The London tube life

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“A 100 years ago, when I decided to work in London, taking the tube at rush hour made me feel like I was a part of something really big getting into a packed train every single day”, my colleague laughingly exclaimed. The very same evening as I walked into St.Paul’s station after a long day of work, carrying Berry over my shoulders, I thought about what my  colleague had said earlier and strangely, I felt the same as I hung at the door crushed between a bunch of bankers in the train (see pic above, that’s what I got into). But to be honest, I am just a regular person getting home in the evening and there is no other grand scheme around that. But making it seem more complex than it is makes for a fun commute.

I have learnt a few things about the tube in the last couple of months and this knowledge is in no way exhaustive as I only take one train straight from home to work and back everyday, with no changes, etc. When I get into the Ealing Broadway station in the morning, I make sure I quickly scan the entry gates before I approach them to find the least crowded one. I thoroughly enjoy the cheap thrills I get when I pass through the gates fairly quickly bypassing a long queue.

When I am with Berry, I don’t mind what compartment I get into since I am offered a seat anyway, but unfortunately I can’t accept the offer since Berry prefers that I stand (ok, I prefer to stand simply because Berry won’t scream her lungs out!). If I am alone, I usually going into the second compartment from the last with school kids in it so I can get a seat in the first couple of stops. The important thing is to stand in the middle of the compartment, strategically, making sure that I am equidistant from all usual suspects who are expected to get out of the train soon enough. You don’t want to be sitting near someone who is extra formally dressed because they won’t get off till Bond Street.

When I get out at St.Paul’s, I usually take climb up the escalator since that’s the fastest path out, even with a baby. If you wait to stand on one side of the escalator, just getting onto the escalator can take ages, especially if both east and west bound trains arrive at the same time. Once you have gotten ahead of the crowd, getting out of the exit gate is a piece of cake.

On my way back is usually crazy, with or without a baby. Its peak hour with most people getting out of offices and desperately trying to get home soon. If the frequency of the train is pretty high, then I usually go stand at the head of the platform near the beginning of the train since it tends to be less crowded with more people getting off than on. If frequency is low, then the platform gets very crowded all the way and it doesn’t matter where you stand. All trains to Ealing Broadway, tend to be more crowded than other destinations and so its okay to let them pass if its impossible to get in.

But if I find myself letting more than 1 or 2 trains pass, I immediately gear up to board the 3rd train irrespective of how crowded it is. Remember, there is always place for one more person on the tube and as long as you believe that, you have a chance to get home sooner than later. Its like the Hilbert’s hotel problem. You just get in and even if every person around you in the train moves 1 mm, you will have enough space to let the door close behind you. The moment you are at Tottenham Court Road or Oxford Circus, the change over helps empty the tube a little bit and if you once again, go stand in the middle of the compartment, placed strategically equidistant from people who might get off soon, then you have a seat.

It’s not like I am the only one doing all this. When you do the same thing over and over again, you device all these silly little games to give you cheap thrills, to make your commute seem grander than it really is.

 

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!

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!