A flight from Delhi to Mumbai, barely an hour and half not counting the ordeal at the airport, never seemed longer. But this time around it was different; I felt benumbed, almost robotic. So much so that I couldn’t hear Alicia Keys screaming from my iPod. But the paralysed feeling seemed to restrain only my sensory organs; my brain was taking the bull by the horns as it shot one question after another – What am I doing? Is it going to be anything like the last time? Am I am a loser to do this? Is he the one? How will it go? After all, I had only met this guy online and seen his photo. But here I was, going to meet a potential life partner I had met on a matrimonial website. With the onslaught of the valid reasons and invalid questions, my brain went dead. Somehow, I managed to walk out of the airport and get a cup of tea to calm my swirling thoughts.
In a world where people are just too tangled in their own frenetic lives and overdosed with technology, there is no explanation needed for the thriving billion-dollar online dating industry. I knew I was not the only one with doubts. But I questioned the practicality of these matrimonial websites and more importantly, my apprehensions and exectations, because of the stories I have heard about online dating and the uncertainty that this experience entwines.
Megha Khan, a 29-year-old marketing executive, still recalls her family reunion at Diwali a few years ago when her old-fashioned and technologically challenged mother began to extoll the virtues of this futuristic matchmaking concept. She reminisces over a cup of coffee, “My mother heard from one of her friends about a matrimonial website and compelled me into creating my profile. Initially, I hated the idea but considering my limited network of friends and colleagues, I soon fancied the idea. At least I was in charge of whom I interacted with rather than some family member who barely knew me.” Khan wrote and rewrote her profile and nitpicked qualities she would adore and hate about her future significant other. She ecstatically met her first match and romance blossomed. Days of trips, weeks of dinners, and months of coffee later, she says in distress, “He has yet to talk about matrimony.” She continues, “I am looking beyond dating on these websites, but many registered male members are using the service for flings.”
Another colleague and veteran user of these matrimonial sites, 28-year-old Dhwanit Shah reflects, “I have been on many dates with women whom I met via these websites. Many times I found their pictures were from the past decade! Some did not just lie about their looks but their professions, qualifications, and frustratingly, their marital status too. Most matrimonial websites have verification settings but it’s very easy to bypass.” He jokes, “If I meet a girl from an online dating service and she looks nothing like the picture, is there a tech support number I can call?”
While discussing this phenomenon with 26-year-old relationship counsellor Sonia Pal, she explains, “The boundaries between dating sites and matrimonial sites do get blurred. Many users sign up for matrimonial websites without telling their parents, while their parents have their own processes in place offline. Matrimonial sites were designed to empower users and give them the freedom to explore, but the ambiguity of exploring has scared many users away. Users, who initially liked to be in charge of their search, now encourage their parents to get involved in the online process to weed out the not-so-serious mates.”
As my brain recovers from this arroyo of flashbacks, I realise cities across India are full of people like me who are tangled in their own lives. For that second when we lock eyes with the stranger next to us, we take a leap between familiarity and intimacy. And for just that moment, sometimes we want to jump off the edge into uncertainty and capture those people again as they drift out of sight. The exponential rise of the online dating industry testifies to the fervency of that wish. As I sit nervously at this café, my date pulls up in his car. I jump into the civic chariot without a second thought and drive off into the hidden sunset.
I don’t ask why; I ask why not.
I AM LOOKING BEYOND DATING ON THESE WEBSITES, BUT MANY REGISTERED MALE MEMBERS ARE USING THE SERVICE FOR FLINGS
IF I MEET A GIRL FROM AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE, AND SHE LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THE PICTURE, IS THERE A TECH SUPPORT NUMBER THAT I CAN CALL?
Volume 1 Issue 1