The online dating apps have proved to be a life saver for the trapped or even unattached Indian men (and even women) who are looking for a ‘little bit of fun’. These apps promise them an exciting world full of beauty, adventure and anonymity from the comfort of their computers!
In the movie, ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’, Ranbir Kapoor says, ‘ Shaadi is dal chawal for pachaas saal till you die. Arre life mein thoda bahut keema pav, tangdi kabab, hakka noodle bhi hona chahiye na?’ (Shaadi is rice and lentils for the next fifty years till you die. One should have a bit of keema pav, kebab, hakka noodles too, isn’t it?)
This sentiment has been echoed time and again in most Hindi movies, where the poor husband has no choice but to listen to his wife for the rest of his life. It doesn’t matter whether it is an arranged marriage or the one done out of love. The husband cannot help but be tormented by his ever present wife. In movies like Pati, Patni Aur Woh, Sanjeev Kumar loves his wife Vidya Sinha but later falls for Ranjeeta who is obviously more beautiful and desirable. From then till now, countless movies like Biwi No.1 and many more have depicted the adventures of husbands who are fed up with dal chawal and go out to seek more in the world. More often than not they are caught in the end or suffer a heartbreak by the other woman and apologize the wife. But does it really impact their appetite or quest for variety?
The advent of apps like Tinder, Aisle, Truly Madly has probably come as an answer to the collective prayers of those poor Indian men who have been desperately looking for some kind of distraction or fun on the side which can spice up their mundane existence. Not all men on these apps are married, some of them are looking for partners because they have been divorced or widowed or were never married in the first place. But then, we all know dating is not as easy as it sounds. It is a game which has been played between men and women for centuries. Earlier, the women played coy, made the men chase them, woo them or even invest in them. Most of these games haven’t changed- they have just been transferred into the online world.
The online world is an interesting place. You can see a man or a woman sitting on the bed or the couch engrossed in their phones, perhaps with a slight smile or a frown on their face and you would not suspect a thing! You wouldn’t know if the man is trying to woo a woman or doing his office work. This is particularly the case of the poor unsuspecting wife in the lockdown who thinks that her oh-so-sincere husband is working from home to ensure that the money flow is not interrupted. She does not question him because he is there right in front of her eyes, looking perfectly innocent! When he gets a phone call, he steps out for hours because he tells her that the background noises in the house tend to disturb his conversations. She agrees and lets him go. After all, what can he do amidst the prying eyes of the neighbours? He is only talking to people in his office! Isn’t he?
Sumit, 41 has been working from home since last year. Initially, he found it quite boring because there was nothing else to do except work. He could not gossip with his colleagues or have lunch outside the office. He says, ‘In our office, there are a lot of beautiful young girls who work as interns. It is so refreshing to see a pretty face, the first thing in the morning.’ However, with the lockdown, things changed. Now all he saw was his wife, children and old parents. Meeting friends was fraught with dangers lest he gets COVID. He was at his wit’s end with boredom till he chanced upon a Tinder ad on the net. He logged in and hasn’t been able to log out till date. He says, ‘Life has definitely become more interesting. I cannot meet the girl physically but then apart from that there is nothing we cannot do. There are so many girls I have connected with. Some are intelligent, others are good looking- I am spoilt for choices and my wife does not have to know! She knows I am working hard to make the ends meet. Talking to these girls is like a breath of fresh air and I am hurting no one!’
There are many such men, married and not married. who have found breather from their mundane existence through these dating apps.
Joseph 38 has been separated from his wife for the last 8 years. He is not officially divorced as a result of the family. He has been on Tinder for the last 3 years. ‘As a man, there are times I crave for physical intimacy. However, I am not ready for any kind of commitment. Apps like Tinder have people who look for a similar ‘no strings attached’ arrangement which was an ideal situation for me.’ So, how has he been faring after COVID? ‘These days, I have gotten into the online mode where I can talk to the person through video or audio or skype. We can delve into all kinds of talks including the intimate ones and that helps me to cope with my loneliness.’
Satish Kumar, 41, divorcee, and an entrepreneur from Hyderabad, who is at the moment stuck in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh says, ‘Dating apps are a huge respite for a person like me who is stuck here in the pandemic. I had come to see off my parents who were going to visit my sister in USA. As a result of the lockdown, I couldn’t travel back to my place. I pass my time by chatting with people, especially women from different walks of life.’
The Con Game
So, how has his experience been on these dating apps? Satish says, ‘I am primarily on Tinder and Aisle. Tinder has an advantage that you can connect with people all over the world. I have many friends in different parts of the world whom I can talk to. However, Tinder has a lot of men and women who are nothing but con artists who seek gullible people to extort money. I befriended a divorcee on Tinder. Since I too am looking for a long-term relationship and eventually marriage, I found her good to talk to and we connected well. After a few weeks, she told me that she needed money for her eight-year-old daughter’s treatment. Since, I am myself a father, I could identify with her pain and sent her the money within no time. The next day she had blocked me and all my attempts to contact her failed.’
However, these con games are not just played with men alone. Gullible women are also entrapped by men on these dating sites. Gayatri, a divorcee and an architect from Coimbatore was duped by Prateek who told her that he was short of cash for his mother’s treatment. They had met some months back and Gayatri liked him. ‘I thought he was such a dutiful son to his mother. I talked to his mother on the video call and she seemed like a nice lady. She told me that she had been looking for a daughter-in-law like me who would be a good wife for her son.’ Prateek even came to meet her a couple of times. ‘He seemed to be a decent guy and I thought he was genuinely interested in me. He wasn’t looking for physical intimacy at the moment he said; he was only looking for a long-term relationship that could culminate into marriage. I felt as if he was the answer to all my prayers.’ After some months of regularly talking on the phone and video calls, at about 1 am in the night, Prateek called up Gayatri and said that he needed money for his mother’s heart surgery. ‘He said his mother had suffered a heart attack and even showed her sleeping in some kind of a hospital bed. I could not suspect anything because by that time I was convinced that we will be soon married.’ She transferred 20,000. She tried calling up Prateek afterwards but since then his number is always switched off.
Dr. Anamika Papriwal, a psychologist believes that it is not just the pandemic that has made people vulnerable but also the excessive phone talks. ‘There is no doubt that the pandemic has contributed to a heightened feeling of vulnerability. Most people are finding themselves trapped at home with nowhere to go out. How long can you talk to your friends and even family about the routine, every day happenings? Moreover, these talks don’t impact the brain as much as the talks on the phone do because when you listen to the other person on the phone, it is like some one whispering in your ear. It is more personal, more intimate and it registers in your brain more deeply. These people who manage to dupe people out of such a lot of money are actually called con or confidence artists. If you listen to their talks, they will talk in a very soft and soothing voice which inspires feelings of love, even lust and above all confidence and intimacy. You then start depending on this person and are afraid to lose him or her. The moment they sense this, they move in for the kill.’
Kamaal, 45 believes that the very fact that they enjoy talking to men and women on dating apps makes these people vulnerable. ‘Let us face it. I would not attribute the entire problem to the con artists or the men or women who use these platforms to get money out of people! The truth is that these men and women are having so much fun talking to these people that they stop thinking logically and get duped. The person on the other end knows that she is speaking to someone who is looking for spice in life and she or he provides that spice. If the other person ends up being swindled for being such a love-struck fool, whose fault, is it?’
THIS ARTICLE BY SHAILAZA SINGH APPEARED IN RASHTRADOOT’S ARBIT ON JUNE 1, 2021