Do We Need A Malayali Version Of Tinder?

Did you know there was an app designed to crush the male ego?

It’s called Tinder, and after spending almost two years as a user, here’s why I believe we need a Malayali dating app.

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You’ve probably heard the pop culture references about how Tinder is basically an app for hookups and flings. Well, I wouldn’t really know. Because in the two years that I used that app, I got virtually zero dates. I realize that statement, accompanied by a faceless author photo can justifiably cause your imagination to run wild.

But I don’t intend this article to be the lament of a single guy who’s desperate to get a girlfriend. This is a happy story. Or at least it involves an epiphany.

It all started when my thumbs got tired from swiping right day after day on Tinder. I’m in Canada, so almost all the women I was gladly approving were white. After a while, I began to wonder whether I was matchless purely because I was a brown guy. Please, don’t refute my hypothesis. Sometimes it’s good to camouflage your insecurity behind claims of racism.

Pretty soon Tinder became one of the least used apps on my phone. Then everything changed when I heard someone talk about Minder.

It wasn’t a typo, as Google Play Store quickly assured me. Turns out, Minder is basically “Tinder for Muslims”. Or so I thought.

Saying Tinder and Minder are the same is like saying a fast food joint and a restaurant are both places to get food. (Yes, the metaphor is very problematic because I just equated finding a partner to food, that too from a male perspective. But it’s important to have fun with writing, and sometimes stubbornly stick with your first analogy.)

But Tinder seemed to somehow end up fulfilling the reputation it had amongst youngsters. Increasingly, the users were posting provocative pictures and writing sexual innuendo-laden bios. I guess as more users migrated to other apps, the percentage just kept increasing. Till Tinder seemingly became the place to hook up with other singles.

Minder, on the other hand, was exclusively for those who were searching for the right partner. In fact, calling it a dating app is potentially misleading. The overall concept of the app is backed up by its features as well. For example, users can enter a detailed bio (which encourages them to be specific about themselves and the type of person they are looking for). Along with their present location, they can also specify their ethnicity, how religious they consider themselves to be (Very Religious, Practicing, Not Practicing being some of the options), whether they eat halal meat, smoke, drink alcohol, and are of a particular sect. Perhaps most significantly, the user can state their Ideal Marital Time, from anywhere between 1 year to 3 to 5 years.

It’s fascinating how these design changes result in completely different user experiences. I’ve been using Minder for almost a year now (this news is going to come as a surprise to some, but for the sake of the larger audience I shall sahikkal (tolerate) the awkward WhatsApp calls and inquiries!). In all this time, there’s never been a frivolous or short-sighted interaction on the app. No one inquires if I wanna meet up within thirty minutes of chatting with me (any reader who brings up my profile pictures will be swiftly blocked!)

So there you have it, one app that’s for the modern man and woman who wants to perhaps have a good time, or simply go on a few casual dates. And another one that weeds out all those looking for a “good time, not a long time”, allowing those who are serious about getting married explore in peace.

Why don’t we have a Malayali version of this?

We don’t need a casual dating app for Malayalis. Tinder and other apps take care of that. But there are huge benefits to having, as a new friend phrased it, “a millennial Shaadi.com”.

First off, the app wouldn’t be restricted to Kerala. There are Malayalis all over the world, and right now our parents and relatives are fielding proposals from payyans and penkuttis who are working or studying in the Gulf, U.S., U.K., and Canada (Hi Mom!)

So you’d have the option to specify your location on this app. You could even state your preferred location for your partner, to either one or several countries (those something tells me guys won’t bother to enable that restriction!)

You could also state whether you are open to relocating, either nationally or internationally (decades of patriarchy sadly gives me an idea of what women will end up having to state).

There’ll be a sliding setting for deciding your “Malayaliness” if required. (Thani Nadan, Korochu Korchu, Sorry I Don’t Really Speak Malayalam could be some of the options perhaps?)

There’ll of course be an option to state your religious and dietary preferences. In fact, there could even be the option to specify your sexual preference. (And maybe that eventually gets spun off into a separate app, much like Grindr did in relation to Tinder?) 

So why do I think this is such a great idea? Is this article just a giant ploy to make sure I find a wife? No (well, at least not completely…)

I was reminded of the importance of such an app when I heard a friend of mine was getting married. He’s been working in the Gulf for several years now, and after relentless nagging from his parents and relatives, finally went to Kerala for vacations. Within a month, he’d gone for a pennu kaanal (bridal viewing…translating this word never stops being weird!), agreed to the marriage, and returned back to work. Now he communicates with his fiance while they both wait for the marriage ceremony next year.

What if he could talk to her before they agreed to get married?

Not six years before. I’m not talking about text conversations that start with, “Hey babe, you look beautiful,” or “Hey ba-” (Okay, so I don’t actually know any flirty pick-up lines). Instead, what if he had the chance to start a serious, polite conversation, with someone who knows that he’s searching for a life partner? Instead of silly emojis and flirty jokes, they could actually get to know each other. They would both know the other was interested. Why? Because they matched after reading each other’s profiles and swiping right.

Think of the possibilities that would open up? An app where women could state what they were looking for in marriage, rather than have relatives and brokers dilute it for them? One of the things I loved about Minder was getting a snapshot of a woman’s personality. The fact that she’s crazy about The Office and Community, wants a gym buddy, hopes to pursue her Masters…A similar app for Malayalis would give Malayali women so much agency.

But this wouldn’t be just a feminist piece of software. Men would hugely benefit as well. Instead of relying on your relatives and their circle of contacts for potential proposals, you could meet women from all over the world who’d attract you not just with their looks and personality, but the possibility to craft a future that’s completely new but also exciting. You don’t have to be a Gulf worker who gets married to the girl from the neighborhood because relatives treated your future like an overzealous student who submits his answer paper ahead of time and walks out of the exam hall.

Think of the number of proposals you’d receive through traditional ads and brokers? They’d pale in comparison to the number of people you’d view on this app. But rather than being a lazy viewing gallery, the way you use the app would determine how much you benefit.

If you simply swipe right or left on everyone, the app will give you increasingly longer time outs. One of the biggest hurdles dating apps have is the excellent strain of misogyny and perversion single men supply on a daily basis through lewd chat lines and disgusting photos. This app could easily kill 99.9% of such germs by activating chat filters, options to flag and report profiles, and greater authentication protocols such as linking phone numbers and several social media profiles.

The result would be a platform where you can decide who your partner will be, in terms that are acceptable to your parents and extended family, at least once they get over the fact that they weren’t the ones to set you up. Your world wouldn’t be restricted to your neighborhood or district or even country.

And perhaps most importantly, this app will give young men and women the chance to speak for themselves. To establish who they are and who they want to share their lives with. We’d finally leap ahead in our society’s struggle to get rid of dowry or stifling ideas of patriarchy and chauvinism. Because when you’re a guy who starts chatting with a girl and gets to know what she’s like and what she wants, it’s pretty tough to then retreat behind your family’s insistence that she do what is “traditionally” expected of her. It works both ways too. Guys can state their conception of what a marriage should be, have it debated, refined, and finally clearly articulated for the benefit of their partner, their family, and most surprising of all, for themselves.

Yes, at this point I should acknowledge that there are such apps that many Malayalis use. But in researching for this article, I could not find any app that focuses exclusively on helping Malayalis find the ideal partner.

A great Malayali marriage app will allow us to bypass backward practices and grant us the chance to find the ideal partner.

So who’s creating it? And also, will I be rewarded for the idea with a Premium Membership?

In between searching for an ideal partner, Marwan Razzaq has managed to write a fast-paced crime thriller, (partly in the hopes that it will impress his future wife, perhaps). Check out his novel “The Man Who Found His Shadow” on Amazon now!

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