It was turning out to be a boring, non-newsy kind of day. Even the squalls promised by the Met Department had not materialised. I was about to turn off my laptop when it pinged, and up popped an email about India’s online dating industry. With no interest in reading about Tinder, I was about to press delete when my attention was caught by a line about a “growing community in India that’s challenging a foundational construction of society: that a monogamous marriage is the only way to have a fulfilling term relation”. The writer went on to say that the polyamorous (people who have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time) have a lot to “teach us about honesty, jealousy, acceptance and love itself.”
All ennui gone, I began to read the mail with interest, and gathered that the writer, a PR person, was peddling a story on Gleeden, a dating site for “married people looking for new encounters”. Some quick Googling revealed that the French website, which is run by an all-woman team, facilitates “confidential and discreet” extramarital encounters. It set up shop in India in 2017 and has over 4 million users globally—2.8 lakh of them Indian.
Gleeden, whose name is a hopeful marriage of Glee and Eden, the failed garden of bliss, surveyed 3,512 Indian men and 3,121 women last summer and learnt two things: One, contrary to popular belief, Indian women are not averse to making the first move to seek extramarital partners and, in fact, take the lead in over one-third cases.
Two, it’s mostly the 39-49 age group that seeks fresh encounters outside of marriage.
Though Gleeden talks about polyamory (the fourth-most frequently-searched relationship term on Google in 2017) and there is a growing population of polyamorists in India (with a dedicated page on Facebook), I’m not sure that is what Indian clients are buying. If I understand correctly, polyamory requires full disclosure to all partners, and the consent of all involved. Practitioners call it ethical non-monogamy, rather than infidelity, and are reluctant to take individuals cheating on their spouses into their fold.
Given their usually very fragile egos, I can’t see such openness sitting well with the men who make up 75 per cent of Gleeden India users. An extramarital affair, conducted undercover, seems eminently doable however, especially in the large-city anonymity offered by Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore (where most of the current users reside).
Upon learning that membership is free for women, I quizzed my girl pals on their possible interest in Gleeden—only to get the funniest responses. “Have you seen the men around here? It’s difficult enough to find one decent man. And you expect me to engage in ‘fresh encounters’?” said one. Another said: “You realise why it’s free for us women, right? It’s because the Gleeden women have spent time with Indian men. If they’re saying Indian women are open to new encounters post marriage, they must mean with other women.” I still haven’t stopped chuckling. Would any male reader care to respond?