New age communication is making it easier to look for love but it is a bit like shopping—unlimited options, distractions and limited period offers only. Nikita Lamba reports on the state of modern relationships.

Off late, I have been wondering about the importance my generation gives to love and commitment, which in my opinion is equivalent to nothing. The FastTrack ad tagline pretty much sums up the current scenario of “move on yaar.” So where does this leave a hopeless romantic like me? I am twenty-two years old and so far my feelings of an epic Romeo & Juliet kind of love have rarely been reciprocated. Mine is a generation of professional achievers who doesn’t think much about personal life. The latter is almost always an off-handed impulse especially in matters of love and sex which makes falling in love much more difficult and separating far too easy.

Consumed by our own lives, our own work, our friends, our time, our space, and always our space. Take for instance the fact that while talking to a heartbroken friend, I repeatedly tell her that this isn’t worth the emotions and tears. This concept of self-assurance that we are all guilty of, has nurtured the idea that no one is worth investing time and emotion in. If this is healthy self-love or borderline narcissism, who is to say.

In my experiences of dating I have realised that Sapiosexual is the go-to term these days. What most people seem to be looking for is intelligence in another person and yet ironically, most times intelligence is appreciated only till the first sexual encounter, after which it becomes a topic of discussion over some alcohol with friends. Perhaps this is because dating now has become more accessible, thanks to social media and the internet which gives people the general feeling that there is always someone better out there in the dating pool.

My peers now would rather have a one night stand than consider falling in love as an option. Which makes me wonder if we as a human race are progressing or coming full circle in matters of companionship. It is no secret that sexuality in India has been repressed for centuries and family values have held a sacred place at the top of the social pyramid. There has been no open validation of a person’s sexuality which is often treated as a matter-of-fact means to the holy task of procreation. Most of our parents never dated, nor did their parents or the one’s before them. Love and Marriage Vs Love and Sexuality in the Indian context have been largely irrelevant terms until now. Forty-one-year-old Abhay Lal says, “There was no culture of dating at my time. I used to wait in cyber cafes for the woman I was interested in just to chat with her on yahoo messenger. Our other means of communication were STD booths.” His generation almost always found a way to be around for the person they loved despite the hitches in communication and the various taboos attached to romance.

The 21st century, however, has led to the age of workaholics, with everyone being on the run constantly for something more. More money. More power. More education. A quest for more liberation in the most unconventional sense of the word which was earlier attained through religion, a concept now quoted with confinement. The most important liberation achieved is sexual as men and women have started to recognise that sex for pleasure is not morally wrong.

More women have started to work and have started to find more options for sexual expression at their workplace. The 2011 census states that 25.6% of the workforce is made up by women as compared to the 14.68 in 2001. This has led to more women having an opinion and a voice for themselves. This kind of liberalization paired with modern day communication gives all, men and women alike, an accepted way of sexual expression with love taking the back seat. According to 26-year-old Kartik Gupta, relationship requires a lot of investment in terms of time and emotions which is distracting. “I’d like to focus more on my future career prospects”

Quite the contrary, Nitin Suri explains what dating and love is according to him, “I had pursued the woman I love for 3 years before she finally spoke to me. After which we were in a relationship for 6 years.” In this case his desire to study further stemmed only from the educational background of the woman he loved, still does. Career, something that the younger generation uses to get away from love was used by Suri as a way to keep the fire of love burning. When Suri’s relationship started, it was only then that they grew physically intimate with each other “not in the shallow impatient way that the current generation chooses to,” he says.

According to twenty-two year old post-graduate student Anila Verma, “most people start using Tinder because it helps them fill voids of loneliness, caused because of failed relationships, with meaningless sex.” Sex has just become a meaningless means to burn calories and get some pleasure while in the act of doing so. In a survey conducted by Hindustan Times in 2015, it was discovered that 61 per cent of urban youth believes that sex before marriage is not a taboo anymore.

Has dating then helped in limiting hypocrisy towards female sexuality? Not really. In the same survey 63 per cent of those surveyed stated that they would still like to marry virgins.

That a large number of men would still like to marry virgins is a telling fact that it a woman’s sexuality is not something they are still as comfortable with. Words like slut and loose are still on the run despite majority of men and women desiring casual sexual encounters.

Regardless, women are growing more expressive and bold about what they want, from sending the first message to calling someone over. It is not uncommon for women to agree to sexual intercourse in the first meeting, much like the one night stands people in the West have documented ever so often. Verma elaborates, “It is not necessary to set any boundaries to have sex with someone off Apps. It can either happen ‘too soon’ or never.”

The difference between people from 10 years ago and now is that they used to be much more grounded, “now they don’t experience reality to the fullest,” says Suri. What he means is that people now, bury themselves in distractions if they are going through an emotionally turbulent time, choosing to escape rather than to experience the pain and grow from it.

Take my friend from college for instance who uses social media to distract herself from the slightest hint of love trouble. We’d rather have an arty rant online than a live conversation in real time because that would mean connecting emotionally and admitting your pain. Mostly we’re in denial about rejection, yet we are plagued by self- doubt and a constant need for validation which is available via the next online encounter.

By the time of the first meeting, sexual preferences have already been discussed, likes and desires have been told to each other and fantasies have been discussed at length. It is common for men to make very forward statements in the first few sentences of the first conversation. The other day, a potential match asked me what I was busy doing. When I told him that I was writing, he very graciously offered his body to “use as a canvas to write upon.” I have to admit that the offer was quite tempting since this man is “aesthetically advantaged” as a friend of mine would put it. Suri compares the scenario a decade ago “People then did not engage in sexual activity as much as they do now. Then it was only considered an act to be indulged in with the person you love. The element of fun did not exist and it is overriding everything now.”

It is ironic that when communication became convenient, falling in love and staying in it became more and more difficult. Technology has given everyone a way to be more suspicious and to infringe on people’s private spaces leading to suffocation. Yet love remains a distant dream (read nightmare) for most as dealing with all that stuff (emotions) is too much pressure (investment). On the other hand, we would do anything to get back the one that got away. Gupta insists that it doesn’t get lonely, “there are lots of things to do, there is work and studies and reading and writing. If I feel like talking to someone about my emotions, my friends are only a call away so I don’t really feel that I am missing a companion.”

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