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.