Dating in Indian Culture is Fascinating
When I moved to Bangalore in 2010, I remember naturally being curious about my prospects on the romantic front.
I had only had one semi-serious girlfriend up until that point, I knew nothing about long term relationships, and Tinder was probably just an idea in some kid’s dorm room at the time.
As time went on and I fumbled my way through my twenties, as I’m sure most of us do, I realized understanding dating can actually be divided into major phases.
Indian guy flirting on Facebook:— Sanjay Manaktala (@smanak) April 12, 2017
Guy: Hi 🙂 🙂 🙂
Guy: Had ur lunch?
How People in India Date
They’re a few phases of “love marriage” courtship and the first phase is:
- trying to attract someone,
- navigate bar and hookup culture,
- your first ten dates,
- sifting through social media and apps to understand how the romance economy keeps getting defined.
Ghosting, sexting, DM’s, flirting, all that stuff probably drops in here.
Most people spend most of their life here, between 18 and 30.
I mean, Moore’s law is changing everything, and as phones get faster and SD cards smaller, that also means the entire definition of courtship, mental health, relationships and “quality time together” keep changing.
The landscape here is redefining itself so fast it’s really hard to know what’s what anymore.
Earlier it was losing interest, then it became ghosting, and now there’s something called catfishing which I’ll assume you already know about.
I guess it’s true what comedians and writers say…less is Moore.
Ok I’ll stop.
Then there’s the second phase, which is all about:
- moving into the honeymoon period,
- no longer being single,
- eventually meeting her parents
- and all the beauty of that fresh feeling from going from zero to six months.
Netflix and Chill, Swiggy life, awkward fights, learning to change or adapt to the other person, and all of that fall into this.
Most Indians or South Asians spend a good chunk of 25 to 35 here.
Finally, there’s the third phase, which is of course where most sink or swim.
You’ll hear things like “they’ve been through so much”, relationships are tough, soulmate, partner, the big fat Indian wedding and much more in this phase. The third phase is all about:
- Long term relationships
- Traveling Together
- Intense Love and Hate or Ups and Downs (I mean not for all but totally normal)
- Family, in-laws, etc…
- the past, the future, ironically rarely the present
I’m sure there’s also that phase you see on greeting cards also which is like 15+ years of marriage, kids, and much more but I’ll update this in 2025 when I’m there.
Indian moms: “I taught him to respect women.”— Sanjay Manaktala (@smanak) July 4, 2019
Also Indian moms: “Why is your wife out so late?”
Throughout these phases, one thing I’ve noticed in each is that in major metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, etc… each phase is so overcomplicated that it affects the other.
Imagine if you spent all your time researching or getting stuck in the interview phase of a job hunt, you never once realized when you get the job your real career begins.
Ditto for promotions and retirement, career switches, etc..
Not to mention once you do find someone, things like…Indian men being mama’s boys, society having double standards, changing gender dynamics, technology, middle-class conveniences, and more all make being brown and trying to get down sometimes difficult, sometimes impossible.
no one:— trick or yeet 🎃 (@sarahndipity18) October 7, 2019
married girls on insta: being in love is the HARDEST thing ever but so WORTH IT we fight NONSTOP but we love like CRAZY I fucking HATE my husband but that’s just part of being in LOVE true love is DIRTY & HARD but so REWARDING I LOVE doing his LAUNDRY & wiping his ASS
So I wanted to talk about three questions in detail when I opened it up on Instagram. Even though I’m married, I’m still very interested in how courtship is evolving.
Dating App Market in India
Apps are defining how we eat, how we get around, and how we meet.
I mean Tinder has a score they kept on your desirability, just like Uber does.
If the company’s are rating us, we may as well start looking at dating a bit more objectively. New Chinese app Tantan is also doubling it’s users in India aggressively. It’s also no secret that the app store is booming in India under dating categories.
This stuff is fascinating how Black Mirror we’re becoming.
And in a place like India or desi culture that’s constantly battling technology, trends, and tradition…well it makes for some interesting masala.
No wonder our movies are 3 hours long…even though they still have a long way to go.
That being said, let’s dive into what the Indian public had to ask about dating. Whether Tinder, Bumble TrulyMadly or whatever other app you’re looking at.
Indian Men and Women Are Picky
Question 1: “I feel I’m being too picky. I mean I meet people but nobody does it for me. I feel that there is nobody out there, but I also know I could at least try.”
We all have that friend, who always complains about men.
- “There are no good guys anywhere yaaaaaa.”
- “I want what they have.”
- “Why can’t I find someone?”
Hey, Sharon, or Divya, or Jessica or Nick…good people exist and they’re everywhere.
You’re just making excuses because of something else, and the real challenge is discovering what that is.
I did a talk yesterday where I said most people live their whole lives never finding their passion, and I hate to say it, but most of us will probably do the same thing with our true love.
I’m still on the fence about what a soulmate truly is, but I can tell you…when you know you’re in love, you know. Bartender, another cliche, please!
In India, as the folks who play in dating have probably had parents who got arranged marriages, maybe this is less of a big deal.
Maybe we all feel like something will happen if we don’t do anything about it anyways but still want the right to complain like we’re wandering aimlessly.
But to those who ARE dating, and still complaining…let me tell you, it’s not the world’s fault you’re not finding anyone.
Most people never make a YouTube channel, a podcast, write that book or make that movie because they get caught up in a nice workspace, fancy editing software, camera gear, and a million other things that are basically just resistance.
With being picky patoots about your partner, it might feel the same.
I cleaned the house 8 times before I wrote this blog. I feel you fam.
But to the “picky” person, I promise you that person is out there and closer than you think. Rather than go out night after night, or stay at home with your cats night after night, you gotta make changes to yourself if you want a change in your life. They don’t even have to be real or substantial. (e.g. you’ll still find someone who loves you for you).
- Same faffy workout at home? Go to the gym.
- Tired of the bars? Go work in Goa for a few months. Tired of Goa? Go back to your city.
- Tired of Tinder? Use another app. Tired of the apps? Say hi to someone at the coffee shop, or at the very least smile. Or let your friend introduce you to someone.
Most people who are single that complain love the security of just writing it off as bad luck, because it’s something they know rather than be held accountable for.
Stop doing that.
If you were unemployed, nobody would just tell you “You’ll find something, someday, the universe has a plan.” They’d say get off your ass and take control of your fortune.
No, you need to take action. The universe has Monster.com for work, and also a million apps to meet someone. In fact, more people meet online than offline now.
Even if that means finding someone just as lazy and relaxed as you. (Which is awesome).
You don’t need to be super desperate, but you need to experiment with self-improvement, hobbies, fitness, and a million other things until your consistently meeting and engaging with quality people.
Tinder and Dating Apps are Hurting Dating in India
Question 2: I meet people on Tinder, they send me messages, then they disappear. What am I doing wrong?
You’re not doing anything wrong.
You just live in the most interesting time that even if I go to an amazing restaurant, I won’t leave a review.
Most people these days have such little attention spans for themselves, it’s hard to think they’d truly focus on someone else. There is a massive paradox of choice, and it’s hard to be content when you’re constantly wondering what else there is.
In fact kids these days are having less sex because they would rather just mess around on their phone.
Also, even though men and women are 50/50, have you ever seen your female friends Tinder app?
OH. MY. GOD.
Everything is a match, and even if you meet Mr. Right (get it?) chances are he’ll get lost in the noise.
I’m a firm believer after being 30 *cough* a few years ago that paying for apps, especially the premium stuff to save you time is completely underpriced, and if you can spend $5 a month to save yourself HOURS of time and increase your dates or conversations, why wouldn’t you?
Sometimes you meet that special someone on the train, and then forget to get their number. Sometimes you meet someone online, and it goes nowhere. Or it does. But if it was meant to be, she would have logged back in and found you.
If not, maybe he or she is busy with something else.
Again, you just please keep doing you.
We’ve all ghosted someone, and we’ve all been ghosted. It’s part of the grind, like traffic on the way to work. It might be your first year on Tinder, but someone else’s 3rd. It might be they’re just not into you, or lazy, or both. But at the same time, it’s all good queue for you to work on your profile the way you’d work on your resume.
Get better photos, get real hobbies, learn to value your time. You still may not meet that someone but you will be a much better person.
How Do You Transition from Being Single to Being in Relationships?
I rephrase the question to actually be:
Question: How do you deal with no longer being single?
Being single is easy because you’ve always been in a relationship with yourself. It’s comfortable.
But when you realize somebody else has to come in your home, or vice versa, uff…that’s tough. Everybody has problems and nuances. The key here is hopefully they line up with yours.
Your wife likes to wake up at 5 AM and pray? And now she wants you to also?
But getting up early may not be a bad thing.
Your husband wants you to keep the toothbrush in the cupboard, and not outside the sink.
I mean, come on…aren’t we really splitting hairs here?
Most people need to understand in relationships, you need to find someone who isn’t changing you, but improving you. They’re letting you be the best versions of yourself you can be. And that’s a good thing.
It’s when you’re with someone who wants you to be completely opposite than what you were initially when the real challenges begin.
- You guys drank every weekend, now she doesn’t want to go out at all.
- Or he said he was cool you had so many guys friends, no he’s on your head about every message you get.
- She liked your house, now all of a sudden it’s a mess and needs to be cleaned up.
Oh the horror.
When you were younger, your mom was on your head to brush your teeth, pick up after yourself, not make so much noise in the kitchen, or whatever else. Often times you’ll have a partner who you irritate as well with habits you didn’t realize you had accumulated over the years. (I personally bite my nails 24/7).
If you want the key to surviving no longer being single, make sure your partner has good intentions and also yes, you can stop tapping the table or biting your nails or sometimes drinking less.
If not, maybe you value certain things too much, or maybe you need out. But you’ll know where it’s coming from, and if it’s not meant to be, well, fine.
We have all been there. Then you’ll have to know how to survive to be single again. (Which is a great phase when you get out of a toxic relationship by the way).
The Indian dating scene is so fascinating because the country is fascinating.
You can watch an artsy French flick or a Bollywood movie. You can go fine dining or eat a meal and walk around for $4. But as with Swiggy, malls and Netflix…we are also stuck in a paradox of choice that ultimately nothing satisfies whatever desire we have.
Also, as India is always stuck in a time warp between trend and tradition and tech, dating will continue to fumble/evolve and present unique challenges as we battle the old with the new.
Ultimately, the apps and the movies and the fancy dinners aren’t the solution. Once you figure out yourself and your family, it’s easier for someone else to as well.
I don’t have a nice cushy way to resolve this, but I hope the answers above were helpful and if you enjoyed them or have comments/questions for next time, please do drop them below.
Sanjay Manaktala is the creator and host of the Birdy Num Num podcast which is all about inspiring the creative South Asian. He is also the author of the Harper Collins book “My Beta Does Computer Things.
In this week’s episode, questions were asked by the public regarding dating and relationships hence the article.