bills and trying really hard to make exciting weekend plans in vain (the occasional nuts I told you about!). Having said that, there are several sparely spaced moments, conversations, etc. that are absolutely surreal and make you realise why a couple chose to come together in the first place, but mind you, these are best enjoyed occasionally. If someone tells you otherwise, don’t trust them. They’re probably trying to live a social media friendly life that’s surely not sustainable.

Recently, I met a guy who makes for a great long term husband.. very sincere, honest and pragmatic and sees no need to set false expectations at the start of a relationship, but I told him that it might not work for him in the marriage market simply because we womenfolk are spoilt by Rom Coms. Imagine if Harry in Harry met Sally said “I just realised there’s a super cheap grocery store at the end of my street you could shop at and so we should move in together” instead of “I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”, would your heart melt just as much? No, no freaking way! Women love drama as much as men like to scratch their balls, so give them drama, at least occasionally. That’s the short cut to a woman’s heart, I tell you!

My advice to fake charm, dreaminess and drama during subsequent meets with prospects, perplexed this boy (Well, it perplexed me too) but I convinced him (and myself) with the argument that most women are happier to comply with societal norms of wives cribbing about husbands whose attitudes have changed post marriage. Just acknowledging this one fact could open up a huge pool of women for this guy. This relates to my earlier blogpost where I try to rationalise the fact that women have a tendency to adjust, settle, etc. and hence, they will deal with a change in behaviour, even if it is grudgingly. When we crib about our husbands change in behaviour post marriage, we are often comforted by facts about how all our friends lives are the same and how all men are like that. This gives us a sense of security simply because women prefer to go down together instead of on their own (This probably also explains why we like to hold hands and go to the restroom together – There you go, guys, I have answered that mysterious question you’ve all been curious about. Lol)!

Hacks for improved matching

At the outset, let me confess that I am a huge fan of the uppit kesari bath model of marriages, except of course when the coffee is unpalatable! Until now, I had not found a way to convince my generation why this model works best in the arranged set up. After recently speaking to someone of a very international background (no traceable roots in India), I’ve arrived at the conclusion that once you have decided to get married, there’s no better way to do it than hire a broker irrespective of what race you belong to. Agreed that such brokerages don’t exist in most of the western world, but it does in the East and especially in India.

Recently, I was talking to a Bangalorean friend for whom I was not in a position to make introductions due to liquidity issues and that’s usually when I offer these market strategy level services just to help improve their searches at the very least. She’d been in the market for the last one year or so and we were discussing her strategy in the market when I realised that the arranged marriage market is getting more and more inefficient by the day simply because of peer pressure from the new found dating market in India. To make the marriage market more efficient, we could try to use the Gale Shapley’s algorithm to create matches. However, in order for this to work well, we need to revive the traditional processes of arranged marriages with the improved liquidity offered by new age social networks including matrimonial websites. So, here are a few simple hacks.

Get your filters right

We normally start our search too narrow, then widen it over time and then you finally end up with 300-400 profiles to sieve through and since you can’t do it all in a day, you start to get frustrated going over several pages of very average profiles with a few exceptions here are there. Matrimonial sites do not offer the same pleasure in searches as the swipes on Tinder do. Best way to get around this is to pick 5-6 key criteria that will help filter people you are most likely to get along with. For example, if you are a 29 year old girl, you are likely to have a better hit rate with men between 29-34 (even older for sure!), but you have a very low chance off conversion with someone younger than you. Our society has been conditioned to relationships where the woman is younger than the man by 1-5 years and so this is the age group of men who you’ll have the best shot with. Sounds ancient, but its the true!

Increase your karabath counter

There have been times when I have exclaimed when people have told me things like they found the right guy/ girl after 20-30 people, but ideally that’s the strategy you need to follow – maximise your turnover. The only way to do this is by minimising your transaction cost. Instead of texting someone for 3 months trying to get to know them, just go meet them or in other words, increase your karabath counter. When you meet someone, you make a stronger impression, you can judge much more in one meet than a month of texting if you create the right atmosphere and more importantly, both of you are compelled to make a decision (Yes, no or maybe) sooner than later. Else, either of you can endlessly text multiple people through these 3 months by which time you would’ve lost interest in most of these people, thanks to our ever evading attention spans these days.

Put yourself out there

Be it a funny #Tindertales twitter handle/ blog or even making sure you are present at every family/ community gathering that maximises your chances of meeting interesting people, make sure you are on top of your game. People need to get a sense that they already know enough about you to want to talk to you or be with you. If you had to really start from scratch, then not only are your chances lower, it’s just going to take far longer. Don’t expect your mother or grandmother to do the job for you by circulating your profile like a donation collection pamphlet at family gatherings. Be there since that’s the best way to market yourself. It’s almost like finding yourself that perfect job. This is not love marriage for gods sake, so yes, there is nothing romantic about the process. It’s in your face, but bloody efficient!

Should you get married at all..and what men want from a partner?

Google-What-Men-WantI recently came across this article and realised how much I can empathise with the author. It’s frustrating as hell when you grow up being conditioned by the society to want certain things in our lives, be it jobs, friends, married lives or children and when things don’t follow suit (for whatever reason!), we build some sort of a defence mechanism to rebel, fight and convince ourselves to not want these things. It certainly did’t happen to me with marriage because I got married even before I could spell married but there are so many times when I’ve gone from thinking life has to be a certain way to questioning why it has to be that way – be it with education, jobs or children. So, I hear this girl loud and clear and I’m with her 100%. Nobody HAS to get married, whether you’re a man or a woman. But if you WANT to, I’m here to help.

With women, people are beginning to be more accepting (if not encouraging) of them wanting to pursue a career over the regular child rearing route but it’s not the case with men yet. So, there’s probably a very similar story from a guy’s perspective as well, but I haven’t heard it yet. It’s not very often that men get very candid about the type of women they want to marry, but I had the fortune of listening to the thoughts of a friend who’s been encouraging me to  turn my matchmaking hobby into a profession. When I mentioned to him that I’ve had more luck signing on women than men, he shared with me a template that most men use to evaluate women from a long term gene propagating viewpoint. I found this framework incredibly insightful and even though most women would hate to hear/ accept this, in my humble opinion, it cannot get more precise and on the dot than this –

  1. Looks are important. Looks can mean a lot of different things to different men – it could be a pretty face, great figure, toned body or just even general sense of dressing etc. Most men think they take good care of themselves by either going to the gym or spending a lot of money on clothes and hence, they think they deserve to care about the looks of their partner.
  2. Comfort with feminism. The spectrum ranges from lukewarm to militant feminism and most men prefer to deal with a pinch of it at the most. Men fancy bold, independent women who have a great social life and fantastic career until the responsibilities of a family kick in at which point, they’d very much appreciate a partner who would take the lead on managing the home. Now this would make most women sick in the pit of their bellies but there’s no way for me to console anyone including myself because our bodies, minds and societies have been designed for women to be primary child bearers and rearers. I don’t believe this is impossible to change (if anyone wants to) but this comes with a huge trade-off, much like anything else in life and the choice to make this trade off is entirely personal.
  3. Flexibility with career. Much like women, men also want partners who’d be willing to support and accommodate their career and lifestyle choices. If the guy wants to be a nomad/ adrenaline rush seeker, he’d want to be with a woman who’d readily pack her bags and jump on a jet plane as well. This doesn’t mean the woman needs to be a housewife like in yesteryears but she must be non-risk averse enough to leave her life in one city and pick it up in another without too many tantrums.

Agreed, this isn’t pretty to hear given that I’m a woman, but it is what it is. But mind you, these are all wants. Wants, much like the kind of wants, we women folk have. So, don’t you dare get all judgemental now. It’s not like I’ve opened a pandora box of fresh information but you are free to feel gratified by re-affirmation through this post. If your man is an exception (or atleast if you believe he is), good for you. But, men are like this only. You should be with a man only if you can make peace with these wants or strike a good trade deal, but not because you want to change him (Well, it’s not possible to do that, trust me!). This is a result of thousands of years of social conditioning.

Honestly, if you think you can’t make your peace with it, you DON’T HAVE TO get married. Nobody can impose it on you (not your parents, not the random auntie like me or the society!) and it’s up to you to protect your faith since it’s a personal choice. As Priyanka Dubey says, there are always 1000 reasons to not get married, I’m sure you can find yours.

Assortative match-making

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Be it math or match-making, I have ideas that I’d rather not explain since my rationale is usually a simple, non-foolproof and lazy way of doing things. Its some sort of an intuition that works for me, but might not for someone else as usually there’s no science to it and hence, I don’t both crystallising it into structured thoughts or sharing it with others. So, very often a question I’m asked is about why I make the matches I do and what is the rationale behind every match. I usually cover it up by saying it was a strong hunch that comes from experience, etc (which is true!) but the answer really is as trivial as assortative matching!

When people approach me (or not), I judge them. It is very essential to do so since it gives me a sense of who they are good (or good enough) for from the pool of people of the opposite gender I already have in my butti. The overarching metric of good for each other is driven by a combination of aspects like – general attitude, educational background, upbringing, family values, looks, general interests (or the lack of it as well), etc. Depending on how rational the person is, they either find my match on par/ below their aspirations. If I were to tell you that you’re no Angelina Jolie, but you’re still very much entitled to want a Brad Pitt but you don’t have to land one, you would not want me as your match-maker. So, let me try to rationalise this once and for all in a more palatable way.

There’s a popular algorithm known as the Gale Shapley’s algorithm that is popularly used in matching markets and is found to be very closely applicable even to online dating websites. In essence this algorithm states that if all parties in a matching market had a priority list of their preferred matches, then a stable match is possible within that market such that no one is cheating on the partners finally assigned to them through the matching algorithm. In the real world, making such priority lists is very costly. Firstly, you don’t have complete visibility of all users (of the opposite gender) at time zero and hence, you can’t possibly have your preference list ready. Secondly, it takes an incredibly long time to build a priority list since transaction cost is quite high.

Imagine you had a binder full of women, you’d pick your top 5 women and go down your order of preference one by one. Let’s say Woman No.4 is your ideal match at time zero but you wouldn’t know that till you came to Woman No.4. So, starting at Woman No.1, you put random whatsapp texting, maybe a meet or two, jataka matching and uppit kesaribath scenes (in random order depending on how orthodox your family is), only to get rejected by her. You end up repeating this process for Woman No.2 and 3 and finally arrive at Woman No.4. But thanks to the high transaction cost, Woman No.4 is probably gone or has just started the process unlike you and hence, puts reject on you since she’s still ambitious and so now you have no choice but to only pick from Woman No.5 and below. If you’re young, you are assured a fresh new pool of women and hence, there might be a greater chance of finding women who are far superior than the previous batch. But, very often, the pool only decreases with age. More so for women than men. If you don’t believe me, hopefully Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm could convince you better!

Recently, I made an assortative match and voila, the couple’s getting married later this year! When I got the details of the girl, I immediately knew a boy in my Marriage Broker Auntie database who’d be good enough (more like perfect, in this case!) for her and I didn’t waste a second trying to set them up. It took nearly 2 months to just organise the introductions (as both of them had been busy on Bharatmatrimony and what not) but since I had very strongly and explicitly anchored the match as being perfect (while essentially it was based on assortative matching), the 2 month transaction cost didn’t matter. This is a great anecdote to show that clearing house models take forever to find you matches unless you have a well-wishing judgemental broker auntie working exclusively for you. Ahem!

 
 
 
 
 
 

Yella okay, arranged marriage yaake?

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Traditionally, in India, parents arranged marriages for their wards almost like how they selected the kindergartens they send their kids to and there was no two words to how this was done. Children finding their own partners were usually chided by the society and that’s how the strange term “love marriage” originated in India. It was only recently that I discovered that love marriage is an Indian nuance when it took quite a bit of explaining to clarify this to a foreigner. However, today, we have come a long long way from there to now thinking that its the ward’s responsibility to find his/ her own partner and so, this is how the conversation typically goes –

“So son, you have not managed to get MS seat after trying for 4 years now, its time we started searching for a bride for you before its too late. You’re 25 now and if we start now, we’ll be able to get you married by 27. Are you ready? (dad crossing fingers hoping that son has loved someone on his own)”
“Sure, dad, I’m ready!”
“Son, if there’s someone you like, we’d be happy to arrange your marriage with her”
“No dad, there’s no one!”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure!”
“This is unbelievable! All boys your age have managed to find girls on their own. Forget MS seat, you couldn’t even manage to love a girl? Alright, this also, we’ll only take care!”

I am a bit old school maybe, I always believe that marriages are more than two individuals coming together, its about two families coming together. If it wasn’t for this, how else would either Karthik or me have the blessings and oversight of so many motherly and fatherly figures in our lives? Even if we live thousands of miles away from all of them today, all by ourselves, these are the people that keep us grounded and we see the influence of these families in our values and how we live. After all, we first learn to be husbands and wives from our parents. This reaffirms my faith in a marriage being beyond that of just two individuals coming together. Its almost like companies acknowledging the contribution of families to the performance of their employees.

As we move farther away from our families and for much longer, we begin to value this lesser and lesser. That’s probably why parents play a non existent role in partner selection since kids move away from families very early on. This is not uncommon among Indian friends who moved out of home when they were 16-17 and who’ve been away from families for so long that they don’t even see the traces of their upbringing anymore. But why do some of us free independent modern people like us who have lived away from our parents still let them manage our matrimonial profiles and do the sourcing?

So, essentially, there are just two kinds of people who go through he arranged marriage process – the ones who don’t manage to find themselves a partner on their own and those who’ve found one in the past and it hasn’t worked out. So, arranged marriages are just bail outs offered by parents to their wards today. Nothing more. But are arranged marriages dying? No, not as long as we have the opportunity to fall in and out of many relationships (thanks to tinder and the likes!), we will definitely need help finding a long term partner. Do the math and see, how many people would be single and at a marriageable age at any given point of time and you’ll realise, there’s still a large segment of the population that still has no choice but to gain some faith in arranged marriages.

P.S – About 15-16 years ago, after the success of a friend’s daughter’s wedding, my generally liberal thinking mother jokingly declared to me at home “Naanu ninge love marriagey madsodu (I will arrange a love marriage for you)”.

Power balance in matching markets

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Long long time ago, when I was a teenager, I had a crush on this boy. After a few days, it came to my notice that he was crushing me back and my very first instinct was to lose the crush. I couldn’t get myself to fancy him anymore. It was almost like I had been conditioned by the thought that a crush is worth crushing only if you’d perpetually be in a state of longing to know if the other party ever noticed you. I must have thought uncertainty, un-fulfillment and being in a position of lower power are virtues of love. You’ll realise I was not alone in thinking this way when you watch either the “Before” Trilogy series or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

So, how is it that we end up in this position of lower power or state of longing for something to happen? I remember, in late 2011, I was walking around the alleys of Grand Bazaar in Istanbul determined to buy a set of whirling dervish dolls at a certain price. I spent hours bargaining with several shopkeepers, tried all my threatening tactics, etc only to not be given much attention by any of them. In retrospect, I realise that I wanted to make the sale happen more than them because I knew that I had limited opportunities and time in that market compared to any of the sellers.  So, whenever we see greater benefit/ have limited time in making a partnership decision than the other party, we tend to fall into a position of lower negotiating power. This is independent of how good your negotiating skills are that can be attributed to your Relationship Quotient (RQ).

In the matrimonial markets, men have traditionally had more power since it’s usually the bride’s family that takes an active interest in reaching out to the guy’s. I don’t know about other religions, but in the Hindu tradition, getting your daughter married is viewed as one of the biggest charities a bride’s parents make in their lifetime and they’re usually quite proactive about it. Hence, you have dowry and all that in some communities. On the contrary, in the dating markets, women somehow have greater power than men simply by the virtue of demand and supply in the singles market at any given point of time. I firmly believe that, at least at the start of a dating/ matrimonial relationship, there must be a balance of power in order to make a rational decision and hence, when I mediate matches, I try my best to introduce people on an equal footing so as to allow the involved couple to tip the power balance the way they like, if at all.

Let me illustrate what imbalance of power does to matching-markets. Tinder (and a lot of other dating apps today) has this feature of mutual like. You right swipe a few 100 profiles everyday (if you’re a guy that is) and then, after sometime (or a lot of time), end up with a match when a woman you have right swiped, right swipes you back. Now, how often does this woman text you on her own? Do you think it’s just social protocol that stops her from initiating the texts or is it also because the match occurred because you were the first to right swipe her? I have learnt from numerous surveys I’ve conducted that getting a match on these apps are hardly an indication of starting conversation. I think its simply because of the imbalance of power built into the “match” feature. If a “match” was identified at a random amount of time after both parties right swiped in a way not to know who right swiped whom first, then you’ve a reasonable balance of power in the matching markets.

 
 

Manipulation or Preparation?

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While I was in the middle of recruiting season last year, I found preparation for certain structured interviews extremely stifling. I found them too cookie cutter and not testing for one’s inherent traits, instead for one’s ability to acquire certain new traits through rigorous preparation. I constantly felt like I was not being myself, somehow cheating the prospective employer to believe that I’m someone I am not. A lot of friends who had been successful in this process, tried to convince me that it was preparation and not manipulation. In retrospect, it seems fair because companies want to see how quickly you can adapt to the requirements at work and the only way to do this is by making everyone go through the same grind to see who can be sieved out. After a few good interviews and constructive feedback from interviewers, I started to see the value of practice in honing shortcomings and being better prepared for bouncers.

Now, if we are convinced that preparation can get us whatever we want, why is it not important in getting us people we desire? I have found it harder to convince people that preparation is not the same as manipulation when you are trying to make the best impression with someone you desire. Let’s just say that both are the same for now. I think the fundamental difference in the two scenarios of interviews and dates is that when we “manipulate” an organisation, it seems harmless since there’s no face, feelings or apparent damage that we seem to do to another individual and the organisation is just too big to care about our actions. However, when we “manipulate” people to make them like us, we feel guilty of the implications of our actions on that specific individual. This reminds me of some research I’d read ages ago about human reaction towards large scale catastrophes being a lot weaker than towards incidents involving a smaller group or one individual.

Now let me try and convince you that preparation is not the same as manipulation in the case of romantic relationships. In 2003, I watched Hitch and remember coming out feeling like one could achieve anything with solid preparation. No, I had not felt the same way after winning prizes or doing well in tests. I almost always thought the world was too random to be consistently gamed. But, till date, I continue to believe and propagate that with some listening skills and preparation, you could get anyone you desire! So, if you’ve watched the movie, you will realise that Hitch coaches his clients to pay attention to the people they desire, find out what really matters to them and make them feel special like never before. This is preparation, not manipulation because nobody is made to do things they don’t want to. On the other hand, if the clients were to get into this unprepared, they’d do and say all the things that have already been said by everyone else because they’d naively believe general flattery could get them everywhere.

Now, those of you who are suckers for spontaneity might hate this but spontaneity begins to fade after the first few times and more importantly your expectations of spontaneity leave you more disappointed than if you didn’t keep an eye out for it. I constantly joke about how the next generation might start dating from kindergarten because every generation is perplexed by the acceleration in its subsequent generation. Still, I was curious to learn how things were changing every minute and didn’t want to wait until my kids start posting snippets of their kindergarten love stories on social media. So, I signed up to be a relationship counsellor on a website to offer my time as a listener while I stay abreast with the evolution of love stories in today’s generation. The stories aren’t fundamentally different, but why don’t we ever learn from each other, previous generation, etc? True, we all learn from our own experiences but there’s lesser cost to learning it through someone else’s!

What's your Relationship Quotient (RQ)?

Several years ago, there was a new cafe in town called “Inch” and I was to go there with this friend I was crushing on at that point in my life. This was the very first time I was going out with a male friend and alone, that too. So, let’s just say it was my very first “date”! As you can imagine, I was overjoyed at the thought of being in one of the coolest areas (CMH Road or 100 Ft road, I can’t remember!) in a cafe (OMG!) with a cool dude, all for the very first time. The cold coffee was great and the conversation, fun. All in all, a great date, we both thought. Except there was one tiny problem – While for the guy, it was just another great date, I didn’t stop there, I thought a good date only meant the beginning of something bigger like wedding talks, what kind of children we would have, where would we live, how close would I be to my favourite temple in Bangalore (Shankarmutta), etc. Obviously, that didn’t happen and I didn’t see him again for a while!

Quite naturally, I started exploring the possibility of me having been not pretty enough or interesting enough for him and also wondered if he was just one big player (read jerk) and so on! It took me several years and some role reversal* to realise that the problem really was that this guy and I had very different relationship quotients (RQ). It was my first date, while it wasn’t for him. So our expectations from that one date was naturally very different. After this realisation, it turned out my date wasn’t such a jerk after all (given that, we continue to still be friends!) and there was really no reason for my confidence to plummet by his actions (more like the lack of it in this case). At that point in our lives, our RQs were very different  – Mine was far lower or less evolved than his!

To illustrate the importance of matching RQs, let me use a two-by-two matrix to explain general cases (of course there are exceptions, so don’t beat me up about this!) –Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 12.38.02 PM

Today, it might be quite impossible to really “match” RQs of both parties, but I would still flag this matrix so people are better prepared before they get into a relationship because expectations management is one of the first steps to making any relationship work (personal or professional). So, if you are an inexperienced newbie on the block, know that you will not be picking wedding venues after your first date and if you are a pro, know that the other party might be making wedding plans during your first date and the more you lead them on, the closer you will be to your honeymoon! 😉

When I used to run The Mad Marriage Broker Aunties, in the sign up form (which was private), we allowed people to express what sort of a relationship they were looking for – casual, serious, etc which gave us a way to get around the problem of preparing clients for each others’ RQs. However, most online dating websites discounts the importance of this. OKCupid is one of the few dating websites that tries to assess people’s RQ while making dating decisions and hence, provides a feature that lets you display your intentions on being on their website quite explicitly. When there’s a need to state something explicitly, you can be sure the accuracy of such information would be quite low. Nonetheless, be aware of the concept of Relationship Quotient (RQ) (and the fact that Priyanka Bharadwaj coined the term. Ahem!) and how it is important to assess this thoroughly and be prepared for any differences before you get into a new relationship!

Role reversal* – When it wasn’t my first date but it was for the guy or when I was being the “jerk” even though I was trying very hard not to.

 
 
 
 

Do one sided love stories make us better people?

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One of my clients who, fortunately or unfortunately, has not yet been marred by the experiences of real two-sided relationships told me that he’s improved herself quite a bit through his several one-sided relationships. This is the same sort of enthusiasm I have heard from job changers who are going through several interviews without landing a job. Failure does this to us. It teaches us..about ourselves and life in general. Things come by very easily for some people, and they almost never learn how to get things that don’t swing by their way. So, in that sense, people who have done nothing but try to get things they can’t get are better equipped to get things in life than the ones who get it with little effort.

I started reminiscing the peaks in my own personality and they’ve usually been just prior to the start of a new relationship. Relationships (one-sided or not) give us an opportunity to discover a new side to us through what we become of our association with new people. If you were lusting a nerd, you might just have a chance to (re)discover your nerd self. If you were an introvert crushing after a party animal, you might discover the social animal in you and so on. So, in one sided relationships, when you know that the person you desire is a nerd or a social animal, you either try to ape them so they like you and try to be something they like (depending on how smart you are!), in turn, discovering somethings about yourself you never did before.

For instance, the aforementioned client got hooked to reading in an attempt to impress his well read crush only to rediscover the bookworm in him. Being more well read has two benefits for this guy going forward. Firstly, he’s discovered a new hobby (or rekindled an old one!) because he genuinely enjoyed the process of reading and discussing his ideas with the girl he briefly crushed. Now, I don’t have to explain the benefits of a reading habit. Secondly, he’s pretty well equipped to impress the next well read person he meets (which seems to be his type) and he needn’t try as hard. This new found ability to converse with bookworms is just yet another feather in his cap of several other talents making him a better person.

So, in our entire lifetimes, imagine if we admired/ lusted a large variety of people and somehow strived to be better people, we not only have the chance to discover ourselves fully, we might even manage to master a few of our abilities which go hidden most of the time. It makes me wonder if someone liking us back for who we exactly are is just a little bit too overrated and instead, we should embark this journey of self discovery through one-sided relationships!

 
 

Evolution of the Indian matrimonial markets

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In order to solve the problem of online dating, I needed to reflect on user journey from time immemorial for my market. Hence, I got thinking about how the matrimonial market has evolved and here’s my take on it based on some literature, personal stories and hearsay. If you have some stories to share, you should write to me, I’d love to stitch it up together to form an epic of Indian matrimonial journeys. What say?
Ages ago, when communities were smaller and less spread out, matrimonial was arranged through known networks (mainly, parents, grandparents generation) with varied levels of consent/ dissent from the marrying parties (none to full approval from both parties). Greater access to education and vocational opportunities meant that people moved away from their communities and hence, it was harder to rely solely on known networks since it meant lower liquidity (may be a function of distance). This gave rise to the need for brokers or nodes in local networks. When the numbers were smaller, brokers could provide personalized services to all clients but however, with scale, it was bound to become not so personal where brides and grooms were reduced to mere CVs or files. Flipping through hoards of such objectified matches can be a horrendous task much like swiping left or right all day on Tinder. Mind you, both platforms restrict matches based on distance (For instance, you won’t have a Baniya living in UP sign up with a marriage bureau in Chennai).
Then came the Shaadi, Bharatmatrimony and the likes that allowed you to pan the length and breadth of not just your city or country but also the much sought after foreign brides and grooms within your community (depends on how deep down the caste system you wanted to go!). This definitely offered greater liquidity, allowed you to flip through candidates at your own leisure and also, do it in the privacy of your room without the broker breathing down your neck. These websites solved the number one problem of the hour – liquidity. They’ve lived up to their promise to brokering marriages online pretty much the same way it’s done offline. For this, hats off.
With more education and initiation to choices in life meant leaving home and living on your own in a different city. At this point of time, it was more important that your partner got along with you than your parents and hence, it became fashionable for people to rebel against parents’ choices as their take on your marriage was no longer relevant. In this case, you’d go out there and champion the love marriage route. But if you didn’t manage to do that (due to bad luck, break up, etc), then you’d be better off signing up on one of the available matrimonial websites hoping that the markets would relieve you of the misery of being haunted by nosey aunties (like me) at family gatherings who never fail to keep up with your aging-face, balding head or dropping market value.
So, people would sign up on these matrimonial websites in the hope that they’d find like minded individuals of the opposite sex except there was one problem – these sites allowed parents to manage online personas of their wards. Now, when you are trying to create the experience of arranged love on a matrimonial site, last thing you want is parental intervention since that’s the least you can do in getting yourself a sort of love marriage which is much more sought after a proposition in the modern times.
Then came the even more modern generation who did’t want to put out long term intentions upfront. There’s no ambiguity to being on a matrimonial website, there’s an end goal you’re headed to and that’s no fun at all. This generation likes unpredictability, foreplay, apples choices and chances to meet people in local trains, euro rail and so on. And this was not going to happen on our dear old shaadi and the likes. This led to the advent of the concept of online dating and several of these online dating companies came out and said they get this generation and they’ve the perfect solution for online daters.
They promised people the experience of online dating except they were merely re-creating online versions of Vanaja Quick marriages (except for short term/ casual dating) where people are objectified as 140-character type profiles, a few mug shots and #tags to summarise their hobbies and habits) where you could flip through people all day long till your thumbs fell off. One, the experience is massively time and energy consuming. It is meaningless in terms of satisfying your need to indulge in real romance, foreplay, etc. as it does not incentivise singles incapable of getting dates offline. The experience is very formula driven – If you’re the type of dude who could get a chick’s number at a bar with one wink, its likely you can get women just like that even on Tinder. But if you’re the type of person who needs to hide behind a screen because there’s more to you behind a screen than behind a bar counter, you are never going to successful on Tinder.
So, you see, today’s websites/apps are still only trying to solve for liquidity because all they care about is number of users and not what type of users they have (except for a few select apps). Unfortunately, they fail to address the need of creating dating experiences which people on these apps really aspire to be a part of due lack of time, access to social networks or simply lack of skill. Think about this – If you are a great person in life, but under-confident about finding the love of your life, if as an online dating app, I only remind you of your inability in doing love marriage by pushing you to get more creative than you are in getting a man/ woman’s attention, how am I solving the problem of finding you a mate?
 
 

On men being more picky in the dating market

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One of my claims to fame as a matchmaker was that I’d far greater women signed up with me than men. Normally, you would think that I’d enough and more women to set up all the men I had very successfully. However, very often, contrary to popular belief, I found that men were being more picky than women. I didn’t quite understand this phenomenon until recently, I accompanied my husband to shop for a leather jacket. Given that a leather jacket is such a sacred once in a lifetime sort of purchase, he was willing to walk the length and breadth of Barcelona to find himself the perfect one. This meant that he would not settle because he strongly believes there exists a jacket in this world that could melt his heart the moment he saw it. While not wanting to settle is a good thing, knowing your limits can help optimise (for time, effort, money, etc). Now, if I compared this to the long term dating/ marriage market, being pricey is more expensive for men as it’s a two-sided like unlike in the case of picking a jacket. So, the problem of having too many men on most dating websites is not really a big problem as greater choice only spoils men further.

Being a woman, I can’t help but judge men I help setup from a woman’s perspective and it makes me sad to see men throw away gorgeous women simply because these women don’t melt the hearts of these men at the first glance. Unfortunately, most men optimise for looks or vibe or whatever that arouses them, but this is such a short lived and useless thing to optimise for. More importantly, if these men deserve such great looking women, wouldn’t they already have them by now? So, why don’t these men ever get it then? In my experience, I have seen some men who have hardly ever failed in life. They’ve got the degrees and jobs that everyone likes, they’ve got all the money they’d ever need, they’ve been the apple of their parents’ eyes and so on. They’ve never had a chance to fail in life. This gives the false sense of affirmation that they can get just about any woman they’d like. But, can they? Maybe. or maybe not. But most likely, not.

Whereas, women on the other hand, no matter how successful, always see challenges and failures right from the time they are born – be it having to think 20 million times if we’d get raped on the way home or even something as simple as wearing what we want when we want. So, self-doubt and vulnerability become our best friends. As an offshoot of this, we are less confident of having things happen our way. Several such experiences teaches us humility and hence, we settle. Yes, we settle for what we can have. So, if you are a man and a woman likes you, most likely she settled for you. She’s doing you a favour and not the other way around. Also, this is just the beginning of all compromises she’s going to make for you. If you can’t see or value that, too bad that you’ll have to spend the rest of your life looking for that sexy leather jacket which may not even exist!

About 7-8 years ago, some guy told me that a woman is only a square root of a man. I remember wondering if in that case, a woman is only imaginary if a guy is a -1. Think about it.

 

From swayamvaras to swiping right

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One of my clients at Marriage Broker Auntie once told me that by brokering dates, I snatch away the joy of being spontaneously “aroused” at first sight. Well, given that men operate phallus first, followed by heart and head, this seemed like a fair complaint. I am yet to hear a woman complain like this and hence, I’d blissfully been under the assumption that women don’t care about “choice” in the marriage market as much as men do because they trust another woman’s opinion about who they could potentially date, while men continue to be fairly skeptical. This belief was challenged when I spoke to a co-founder of one of India’s top online dating apps and he mentioned that women these days enjoy the power of choice and like being able to swipe left or right and super-like or block people if they want to. Apparently, its become a rage amongst women from tier-2 cities to who are experiencing freedom of choice to pick men like never before.

Traditionally, proposals for arranged marriages came from within one’s social circle because people wanted to preserve fields, cattle and genes well within known circles. With education and exposure, people started moving away for work, etc hence making it very difficult to find spice (plural of spouse!) within known circles living in the same city. This is when our choices started to dwindle, leading to portals like Shaadi and Matrimony, who took on the horrendous task of congregating people from every community to encourage propagation of the “pure bloods” (Harry Potter level trip on intra-caste marriages!). For eons, parents have been the alpha hunters with wards playing a minimum role and these portals provide ample encouragement to preserve this model. However, this proposition seems very scary nowadays, because most couples lead nuclear lives with minimum intervention from the parents/ in-laws (until offspring pops of course. Yes, selfish I know) and hence, people have ventured into dating sites which are parents-free!

So, when I was told that, women from tier-2 cities view these dating sites as a way to expand their social circle to freely pick partners from unlike having someone forced upon them by parents, I wasn’t so surprised. For ages, we have valued choice – be it while shopping for a pair of shoes or for a partner. From ancient history, we know that women have experienced greater choice than men in picking their partners. All princesses from the Hindu mythology had Swayamwaras organized for them in order to help pick partners where princes from various kingdoms tried to show their wit or might or whatever it is that these princesses dug. Surely, we’ve come a long way in reducing the transaction cost of a partner selection from an elaborate swayamwara to a simple swipe right!

And yes, even today, the genie doesn’t come out when a man swipes right but it’s only when the woman swipes right, there is a match!

 

As a matchmaker, why I'd rather not start yet another app.

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Most internet based businesses such as uber, airbnb, amazon marketplace, housejoy, etc. solve for liquidity. You’re looking to go from A to B and a car willing to make this trip will transport you quite easily with the assumption that this car will get another customer at point B soon enough (this is taken care of as volumes shoot up). This is a rather generic marketplace and hence, having several businesses operating in the same space only increases liquidity for the end customer. Imagine if Uber or Ola had filters for the exact model of car, type of upholstery, music in the car, drivers communication skill level, driver’s phone model and the likes of this, it would be much much harder to find a cab quickly. This is exactly why modern day dating websites don’t solve the liquidity problem.

Every time I discuss running a matchmaking service, people suggest that I start up and build an app. When I roll with the idea, the very next thing I’m asked about is how I’d make the matches and what my USP would be. So, here’s the thing – I don’t intend to match them based on their kula gotra or interests as the former is mostly irrelevant to our generation and the latter is ever changing. According to me, the best way to go about it is to lock up all the single people in the world in one space and let them pick based on their current state of mind. My job would only be to create that space where they can be locked up since who am I to say who gets to be locked up.

Finding a partner or just a date is a such a niche need that most of these match-making sites or dating apps are super customised to target just one segment of the single population in the market. So, if likes are supposed to repel, you are destined to not find a partner in an app where you are the target segment. So, having several such sites that are customised for specific audience further reduces liquidity. Having learnt the benefit of pooling from operations, I can only say that populating the world with more such sites will only further decrease the probability of finding a mate!

Discovering life through Chowka Bhara

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Credit: Internet

Chowka bhara is a popular board game, Indian kids grow up playing with their grandparents. The rules are fairly simple – There is a 5X5 matrix that can accommodate a maximum of 4 players with 4 pawns each who are competing to reach the centre of the matrix starting from the midpoints of each of the 4 outer sides of the 5X5 square. There’s a 7X7 version as well, but I don’t like it because it’s too time consuming. The moves are determined by rolling 4 sea shells and depending on which side the face, they get counted as either a 1 or a 0 and a combination of all 1’s yields 8 points and a combination of all 0’s yield 4 points. In order to penetrate the inner squares to get to the centre, one must have “killed” or sent home atleast one of the opponents along the way when you end up on the same square as them. So, it’s fairly straight forward with a little bit of strategy involving which of your pawns you would move at different points of the game such that you get all 4 of them to the centre known as “Gatta”. The process of getting your pawns into this “Gatta” is known as “making fruit”.

After over 2 decades of playing this game innocently, I have discovered so many life lessons through puns in the game, not sure if they were intended though. So, the journey from square one to the centre could be imagined as one’s love life. In order to “kill” or “nail” someone, you need to end up at the same spot as someone else almost like getting a match on Tinder. Like in most relationships, one benefits more than the other depending on how far ahead you are in your “love life”. This is like losing one’s relationship virginity!

Once you have penetrated the inner squares, you have the option of diffusing a strategy known as “Gatti” which allows you to form a couple with your pawns and move them together just like if you were to be in a relationship. One one hand, you have the upside of greater sense of security and the pleasure of companionship, but on the other, you only get to execute half the moves. You can’t move the couple unless you get an even number on the roll of shells just like how when in a couple, one doesn’t get to have all the fun that singles have access to. Given these even numbered move constraints, there is a chance one might never complete the game like couples who don’t make fruit getting frowned upon in the age old days. There’s also a courtship period once you are in the same square before you start taking joint steps. You are free to decide once you’ve been brought together whether you want to continue as a couple or on your own, which is what engagements are for anyway.

You solidify the relationship once you have taken a joint step forward and there after, there is no going back, just like how it is in traditional Indian marriages (Yeah, yeah, it’s changed today, but this is an ancient Indian game!). Sure being in a couple is a trade-off but if an opponent couples, you have the possibility of being destroyed if they step in your square, almost like the couples that destroy each other through unnecessary comparison (Oh look at my colleague’s husband..he just bought her a Gucci bag for their anniversary blah blah blah!). Interestingly, once you go “Gatti”, your sole purpose in the game is to “make fruit” which could be related to the pressure of gene propagation. Not that the singles don’t need to “make fruit” but the pressure is a lot more for couples.

I get that the analogy might be a bit convoluted but hey, having double meaning to childhood games make it more fun, right?

Are we modern lovers yet?

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In today’s modern era of shared economy, what used to be unthinkable a few years ago (sharing cab rides with strangers, sleeping on a stranger’s bed and so on) is commonplace today. Similarly, the concept of monogamy has started losing relevance in modern societies as we embrace YOLO and FOMO and what not! Given that we are forging towards modern methods of loving, shouldn’t cliched roles of men and women in a romantic relationship also be outdated? You’d be surprised to know that our expectations of the opposite gender hasn’t evolved as much.

Earlier this evening, I was chatting with a girlfriend who wondered if she could apply the same rigour of finding that perfect job to that of finding a perfect partner, to which I nonchalantly responded “Yes, why not!”. She was worried that she’d be perceived as too forthcoming for a woman if she initiated every single conversation. Having been someone who has always chosen to go get what I’ve wanted on my own, I didn’t see much value in sitting around and waiting for something one knew they definitely wanted. Of course, one would have to draw the line between being interested and desperate and that’s one goddamn hard line to draw. Having said that, there’s no good way to be able to draw that line well without some practice (apart from following Wikihow’s approach on this). Given that there’s no return without risk, let’s not even argue about the rationale for practice.

While I thought that this girl might be overthinking or trying to fit a square ball into a round hole, etc. I was confident that men would more than welcome a woman taking the initiative and it could even be hot sometimes! So, I just advised her to follow her instincts and also, because I know the guy to be much more modern in his thinking. However, only minutes later, as I continued this conversation with a guy, I discovered that he’d be cautious if a woman, that too a great one, wanted to pursue him on her own and not wait for it to be the other way around. Why? Because this seems like a market for lemons. And what shapes this assumption? It’s the cliched relationship protocol that’s been painted by  our societies for eons now. While there’s a place for equality in the workforce, we are not yet ready to embrace a woman making the first move without an element of caution. So, are we really modern lovers yet?

A lot of the times men also get intimidated by women who make the first move simply because these men could be relationship virgins. They could benefit from some confidence boosting that they’re actually worth being pursued. One of the ways to get this sort of assurance is probably to get on apps like Bumble, that make modern women lovers seem normal. Now, the problem with such apps is that more often than not, women misuse this power by raising expectations of single men who are genuinely ready to meet these liberal thinking modern women, by not pursuing a chase that they appear to initiate!