The generation that wants it all!


Today, the thirty somethings in India are really struggling to find life partners like never before. When I say like never before, I mean these are people you would have expected to be already married by now, but not anymore. Some 8-9 years ago, on Varamahalakshmi festival, our family priest, who also doubles up as a matchmaker, had come home to perform the ritual. He mentioned that one of my dad’s younger colleagues had approached him for matchmaking help. When my dad asked the priest about this colleague’s prospects of finding a bride, this is what the priest said – “This chap is a 30 year old muduka (roughly translates to grandpa), that too with just an engineering degree  (no masters) working in some private company, not even Infosys or TCS. Even software fellows are struggling to find women because all brides want to go onsite nowadays, so this guy doesn’t have a chance!” Of course it sounded a lot more amusing in Kannada with alliterations and all that, but the point being I am not talking about such men or women here. I am talking about people our society would generally consider very successful, if not too successful. So, why then, are these successful people struggling to find partners?

What is different about this generation is that we are full of high achievers, we thrive on a sense of achievement and we don’t settle for anything less than a sense of achievement from whatever we do. Simply said, we are at far higher levels of the Maslov’s hierarchy today than any other generation in the past. Until we have checked that self-esteem box in our professional lives (which is roughly measured in terms of founding one’s own company and making millions of an IPO/ sell-out), we want to push the decision of getting married and hence, the average age of people looking to get married is far higher today. So what does this mean in terms of finding a partner?

Men no longer just want a wife who can look gorgeous, cook, clean and bear their offspring, and women no longer want men who can just be the breadwinner for the family or be the macho protector like the Shah Rukhs and Hritiks of the world. We want partners we are proud of, we want partners who make us feel like we have achieved great heights in our choice of partners, and in turn our personal lives. And, it’s okay. Well, to be fair, our grandparents or parents were also fairly ambitious and you might think this is the problem of every generation with respect to the previous, but what is different about this generation is that we are looking for trophy partners in India vs trophy son-in-laws or daughter-in-laws or a general addition to our existing esteemed families unlike in the last few hundred years.

In the past, when parents/ aunts/ uncles found a potential daughter-in-law/ son-in-law, they optimised for values that matter when you recruit a new family member – cultural upbringing, physical genes, compatibility with a large extended family, workload reduction for existing family members, protection of family wealth and so on. The bride who finally got recruited would have cleared the bar on all counts, and the groom has nothing left to do in terms of getting social approval since his family would have taken care of that bit during recruitment. At the most, the girl would have to check off the “oh how did this dude land such a cute chick” test amongst the groom’s gang of single male friends.

Most of us have been in and out of several relationships before we have resorted to the arranged marriage route, and we have pretty solid ideas on what kind of a partner suits us. Parents have no clue about what we learn from our past relationships and hence, there is a lack of interference in filters between parents and us. So parents actively encourage their kids to find their own partners, in numbers larger than ever before, despite having a pretty static view on what is a good son-in-law or a daughter-in-law.

This puts undue pressure on the ward to not only seek validation from the family, but also their ever expanding social circle thanks to the internet. So what do you then optimise for? Everything. And this in turn, makes it harder to find a partner because let’s be honest, you simply cannot optimise for everything. So, we start with trying to match ourselves in terms of professional success because by 30, our professions are a large part of our identities. Anyone who is as successful as us, is probably just as proud of where they have gotten in their lives, so if you are hoping to force-fit them into your families who is hoping to find you a “smart, modern, liberal thinking, yet homely” person, don’t you think you are going to find them to be “rigid”, “too feminist” or “not making an effort to get along with your family”?

Whether you like it or not, life is about trade-offs and we’ve all got to make them at some point. Being with someone who gives you a sense of achievement also means you both have very strong personalities and you are bound to run into disagreements, more likely on a daily basis but guess what? Making that work, embracing the challenge of convincing someone to see life your way, and agreeing to disagree is what will continue to give you a sense of achievement. Imagine if you were married to someone you never disagreed with, someone who would just listen to everything you said, and life was just too easy, would you enjoy that? Probably not.

You are in a market, this is an auction, and you only get something precious if you are willing to pay the price for it. Each of us has to figure out the price we are willing to pay and that’s what we are going to get. The big difference between a regular auction and a marriage is, you make a downpayment and have a recurring price to pay everyday of your marriage unlike in an auction. Sounds tough? Sorry boss, such are life. So, happy spouse-hunting and enjoy making your marriages work!


Temple Go-ers


After having lived in West London for nearly a year, we decided to go see South hall to belt some Punjabi food. As soon as we got out of the South hall railway station, we were surrounded by the whiff of mind-blowing food from the neighbouring Gurudhwara. We were no tempted to go inside and check if there’s food for non-Sikh people. We chickened out and made our way to this highly rated restaurant in the area which turned out to have the shittiest service I’ve seen anywhere till date.

Later I learnt that we could have very well gone to the Gurudhwara as there was free lunch being served to everyone. I also learnt about other temples and churches that dole out delicious free food to everyone. I learnt that there is a temple very close to where I live that serves delicious dinner as prasadam on Friday evenings and so we promptly headed there Friday evening. This temple is called Kanaga Turkai Amman kovil, and based on the misplaced ka and ga, I am guessing it’s of tamil origin. Everyone was dressing in very traditional Indian clothes, clad in jewellery, etc. I have never dressed up to go to a temple, so I felt a bit out of place here. I was constantly worried about getting caught. Caught for what, I am not sure.

People started reciting some shloka type thing from laminated sheets with English and tamil writing, that was being passed around to everyone. Sitting amidst all the unfamiliar chanting, I couldn’t help but think of what Yuval Noah Harari had to say about religion and how it is yet another imagined order. The way I’ve understood God, is that he/ she always existed, before all humans and before all animals. And most well respected temples back home are old very old temples that have existed from before our grandparents. Also, most of the time, there is a story like Old Rama stopped here on his way to Lanka, or Ravan dropped this Linga on his way from Kasi and so on, which makes the idol holier than a piece of stone some humans erected. The older the story, the more authentic the temple seems since more generations can vouch for its “powers”.

While finding directions to the temple, I read a review on google that said this temple is great because a lot of senior devotees come here. Now, this Ganesha in Ealing, did he come from India? How did he get past immigration? What visa is he on? How long has he been here? What are his powers? or do people just come here to feel a sense of community? I had so many questions, and I think I would have been more at ease if I knew the back story of this temple. Although, I was floored by these people who had left their lands (myself included), but brought their collective imaginations along.

All of us had our own reasons to be there, some to flaunt their jewellery, some to ask for happiness, some for the food, some out of practice, some to celebrate our collective imagination and some to just scream and run around like Berry. Ok, Berry wasn’t screaming but was surely running around some boy who was screaming and running to get her attention. These kids were truly having a good time, because how often do you scream and run around people who look familiar (people wearing saris and panches), without your parents constantly dragging you to behave in this country where manners matter more than feelings?

But as all good things have to come to an end, one elderly lady kept coming to us and asking us to control this boy who was screaming and running around. One, we didn’t know who this boy was, because his parents were no where in the scene and two, Berry didn’t quite fit the typical temple go-er profile, as it’s people like this lady (senior devotees who celebrate our imagined orders) who drive better google reviews for the temple, we decided to leave. No doubt, Berry screamed being tucked into the shackles of her carrier but stepping out made me break free from the shackles of a collective imagined order I no longer believe in.

P.S – I am not an atheist. I am not a non-believer of idol worship. I am just a sucker for stories. Thank you, Yuval Noah Harari for opening my mind, for allowing me to see the universe from a perspective I hadn’t known for over a third of my life.

In India, we date in English.


I was researching dating apps in India and stumbled upon videos created by some of the big players in the space – this was a combination of testimonials from real success stories and other promotional content. As I watched most of the videos on a particular youtube channel – I found a huge disconnect between the real people who’d found success on this app and the actors from the promotional videos who were portraying potential users of the app. The most apparent difference was that these two sets of people were conversing in different languages – the real people in English and actors in Hindi.

Fortunately or unfortunately, for having learnt English for more number of years than any other language (Kannada/ Telugu/ Hindi/ Sanskrit/ Japanese/ Spanish), and for also having grown up in a house where the mother tongue was Telugu but the spoken word was Kannada, my preferred language of communication is English. Given that I am a native English speaker, it was easy for me to not relate to the app but I wondered if you would relate better as a native Hindi speaker? The real people from the testimonials all had “hindi speaking” surnames, so why were they all speaking in English? Do we prefer to speak in English when we talk about love/ dating?

In order to test my hypothesis, I quickly re-watched a few Hindi movies that popped up on top of my netflix page – Raja Hindustani, Jab we Met and Kabhie Haan, Kabhie Na. Barring the last one (given that this was based in Goa, where people do speak English quite commonly!), the other two are classic hindi heavy movies. In both movies, the first words/ conversation between the actors is in English, especially when they recognise the other person as a potential interest. Maybe we prefer to date in English?

This is not surprising, given that dating has not been a part of our culture atleast for the last 200 years, and it has come around as a result of western influence. Thanks to penetration of western television, and Titanic, we like to now “date” in India, and date in English. If someone texted me on Tinder and said, “Hai wanna hav sex?”, I’d still prefer that to someone saying “oye chodhna hai?” or “yenema keyonva?”, despite the spelling mistakes (Yes!), because we like to date in English. The countless hindi movies in the 90s, early 2000s that had the hero pull off some English stunt with the heroine when he was hitting on her, have made it cool to date in English in India.

Now, if we like to date in English, why are these apps making ads in Hindi? Do they even get their customers? For all the apps that are stagnating at less than a million unique users in India, remember that we date in English – whether we are from Bangalore or Bhatinda.


Can we just be humane sometimes?


I frantically finished work early to go pick up my daughter from her nursery, so I could reach home before a call with my mentor at 6:30pm. I arrived at the nursery door only to realise I didn’t have the access key with me, which is normally in the same bunch as my house keys. Thankfully, there was another parent walking ahead of me, who had opened the door and I ran in behind him. My mind was now racing as it was busy calculating the time it would take to go from Farringdon to Victoria (where my husband’s office was) and then to Ealing (where I live) all before my call at 6:30. I had about an hour and a half, so it was almost impossible to make it back home in time, and so I decided to ring my husband up while I walked behind the other parent as I hoped to be let in through the door behind him.

The man in front of me just stopped, and stepped aside. As I stayed on the phone hearing my husband’s number ring without being answered, I asked the man if he could let me in as I didn’t have my access key with me. The man looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am sorry, I don’t know who you are and I can’t just let anybody into the nursery like this.” At first, my mind was too pre-occupied to even comprehend what he was saying because I wasn’t expecting him to say anything but “of course”. Now, if this man had never seen me before, I would still be okay with him saying that but we had seen each other almost every day when we both went to pick up our respective children from the nursery.

When I finally understood what he was saying after a few seconds, I wanted to scream at him asking if he is completely out of his mind to say what he just said given that he has seen me picking up my daughter several times before, but I was too shellshocked that anyone could be so rude to say anything at all. Thankfully, before anything else could happen, someone from the nursery came in from behind the door and let me in. But I couldn’t stop thinking about why that man said what he said. Was it just a lack of decency? or was it racism?

I don’t know, but sometimes I wonder what stops people from just being humane? There’s way too much hatred in the world already, thanks to the comment section of any piece of writing on the internet. Why can’t we just be nice to people we can physically see in front of us? It’s not like I was asking this guy for his kidney, all I was asking was for him to let me pass through the door behind him.

There are so many parents I see everyday when I go to the nursery, and we all acknowledge each other in some form or the other – hello, smile, half-smile, nod, etc. You wouldn’t do that if you saw the same people on the tube or even in your own office every day, but you would somehow do this with other young parents – almost in a “I get your pain” sort of way. It’s nice, even if this is short lived. It’s nice to know that there will be intermittent phases in the life of a human being where we can all relate to each other irrespective of class, colour, creed or religion, just like we did as little babies. It gives me hope.

You live only once!

I was listening to a podcast the other day about correlation between our childhood and political views during adulthood. Given that we are governed for the very first time at home, our political preferences are very much shaped at home. I have mostly been a very obedient kid at home, where I’ve constantly feared the consequences of being otherwise. Having said that, I have done my share of sneaking behind my parents back to do things that they’d have never approved of, but everybody does that.

I have seldom challenged this invisible rule book for an acceptable format to life  – You study, you get a job, you get married, you buy property (more than one is preferable), you have children, you attend all family functions, you organise a few yourself, you go on foreign vacations, bring back presents for family, you continue to keep your job, go on business trips, bring presents again, religiously market your life on social media and so on. I may not have necessarily followed this myself, but I acknowledge the need for such rule based existence.

Naturally, when Karthik left a stable job within the first year of our marriage, you can imagine how distraught I must have been. I could never come to terms with his need to “take a break” because I was raised to slog my ass off in the hope of a post-retirement hibernation when I’d be free from all my familial duties. Karthik and I fought lots, not because he didn’t have a constant source of income, but just him sitting at home all day, everyday was just not healthy for him or our relationship.

The only way I knew how to get him to do what I wanted was to threaten him, and obviously, that didn’t work and we fought more. Sometimes it got very ugly, but none of that convinced him to get back to a job. He was so stubborn because life had been so unfair to him in the last few years that he genuinely believed he didn’t owe anyone anything. But I wouldn’t give up either – I revived my own dreams of studying further to make up for our combined dreams being shattered.

Recently, Karthik met a friend of his who was visiting London for a business meeting. This chap lives the epitome of a professional life that I had once aspired for. He found it hard to fathom that Karthik had moved to a new country just like that without a job. When Karthik told me this, I found myself getting extremely defensive although in the last 6 years I would never been seen defending Karthik’s life’s choices. I realised that I am incredibly proud of everything Karthik has done ever since he quit a stable job with Goldman Sachs, including moving to a different country just to support his wife live her dreams.

For a child prodigy, having always been miles ahead of his class, having topped JEE and CAT, it must have been incredibly disorienting to see that one needs a very different set of skills to survive the corporate world unlike in school years. After having been disillusioned at his first consulting gig, having gone through several less than stimulating jobs consequently, and dealing with the death of both parents, it must have taken enormous efforts to pull off a stellar consulting business, become a faculty at his alma mater, become a national newspaper columnist and a soon to be published author (Skipping the part where he has been an amazing partner putting me through business school, managing an entire household and surviving long-distance, because this would need an entire blogpost).

Over the last few years, I have begun to make peace with Karthik’s aspirations being very different from mine, and how we optimise for different things in life – me for stress and he for the lack of it. As a couple, if our focus had been on nurturing common formula driven dreams, building complexes and farm houses, we’d have learnt so little about embracing differences and me, about challenging meaningless rules.

Most people just cannot take risks and in turn impose the limitations of such a life on everyone around them. Anyone not following the prescribed path for success is warned of the potential dire consequences instead of just being understood. We think we are doing this out of concern for the other person, but in reality, we are trying to validate our own path by being skeptical/ condescending about someone else’s. It’s this lack of curiosity that deams us to failure as a society.

P.S – In our madness of shuttling between abiding and challenging, we have managed to study, get jobs, buy properties, have a child, travels loads and have the balls to quit jobs and move countries whenever we’ve wanted because you live only once!

Living for social approval


Growing up, I was forbidden from doing several things (being “too” fashionable, drinking, dating, etc.) and the number one reason presented to me had something to do with how the society would perceive it. As you can imagine, being a teenager, that never seemed like a good enough reason for me to care about. Why were these elders so obsessed with social approval that I didn’t necessarily care about? As far as my logical mind is concerned, I think you should do something if you want or not do it, if you don’t.

One of the things I do as Marriage Broker Auntie is to help people identify new channels to find potential spouse. Recently when I suggested to a client that she get on a few dating apps, it didn’t go down quite well with her as her family was concerned about what people would think about finding her on “Tinder” for instance. Now, first of all, I don’t think your pakkad mane aunty would be on Tinder to find you, and even if she did, hey what was she doing on Tinder now?! More importantly, why should you care given that she is not sweating to get you married.

If you haven’t already learnt from the internet, there will always be people who like what you do and some others who don’t. This is inevitable, but why should this change what you do with your life? Pakkad mane aunty thinks you are a slut, then thank god you saved yourself from being recommended to her narrow-minded bhatru nephew. It’s not only important for you to maintain a safe distance from your society, it’s also important for you to keep your distance from people who are obsessed with societal approval because they keep their word only as long as the world is watching.

Why is suffering a much glorified idea?

Growing up in India, every kid has probably heard Gandhi ji’s famous quote about non-violence – “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show them your other cheek as well”. But my philosophy in life is modelled after actor Malasree in the Dynamic star-Devraj starrer Kannada movie, Gruhapravesha, where she champions self defence by stopping her mother-in-law Satyabhama from slapping her, in turn letting  everyone know she is not to be messed with. I don’t like to actively cause any harm to others, however, I also don’t like to cause any harm to myself in the name of propagating Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.

Suffering is a highly glorified trait in India and I realised that this is much more commonplace among womenfolk. As women, we are designed to endure more physical pain (menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and so on) and yet, we try so hard to prove that we can take on more. We want to be great wives, great mothers, great professionals, we want to have it all even if it means killing ourselves over making it all work. In pain, we seek happiness and validation because our lives are pretty thankless otherwise.

Above and beyond our society,  most religions also preach that suffering is the route to heaven. If you don’t eat meat or drink alcohol on certain days of the week and endure the pain of controlling your craving, you are somehow better off than people who’d rather take pleasure for a place in heaven. If you fast in the name of god and kill yourself from hunger, you’ve earned yourself a spot in heaven. Its almost as if suffering has been glorified over the years just to induce some sense of fear so people don’t enjoy pleasure guilt free.

Pleasure/ happiness is desirable. When we see others have it while we can’t, it makes us jealous. We need a way to believe either that we shall have a shot at pleasure too or that the ones who are currently enjoying will soon join us in misery too because this is the only way for us to feel at peace. And so, our society devised this great trick for us to believe that giving up short-term pleasures and enduring suffering gives us long-lasting benefits at some unforeseeable point in the future. We obviously believe this because humans are greedy and we’d rather enjoy a little extra happiness tomorrow versus limited happiness today.