The game of likes, love and lust
Priya: What do you do for fun then?
Chetan: I like to amuse pretty ladies like yourself, floor them with my humour and charm.
Priya: Well, you don't seem to excel at it yet.
Chetan: You know nothing Jon Snow. Dinner tomorrow at 8?
Priya thought she had the prospective date well under her control, but that little reference to Game of Thrones and especially to Jon Snow had weakened her knees, she had to admit. The next evening she caught herself sheepishly preparing for yet another Tinder date. Despite the weekly recurrence, the jitters of meeting someone new still sent a little chill down her spine. She picked out her tried and tested black skirt, and put on her matching blue blouse- subtle, with the perfect dash of sexy.
Chetan: What did you really want out of this date?
Priya: That's too direct, you should be a little more gentlemanly. But I'll still tell you, because you know, this wretched thing called time, that's always running out. I'm just here to spend a good evening with someone, maybe a few evenings if it goes well, I can't really thing beyond that right now.
While walking up the stairs of her apartment Priya still felt the little bubble of anxiety take a dip in her belly, what if he doesn't enjoy it, she thought. What if I don't enjoy it, she thought more aggressively. As she unlocked the door and entered her dark room he held her waist and flipped her around. Anxiety took a back seat, excitement was now the rider.
Chetan: You're pretty good for your size, you know.
Priya: What does that even mean?
Chetan: Haha, well you're quite petite, which is attractive of course, but you've also got stamina and strength.
Priya: Well, you know nothing Jon Snow.
They broke out in synchronised laughter; probably the last of their organised synchrony. The night ended on a high – a high of unattached love, distanced comfort, and the promise of avoiding prospective hangovers. Contact duly deleted.
Online dating with its recent popularisation across the sub-continent has revolutionised the practice of intimacy in everyday lives. It would be premature to suggest that these apps have given birth to new desires; yet, they have been undeniably successful in manoeuvring previously repressed or wholly unaccepted emotions- allowing them to flourish in a platform that is more socially viable. Tinder was launched in India in 2013, and since then the journey has only been uphill.
From 2015 to 2016 there was a 400 per cent increase in users, with 7.5 million daily swipes in the country. For the uninitiated the process of eliminating partners on Tinder is carried out by the simple flick of a finger. Swipe right for yes, left for no. But Tinder isn't the only app basking in its popularity, platforms like Truly Madly, OK Cupid and Woo too find loyal customers approaching in the hope for more – more comfort, more conversation and of course more intercourse.
"What really made you join Tinder?" I asked Anuradha, a 28-year-old, advertising professional who had long been playing the dating game. She comes across as the quintessential desirable Indian woman – tanned skin, curls falling down her cheeks, expressive brown eyes, and a figure endowed with just enough curves. With a rhetoric laugh she replied, "Well you know how it is, toiling at work for 10 hours a day I am left with little time to invest in a relationship.
And very honestly, I don't want one. But as Maslow also said, sex is a basic physiological need. You can take the love away from the heart, but you cannot take the hormones away from my system." She laughed some more. Despite her unabashed use of dating platforms simply to satiate bodily needs, her answers interspersed with nervous laughter disclosed the latent unconscious of our society – we can do it, we will admit it, but can we embrace it in seriousness?
Dating platforms today are used by Indians across a wide age group. From young adults who have just stepped out to take on the big bad world of love, lust and romance – to older, middle aged adults who have failed in their search for true love. Sex has been tabooed in our society, unwarrantedly so, for long enough to make even the most gregarious often question their choices. "It is a turn off when a man just asks me to come over. He can be more subtle, right? It's not like I won't go to bed with him. But there must be more effort than hey-do-you-want-to-sleep-with-me?" says 38-year-old Chitrangada, a restaurateur from Mumbai. After her divorce, which is still in the process of completion, she took to Tinder in search of companionship.
"I don't really know what I want. I think I'm caught up between two generations – one that is driven by crazy hormones, and the other that has a sanctimonious understanding of marriage as indissoluble."
"It's different here in India than it is abroad," says Vikrant, a 26-year-old pilot from Mumbai. "Women there are more relaxed, you can just spend the day, have sex, and it's done. There are no hang ups, and of course the bill is always split. Here, for some reason the man has to pay. But don't get me wrong, it's not like women here don't like to get laid, they do, they almost always do, just that they won't admit it. Our society is quite hypocritical that way," he laughed. Owing to towering height, and a handsome face Vikrant's was one of the successful stories of Tinder, having spent nights with over a dozen ladies from the app.
But there's a flip side too, not everyone can get as fortunate. Hrithik, a 34-year-old Consultant from Kolkata faced the backlash. "Women just don't want to meet here. When I was in Rotterdam, or even in Gurgaon dates were easier to come by. Here, it is a no-no. They'll meet for coffee, or a drink, which is the usual course of a date, but it just ends there. I've honestly been quite disappointed here."
There are several factors which come into play, as the various people I spoke to informed me. Some cities have more progression than others, in cities too specific locations have higher probability than others – north Delhi apparently witnesses much less matches than south Delhi does. My ladies tell me that a quirky bio appeals a lot more than a shirtless image, while my boys tell me that a pretty, intelligent face appealed before reading lines of incomprehensible details.
While Tinder with its logo of a burning flame, begun as a platform for allowing sexual fulfilment, many have been able to take it forward. "I used tinder on and off for several months before I met him. I never came with the intention of finding love or a relationship but I did.
Things just felt different with him. For the first time someone didn't want to hook-up with me right away," said a beaming Snigdha, a 25-year-old who met her boyfriend on this very tabooed app. "We would just go out and meet often, the flow was like any other relationship, and then he just asked me out. I met a few people before him, but with him it just clicked!" agreed 19-year-old Devika, a college student from Kolkata, who too is dating somebody she met on Tinder over a year ago.
While lovers continue to love, the majority of tinder users today are there for reasons less associated with emotion, and unapologetically so. While I began my study with the question of whether we can really embrace our free flowing sexuality in seriousness, I got the perfect answer from Ashima, a marketing executive from Delhi in her mid-twenties, who wears her pride on her sleeve.
"I am there just to hook up – simple and clear. It's strange I say this, because I am not your quintessential attractive, thin girl, but I love myself and I think I am very sexy," she said while we laughed over our steaming cups of coffee. As our conversation flowed and we shared our own intimate experiences, she divulged, "I met this guy last Sunday and he was so good. You know what I mean right, he just had the perfect set of skills. I don't know if I should text him again, I don't want to come across as needy, because really I don't need him. But I can't get that feeling out of my mind, should I text him, what should I say?" she asked zealously.
Remember the time when girls were depicted carrying a rose, nervously tearing petals as they chanted – he loves me, he loves me not. Now, here we are, at a time with a similar anticipation only the question has shifted gear – should I text him, should I text him not?
This isn't a gender exclusive comment, the flipside works quite as aggressively. Hundreds of men flock to the sites hoping to get 'fresh meat,' yet what I have gathered has been an uncontested tip in favour of women. While on matrimonial sites the man makes the call, on dating sites the woman holds the chains. It is evident that increasing numbers of women have taken to online dating sites as they provide an avenue for the ladies to celebrate their own sexuality, an aspect which has been forcefully numbed by the regression still very prevalent in our society.
As swipes increase by the second, and harrowed parents continue their relentless search for finding appropriate brides and grooms – today's generation knows it better than before – the game is on, so very on.