Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dekho Sessions at the Sea Lounge...

This was taken on Anandita's phone by her in house photographer Kanti, who is from Jharkhand.... our life would come to an absolute standstill without her!!!
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror...
                         Dating games in the city…
Thirty odd years ago, nobody went on dates-dates. Sounds absurd ?But it’s true! Dates happened in Archie and Veronica comics. Dates were viewed as dodgy boy-girl outings invented by wicked Americans ,and specifically designed to corrupt the world. Well…. here comes the shocker. In most cities of 21st century India ( including Mumbai, let me tell you),  dating remains a pretty shady, clandestine practice indulged in only by the very daring. Parents do not approve! Society does not endorse! Paradoxical… but there it is. Which is why students still lie when they join dubious ‘tuition classes’ or bunk lectures just to hang out with ardent partners . Poor kids. They really don’t have a choice! Their parents won’t ‘allow’ them to go out or bring a girlfriend / boyfriend home.  And even those progressive parents who sensibly refuse to play ostrich remain stubbornly unreceptive  when it comes to daughters. I have heard mothers of  hulking big fellows announce in crowded elevators, “ I don’t mind if  my son goes out at night… but, my daughter? No way! Who’ll marry her if she’s seen here and there, with this fellow and that fellow? We have to guard our daughter’s reputation…. or else, zero future!”
It was ditto-ditto when I was growing up. The only ‘dates’ that were deemed kosher were those set up by parents, that too, strictly after the official ‘dekho’ session . That is, after a potential alliance had been fixed and the girl was on the “ seen and approved”  list of candidates. Once there was a basic understanding in place between the two sets of  parents, the children were allowed to go on a weird , supervised ‘date’, generally to the Sea Lounge, and strictly during daylight hours. Girls were advised to wear sarees( no sleeveless cholis, please) and tie up long hair ( “only chudails have loose hair”).Strictly,afternoon tea . Never dinner. Sweet. As if one can’t do by day what one does when the lights are switched off. But such was the protocol. And that’s how it remains. ‘Sea Lounge’ is still the preferred (some say, lucky too!) venue, with the romantic window seats permanently booked. Over sev puri and cold coffee ( standardized ‘dekho’ menu), with a chaperone seated two tables away, a boy and girl are expected to make one of the most critical decisions of their lives, preferably in under one hour. Mind you, such decisions were (and are) indeed taken in good faith.  Countless marriages thus sealed over sev-puri, have survived , even thrived in this cruel city of ours.
The script has hardly changed. Each time I go to Sea Lounge, I look around and spot at least three ‘Dekho’ sessions in full flow. I talk to young friends of my daughters and they tell me they’re fine with it. “After all, our parents know us best.” And dating? Don’t these youngsters long to break a few rules, hang out with thoroughly inappropriate companions… and anger their folks? Disappointingly enough, not! Most families want to stick to the old rules. And horror of horrors, so do their children.Romantic dates? Runaway shaadis? No way. The guys wouldn’t know where to begin.And the girls are confused. They ask, “ But… what does one do on a proper date? How do I dress? Where do we go ?” These are genuine issues. Does a dosa-date qualify? Would a coffee at ‘Starbucks’ add up to a bonafide date? What about an Ayub’s roll after a multiplex movie? Or a post-dinner Sea Link drive followed by a gelato? Trekking over the weekend? Extreme sports? A cupcake date? Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf  moments?Ooof. There has to be a solution. I’d say, any outing that has a  romantic underpinning to it qualifies as a date. Couples hold hands on dates. Couples kiss. And that’s just for starters. Parents need to wake up and smell that latte. The more you intimidate and suppress your children, the worse the problem becomes. I have seen more engagements go kaput ( yes, even after all the screening and scrutiny by marriage brokers, well meaning aunts and other agents) where the parents have tried to ‘protect’ their children against the evils of dating .
It’s time to let go that harsh ‘lagaam’ of parental control. Especially with young girls of today. Trust your daughters a little more. Credit them with good sense. Let them make their own mistakes. Remember, even Archie and Veronica had a happy ending.


Tsomo85 said...

Leaving Archie comic a side!!!! Shobhaa De a lot of my friends know you from their high school days in India. Their reaction always comes "ohhh I know her from this book and that book." And mind ya these people are not Indian. Also one of this former American dentist lady surprised me when she mention that she's a fan of you. She had read all these bollywood nite, socialite etc, etc masala books of yours and constantly chased me how would she get/purchase the magazine where you were on it's cover page!!! And I don't blame her after all I too were fantasizes and fascinated by your show back in early 90s. Although without any conscious of your existence! But the credit still counts no!!!

And guess what????? Before there was hi5, twitter, orkut, or facebook,,,,,,,, In the late 90s, there was this thing call ASIANAVENUE, XINGA BLOG SPOT, etc here in US. Where all the Asian American actively socialize. And nobody really gives damn of each other, there was no rage, nothing. We just go there, express our personal views and post tons of pictures, mostly from our social life! It's pretty much like your blogging style! There was no restriction to anything! Nobody gives a damn! And everybody had similar style of socializing! A lot of people really liked looking at strangers photos although it had no impact to our personal life. And there was no abuse or anything. And it lasted for decades, everybody did the same thing and was never bothered till we got introduced to all these new social networks. So I must say you sure were way ahead of your time. I've hardly see any other bloggers with your style of blogging just as us Americans. So keep it up ms.De! Proud to be American!!!

Tsomo85 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tsomo85 said...

Ops sorry about the errors all over my comments.

And guess what? Do you follow the CBS chat show "the talk"?? Well, you listen to Julie Chen and you'll know what the true American Gal is all about!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Explains my predicament best!

Abhirami Muthu said...

If only you had written this article prior to my 'dekho session' and knocked some sense into my well-meaning parents. 'Trust your daughters a little more. Credit them with good sense. Let them make their own mistakes.' - I wish I can mail this small but important paragraph to all hot-headed 'conservative' parents in India. Have faith that you have done a good job as parents and leave them to live life on their terms. Guide them and reassure them that you will be there to support them.

Pooja Rathore said...

looking nice De - i like the fact that you take care of yourself and look gorgeous,lot of women your age dont care much about their looks(forget 60 by 40 they say i dont get time or for what?,i want to show your pic and tell them why not?whatever said and done fact is women who take intrest in themselves actually attract positive intrest from others -my logic.
Fantastic column on dating and all true i belong to rajput community (yet to be married...dekho sessions going on...)i was surprised and shocked the guys rarely turned up its the parents who do all the talking even though the guys are highly qualified,studied abroad etc...honestly iam sick and tired of meeting parents(at the age of 30 we know what we want and if we need help we will ask) hope the scene changes and i meet the kind of guy iam waiting to meet.

Anonymous said...

Well, Shobhaa, in this column, you are at your chatty best.

We in India can be such prods.

Thanks to television's invasion into living rooms bringing everything from Bhagwad Gita to bullshit, from Bible evangelists to those who egg uninformed Muslim into Jihad of the sword [a forgery into the Koran, say Islamic scholars as it contradicts the rules of war laid down elsewhere in the Book] from passionate kissing scenes [in some Hollywood movies] to hardcore pornography [let us openly admit that most cable-wallahs show them at nights with the connivance of local cops] rules have changed for the better or worse, depending from which side one looks.

I have a daughter who introduced my son-in-law to me. She is happily married.

I was married to a woman for 28 years and had to undergo a painful divorce ... and it still hurts.

The arranged marriage [after the girl dekho-fying ritual at our home in the presence of our parents and siblings] of a younger brother ended in a divorce, but he remarried ... a widow and they are happy now.

While I had worked for the BBC in London, I heard someone say in a radio chat show something to this effect: "Do not kiss in public in India, it is looked down upon."

Today the rules of the game have changed after kisses' galore have been featured on our big and small screens.

One can see the young and the middle-aged kissing in public not only in progressive cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata but also in conservative Chennai.

Our censor boards had been prudish. In Mughal-e-Azam, there is a scene of Prince Salim played by Dilip Kumar a.k.a. Yusuf Khan leading Anarkali played by the immortal Madhubala behind the bushes in the palace. The censors wanted that scene snipped saying, "it looks as though the hero is trying to kiss the heroine."

Director Asif won the day by offering his comment thus: "Would you only kiss a beautiful female behind the bushes beyond everyone's view? In my mind's screenplay I imply that they are having sex!"

Not many would remember you Shobhaa with the second names Rajadhyaksha and Kilachand. I do, as I grew up in Mumbai. Today, as a liberated woman, I am sure, you are as happy as a lark after you married Dilip in 1984 after a 3-year courtship. The concept of "yours, mine and ours" in the form of your six children - all part of a large happy family - is working fine with you, in my opinion, primarily because you never had any blinkers on attitude.

Ultimately, the liberated woman is the thing to be and not the "Rasoi Behenji" types that idiot film producers like to portray as the ubiquitous Indian woman.

Here are two blogs I had written about emancipation of women:

kevna manokanthi said...

Hai shobhaa,
Who are entertaining whom.with reference to IPL matches and the cheer girls,I strongly object the mindset of people getting entertained by cheer girls.Here again you are showing the society a biased feeling.If its a celebration,then allow all the dancers male and female to perform and entertain the crowd.While on streets and at many places its the guys who dance with theen-maar beats for every six or the opponents out.
I am making a point with a mind that you carry certain issues well

Sharmila said...

hiiii, nice article.. though i never had to face the arranged marriage situation, since I am blessed with a truely progressive parents. They didnt even blink when I refused to go for an arranged match, that I will marry only when I truely fall in love!!! 20 years on, with a teenage daughter now, I admire the way they trusted and handled me!!!

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good one again

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Nice Article
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