U, me aur location

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Conventional or traditional dating practices are fast disappearing as couples are discovering new and imaginative ways to indulge in courting each other. Lovers are opting for non-traditional dating practices because the key is to “impress by not impressing.” If one couple enjoys walking down the noisy dhobi ghat in Mumbai another couple finds it cosy to visit a tattoo parlor. Yet another couple keeps talking over phone the whole night to see the Sunrise. The ways are many…

Let me count the ways… to date. As couples get creative about courting, close encounters have moved away from the predictable cafés and cinemas to the eyebrow-raising…

Move over movies, cafés and boring restaurants, dating in India has a new definition and a new location. A walk down the noisy dhobi ghat in Mumbai, a vinotherapy pedicure, a game of air hockey or some contact combat at a martial arts class, the venues of romance are getting as funky and bold as love aaj kal.

Your place? No, mine

Meghana Kaushik says she chooses the venue for a date with great care. This 24-year-old model and voice-over artist likes to try different things, and this part of her personality reflects in the kind of place she takes her boyfriend.

So, the Delhi girl has taken her date to a tattoo parlor, gone kite-sporting in Goa and even got up close in self-defense classes. Yes, mostly she is the one, who decides where they are going, not the guy. Why is that? ” Because boys are so lame! They have sad ideas: coffee, movie or the mall. Maybe they are just trying to be safe (pun intended) with conventional locations, but really, all those are so boring! The place should be a conversation starter, you know?”

Which is probably why Delhi girl Yashita Sahu took DJ Sumit Sethi to a farmhouse and performed a raunchy Bollywood number for him? Sethi wasn’t surprised as she’d set the tone on their first date – in a gaming parlor. ”She decided to take me there because she loves video games. We had a great time because I hadn’t been to a gaming parlor for years,” he says.

Lovers, says Sethi, are opting for non-traditional dates because the key is to “impress by not impressing.”  He swears he never takes his date for a boring candlelight dinner because there’s no element of surprise.

Recently, Jai Hind student Priya S. took her boyfriend of three months to Mumbai’s dhobi ghat, the world’s biggest outdoor laundry. But how does watching dhobis pounding the dirt from garments add to romance? Priya says she wanted to find out how open he was to different kinds of experiences as they are still getting to know each other. “Even though both of us have grown up in Mumbai, neither of us had been there. It was quite a spectacle and both of us will remember it,” says this 21-year-old. They spent almost an hour just holding hands and walking and, she says, it was one of the most romantic dates she has ever been on. ”There were so many people there but we didn’t get stared at which is normally what happens when you’re in a public place.”

He is just that into you

Kaushik’s jibe that guys lack imagination doesn’t apply to Rishabh Gupta, who is seriously creative about courting. All of 24, he has been doing extraordinary things for certain women for a long time now. ”I once kept a girl awake over the phone till five in the morning only so that I could drive her to see the sun rise. She was a late sleeper and had casually mentioned that she didn’t remember when she had last seen it (sunrise),” says this product manager currently based in Mumbai. Once, he even took a girl who he thought was interested in him, to the middle of a jungle to get some quiet time with her. And no, she didn’t get scared.

A dose of reality

Not all Indians are adventurous yet. ”The Indian sense of dating is fairly nascent,” says Prem Kamath, GM, Channel (V), India. And though relationships occupy the maximum mind space of young people, the exposure too many cultures does leave them confused. ”On the one hand, we are liberal and on the other, we are still traditional. This conflict is visible in their personality and the choices they make,” he says.

Kamath’s entertainment channel has a weekly show based entirely on dating: Dare2Date brings together two completely opposite people in what can be considered weird settings. ”The tendency to choose different places to get to know the other person better probably arises because unlike in the West, a date in India does not automatically imply intimacy. Dating, in this modern-traditional confluence, makes for exciting television,” says Kamath.

Sacred sweetheart

Tradition meets modernity is model Amanpreet Wahi’s love story. ”I know it sounds silly but I didn’t go on a date for the longest time with my then boyfriend and now husband because I wanted my first date to be in a gurudwara. Till then, we had only met in a group but after that visit, I knew this was the guy I wanted to marry. Not like there was a light from above, but if it felt right to be with him in a sacred place, then there was reason to take the relationship forward,” she says. Gurudwara or gaming parlor, it’s not just about the physical location, it’s about the chemistry.

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