Print will go down in history as the year we embraced Tinder. Everyone you meet in Delhi seems to be on Tinder and have an opinion about it. Big debates are taking place: Is Tinder the best thing to have happened to girls looking for fun?
Is this the dawn of the hookup culture in India? The end of Indian pretensions about chastity? Tinder is a matchmaking phone app synchronised with Facebook. The idea is to be shamelessly shallow. The app encourages you to choose people based purely on their looks and the feasibility of an offline encounter. The most peculiar thing about Tinder is the cold brutality of how you select and reject people in an instant. The app lines up your options as a series of profile pictures.
Like a nawab putting together his harem, you decide their fates with the flick of a finger: Last week, I downloaded the app on my phone and identified myself as someone interested in both sexes. Within an hour of going through the pages, it was clear that the men outnumbered women by an outrageous ratio. I left-swiped my way through men until my eyes hurt and my forefinger twitched: I swiped some of them right, most of them brooding types in black-and-white close-ups.
I found that all of them had right-swiped me already. I had 12 matches. I sent them a common, to-the-point message: You want to get coffee? The shy guy A day later, I set out on my first Tinder date. I knew little about him except the basics: He was tall and bearded. He arrived soon, wearing a crisp black shirt and brown corduroy trousers, looking unusually sprightly for someone who had travelled a fair distance on a hot afternoon. He lived in Faridabad. It was far, he said, but he had an air-conditioned car.
I told him I came in an auto-rickshaw. He had never sat in one, he said, because they scared him. What if it overturned? After coffee orders and customary small talk, I asked him why he was on Tinder. He heard about it from his friends was intrigued by the possibility of meeting new people. It had been three months now, but I was the first girl he met off Tinder. Girls did open conversations with him on Tinder from time to time, but none asked him out. He asked me what I was doing on Tinder. Would he also have an arranged marriage, I asked.
No matter who he ends up with, he wanted to continue living with his family. They were thinking of rebuilding the house to have individual floors for him and his brother to occupy after they were married. It was a tight-knit family, he said, seeing the transparent wonder on my face. His evenings started with drinks with his parents and brother before he set out partying with his large network of cousins, all of whom lived within 2 km of his house.
Despite the trappings of a Delhi Dude life, he strived to be different. He got passionate talking about his work, sharing with me in complex detail the competition in his field, the challenges in recovering investments, and the expansion plan. Yet, unlike them, he wanted to rough it out before joining the family business. What are your hobbies? He asked about my work journalism and my pastimes books, movies and seemed interested in whatever I said, listening patiently with the right amount of nodding and asking questions that indicated unfeigned curiousity.
Neither of us said it, but it was clear we had little in common. He seemed to want it to work, though. He brought up things he presumed I would be interested in. He said he had been to the India Habitat Centre just the previous day to see an exhibition of photographs. His mother is really into photography, he explained. Forty-five minutes had passed, we had long drunk our coffee, and it was time to be honest. I told him I was going to meet more men off Tinder.
These were odd times, he said, and one never knew how a girl was going to react to a man showing interest in her. His face grew serious as he told me with a lowered voice about a friend who got into trouble for sleeping with a girl on their first Tinder date.
She started asking him to marry her, he stopped returning her calls, and she went and filed a complaint of rape against him. Somehow, he said, exhaling, his friend got out of it with the considerate help of a lawyer buddy. Men had it harder on Tinder than women, he said, as he took his wallet out to pay the bill, having reacted with mock outrage to my offer of splitting it. He texted me later in the evening to say that he had a nice time. I sent him a smiley in response. In ten minutes, he sent me a text saying he hoped we would meet again.
Hardly an hour passed over the next two days without a call or text from him: He hung up on me. Dude Two was poles apart from Dude One. He was short and bearded. He was 29 years old and worked at a big advertising firm in Gurgaon. He was chirpy and finished all his sentences with a wide smile.
I asked him why he was on Tinder. He said it was almost impossible to meet new people with his kind of life. The last time he got tired of it, he left on an unplanned trip through South-East Asia, crashing with friends and going on Tinder dates. We seemed to share interests, even lifestyle, but there was still no spark. What kind of girl was he looking for, I asked. Did he care about it? You need someone like him to push this country. Anyway, I believe in not judging people by the past.
In any case, which politician is free of blame? Soon we split the bill and exited the restaurant in opposite directions. We welcome your comments at letters scroll.