Finding Love

What happens when a publisher and a dating app play matchmaker? Almost nothing.

Penguin Random House joined hands with Tinder to help bookworms in Delhi find each other – and, maybe, buy books together.

Modern love is the publisher's enemy. The dating ritual leaves no room for reading. Books? Swipe left.

Perhaps that's why Penguin Random House decided to join its foes instead of fighting them, announcing a partnership with Tinder, the popular dating app. But to do what, exactly?

Answer: to help booklovers in Delhi meet and to “promote book reading and literature” (that can't be what it's called these days) at its annual literary and cultural festival, Spring Fever 2016, which ended on March 20. Hook up over a book, in other words.

What began as a brainstorm over how to promote Penguin Random House's romances through conversation and discussion eventually led to the association with Tinder – though with a chaste objective: encourage love, for reading. (Yeah, right.) Or, in corporatespeak, as Hemali Sodhi, senior vice-president and publisher (children), Penguin Random House India, puts it: "We're making books and writers discoverable to a new set of converted and potential readers in the hope that this will also lead to larger conversations and interactions around books and reading."

And what would be in it for Tinder? Here's a hypothesis: the app might have got circumspect people, normally wary of finding dates online, to sign on. After all, who doesn't want to find love over favourite books and authors?

Maybe, just maybe, not too many people.

Those who do, though, were matched last week on Tinder – if they were from Delhi – with a 25-year-old piece of eye-candy named Spring Fever. (Insert rolling eyes.) Introducing "it"self with with this irresistible come-on: "If you love settling down with a good book, and are maaaayybe hoping to meet someone who loves the same books you do, Swipe Right for Spring Fever. <3"

In case anyone swiped right after that, they were invited by Mr or Ms Fever, as the case might be, to meet at the festival. Smooth! Not.

They would then have headed to India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, where a Tinder Nook (yup, you read that right) had been set up by PRH and Tinder with the aim of giving lovebirds a cosy corner to get to first base with their books and each other.

Reality check: the Tinder Nook turned out to be nothing more than a two-feet-long seating cushion, with a few pillows thrown around with the Tinder logo painted on them. The placement of the nook in one corner of the overcrowded amphitheatre didn't really scream “private”.

It is safe to assume that those – anyone? – showing up to meet their Tinder book dates would definitely not have been hanging out at the nook trying to find out about each other's hobbies.

On most days the corner was occupied by those who were attending the festival with no romantic interest. Occupying the cushion with the aggression normally reserved for the Delhi Metro during rush hour, they seemed unlikely to consider giving up their seats even in the event of an earthquake, never mind Tinder lovebirds.

According to Taru Kapoor, head, Tinder India, the whole thing was quite a success, with "many users connecting at the Tinder Nook and also making new friends". Personally, we saw no evidence of any nooking or hooking.

But then it wasn't a "dating event" anyway, clarified Tinder. (Now you tell us!) The idea apparently to just enable like-minded people to “meet up”, even make a new friend. Sure! Because those with profiles on Tinder have friendship on their minds. Which is why most men post pictures of their (if they have them) six-pack abs. To make friends.

In a bid to make it more attractive, two Tinder users also had the chance to hang out with two celebrity-turned book writers, Gulzar and Sonali Bendre at the Tinder Nook on the last day of the festival. And as it turned out, most on the app seemed keen on registering to win one-on-one time with the one and only Gulzar.

So, what could in theory have been a way to find a date with common interests – or, the next best thing, a new friend – turned into something else altogether. It was a little bewildering to discover that the most popular man on Tinder that week was… Gulzar.

Of course, those who might have actually managed to get a date probably (and very understandably) stayed far away from the Tinder Nook.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.