Some things, like the immediate reflex to swipe left at the sight of a gym selfie on Tinder, seem to be universal. This is one of the lessons we learned from this morning’s lecture with Dr. Shweta Sinha Deshpande – which escalated quickly from the cultural implications of arranged marriages within the caste system in India, to a candid discussion around dating apps.
Many young adults in India are starting to embrace the Western model when it comes to relationships: disposable, casual, and online. As I start swiping in Pune, Rajat, 22, makes clear in his description that he is “here for a casual hookup,” followed by a winky face. So far, not much of a culture shock.
A few swipes later, Mohaseen, 26, reverses the trend fast and warns that hook ups aren’t for him. But he always swipes right, he says. So we match, and I ask him what he’s looking for on here. Slightly set aback by such direct questioning, he finally reveals he is looking for a “GF,” (yep, a girlfriend.)
There’s a long-running Tinder joke in India, in which the guys seem to have fully embraced the concept of casual hookups, while girls would say they “just want to make friends.” No matter how open, the success of Tinder in India is a clear indication of the fast-changing relationship structures.
Mostly, Tinder here is the playing ground of young, middle-class professionals. Usually educated, sometimes well-travelled, they are the fringe of Indian society that has embraced dating as seen in American movies. Here in Pune, I find marketing workers, designers, IT consultants… Yet in the country, a large majority, even the ones who use dating apps, still have a very Indian notion of love, relationships and marriage.
According to Dr Deshpande, 90% of marriages in India are arranged through family, friends or another mediator. These days, the mediator can also be dating websites that are specific to the Indian system: you can filter your bride or groom search by caste, religion or state. Such websites as Jeevansathi.com, whose success stories have revolutionized the practices of dating, are plenty – and evidence of a great compromise between tradition and modernity.