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The truth about online dating in India

While there are horror stories of heartaches everywhere, for every nine nightmares, there’s one dream.

 |  5-minute read |   14-02-2018
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Out of the current dating trends in India, the one that fascinates me the most is online dating. With this comparatively newer avenue now available, the Indian society that has always been somewhat restrained and abashed, even in bigger cities, has now fully embraced the dating culture.

While in the past, there was a very limited sample size to choose from - friends, colleagues, family connections - now the options are virtually unlimited. 

When I was working on Letters to My Ex, I was worried that when it comes to the dating scene in India, I might be out of touch - having lived in the US for the past few years. However, when I called my friends who live in different parts of India, from big cities like Delhi and Mumbai, to smaller ones like Indore and Ranchi, I realised that dating in India is actually very… Americanised. We, as a country, have always been influenced by western culture, but it seems as though now, more than ever, young Indians are following complicated dating trends prevalent in the West.

There’s a chapter in Letters to My Ex focused completely on experiences the protagonist, Nidhi, has on Tinder. She joined the dating site after a break-up, half-eager to move on, half-curious to find out what it is all about, and this opens a new world to her overnight. She is exposed to all of these options she hadn’t imagined before. Coming out of a long, serious relationship, Nidhi was someone who hadn’t even considered what it would feel like to be with someone else… and then there was a whole world of prospects at her disposal.

lett_021418041227.jpgLetters to My Ex by Nikita Singh; Harper Collins India

This kind of opportunity changes things. In a secretive society like ours, where dating isn’t a thing people do openly and we like to hide our emotions and never talk about them, online dating came like a portal to a new world. A world that had always existed around us, but now there’s an open door, in the form of dating apps, accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Which, in modern India, is pretty much everyone.

With online dating, also come all sorts of complicated rules that everyone is supposed to be aware of. It’s like a language that everyone speaks but no one teaches - you simply have to catch on as you go. You have gotta learn the lingo to play the game.

The most common one is probably "ghosting". This is when you show interest in someone, maybe go out with them a few times, text each other all the time, and then… nothing. You become a ghost, by completely disappearing on them. They never hear from you again - no communication, no explanation, just silence. While shocking to some, ghosting is actually incredibly common, and has come to be even acceptable in early stages of dating. The I-don’t-owe-them-anything mentality has taken over. As bad as it is while dating, people even ghost someone they’re in relationships with. I know, brutal.

Then there’s "stashing", which has become more prevalent with the rise of online dating. It’s when you’re actively involved in your partner’s social life, have met all the significant people in their life, but you have been kept a secret, stashed away somewhere. And because you met online, there’s probably no common connections to begin with. Hate to be the one to break it to you, but there’s bound to be secrets behind this stashing too…

There’s also "submarining", where you show interest in someone, date them and things go fine until you disappear, cutting off all contact. However, unlike ghosting, you reappear in your partner’s life, pretending the absence never happened. But if you ask me, submarining is better than cushioning, because with submarining there’s at least a possibility of confrontation and closure.

"Cushioning", on the other hand, is just vile. It’s where people date you, but at the same time, keep flirting with other people, just to have their options open in case they get dumped. So basically, they were never in it. The thing with cushioning is that it shows the mentality of the person. This is how they think, this is how much they value people and emotional connections… It’s all a game for them.

In the tech-savvy country, you wouldn’t expect "catfishing" to still prevail, but it does. Catfishing is where someone creates a fake identity for themselves to land better dates. It’s an exaggerated, psycho-level version of lying.

Even though it seems comparatively innocent, "love-bombing" is the worst of all. Love-bombing is when someone showers you with love and attention in the very beginning, which overtakes your whole life. The romance of it all hides the reality - you never got to know each other, learn if you’re compatible or not, before falling in love with them. When the honeymoon-phase is over, and you start to realise that you’re not right for each other, the emotional blackmail begins… all the things they did for you, the selflessness, the unconditional love - now you’re supposed to pay up.

Although these trends have new names in 2018, they’re not brand new. At the core of it, they’ve always existed, ingrained in the society. They’ve just been repurposed to fit the online dating scene. Under this rebranding, lie the same principles - people have been doing terrible things to each other forever.

But does that mean we’re going to stop? That people are going to get tired of all this and decide to be quit? Unlikely.

While there are horror stories of heartaches everywhere, for every nine nightmares, there’s one dream. One successful love story that trumps all failed ones. And for some of us, those odds seem reasonable. Most of us aren’t looking for the dream anyway - we’re just sampling from these options available in abundance. And we’re not going to stop anytime soon.

Also read: Born on Valentine’s Day, why Madhubala, the Venus of Indian cinema, was ill-fated


Nikita Singh Nikita Singh @singh_nikita

Nikita Singh is a bestselling author and has 10 novels to her credit.

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