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Love, unlike dating apps, has no algorithms

To feel a real connection with someone, look offline and not online, says Rohit Trilokekar

Rohit Trilokekar | Published 21.04.24, 11:59 AM
Connections forged on dating apps seldom translate into the real world

Connections forged on dating apps seldom translate into the real world


Shabana Bali was one bad match away from deleting her Lucky Swipe dating app. One that had garnered a mixed bag of reviews in the couple of years since its launch. What made it stand out was that it did not show anyone’s profile picture. You did not even know their last name, so running a Google search to find out what your blind date looked like was futile.

It was about finding compatibility vis-a-vis a love algorithm that matched people with an apparently unparalleled success rate. Fed with tons of data, collected via carefully curated questions.


They met at Charlie’s, a coffee shop in the Pune suburbs. She and Rahul, the guy she had forged a connection with unlike any of the other online bozos. She arrived at the venue in her spiffy new Zara outfit. “Wow!” was her internal reaction when she saw Rahul. Even though she was attractive by most men’s standards, she suddenly felt lacking in the looks department. What if he dumps me? She thought. Before they had even started dating…

All she was searching for was a sense of connectedness

“You’re looking pretty dapper, Rahul,” she said, shocking herself. Ordinarily, Shabana was never this forthcoming. There was just something so genuinely disarming about this seemingly unassuming mama’s boy (an issue she would deal with later, of course) that she could not help herself. The conversation was smoother than she had imagined. Every now and then, Shabana found herself bursting into loud guffaws. At times deeply touched by Rahul’s sensitivity.

“So, what did you do today?” she asked him, just before they were about to split the bill.

“I mowed my lawn,” he said, excitedly.

“Oh, that’s nice. You have a garden?”

“Oh, no, I wish.” He stifled a laugh. “[I meant] Down there…”

That night, Shabana deleted Lucky Swipe.

When I was dating girls for marriage, the goal was clear. Find someone good-looking, and see if you can fall in love. Call me shallow, but that is just the way I was. I never took advantage of the girls I met, but I distinctly remember one thing. They were nothing like their profile, which I carefully perused (after the looks department had been ticked off.)

Shabana was in a quandary. She had told her parents she would get married when she turned 30. She met Rahul on the eve of her 30th birthday. What was she supposed to do now? Sooner or later, her parents would tell her: “Pramila aunty has got some bio-datas for you. Select one and we will intimate the boy’s family.”

What was she, an employer looking to recruit a husband? Truth be told, no amount of ‘data’ in any ‘bio’ would ever be enough. Or on an online profile, for that matter. All she was searching for was a sense of connectedness. To feel magically, wondrously alive with the person she met. Something no algorithm could ever detect.

Over the next couple of weeks, Shabana spent her time bonding with her yoga buddies. All of them were married. Alarmingly, some of their husbands flirted with her when they met.

Shamelessly, openly. What was even more shocking was that the wives did not seem to mind!

The lowest moment for her was when she went out with a friend she had not met in ages, and they stumbled upon “the guy she was serious about” at a nightclub.

It was the same guy Shabana had seen on Tinder a year before. Right before she discovered Lucky Swipe. One of his pictures was a shot of him with his wife and kids. It was captioned: “Meet my happy family”. Taking her friend aside, Shabana told her she was being fooled. That the man she was dating was actually married. The friend merely laughed it off.

“I know. So what?”

Shabana was aghast. How could her friend be serious with someone obviously not serious about her? When she was leaving, she caught a glimpse of the married man hungrily kissing her friend. So much for “my happy family”.

Love is all about reading between the lines

There is something indescribable about love that no dating app can master

There is something indescribable about love that no dating app can master


We live in a world of morbid excess. We go shopping for love on dating apps as if hunting for vegetables at the vendor’s. Ironically, like consumables, the people we date never seem to satiate us. We swipe endlessly, constantly seeking an illusory gratification. When I was in my late 20s, I thought I would stumble upon “the one” in random places, like libraries or coffee shops. Finding nobody, I went online. Millions do the same, more than ever before. We are increasingly more ‘social’ in the ‘virtual’ world.

After a year, Shabana got married. On her wedding night, she eagerly waited to make love for the first time to her hubby. It had been a short courtship, yet completely fulfilling. When he undressed, what she was looking for was seemingly nestled in a landscape much like the Amazon rainforest.

“Wow! That’s a lot of hair!” She could not help herself.

Rahul laughed. He remembered his “mowing my lawn” comment. Truth be told, he had not been looking merely for sex, as Shabana had first believed. It had been his decision to wait till they were married, before making love. That reference to his ‘lawn’ had been candid. Uttered with a sense of glee a child might exhibit, when talking about their new toy. It was mere coincidence that he did it on the same day he was meeting her.

What clinched the deal for Shabana was that ‘connect’ she had felt when they first met. Something no algorithm could decode. In all fairness, Rahul knew his statement had been crass. But then, he was not perfect. None of us are.

It is the ideal of perfection that companies like Lucky Swipe try to capitalise on. Except, there is nothing perfect about lovers. Or love, for that matter. All those lines of data to feed an algorithm do not matter when love is all about reading between the lines.

“F**k the algorithms,” Shabana had thought the morning after her friend made out with the Tinder swindler. Love has none…

Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.

Last updated on 21.04.24, 01:35 PM

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