BENGALURU: I first heard of dating apps from a friend a few years ago. She had found a person who she liked on a dating app, and I downloaded the app out of curiosity. The friend eventually went on to marry the person she found on the app, and I went on to use dating apps in the years that followed.Strangely, Indian parents were more familiar with the apps and their user interface, thanks to the proliferation of marriage apps. Before dating apps targeted youngsters, marriage apps had already targeted parents.
My generation was the second to get into the world of swiping left and right. The problem, however, was that I haven’t had great luck on any of the apps. As a standup comedian, I have to perform open mics on weekdays and shows on weekends. As a film critic, watching a movie is no more an enjoyable experience.
I am also the antithesis to a foodie – food is functional for me, and I honestly couldn’t care if someone mixed puliyogare with mayonnaise dip. I have had the rare misfortune of matching with women who were looking for marriage, and (horror of horrors!) – vegans! With my limited luck, the dating apps were relegated to the dark corners of my phone, to be deleted whenever I ran out of space. And then, the Covid-19 pandemic occurred.
With the possibility of stepping out and meeting completely ruled out, I reinstalled the dating apps out of boredom. Nothing much has changed. There are still people whose DPs are a line of Robert Frost’s poetry. There are those with smiling pictures of actresses passing off as their own pictures. There are those that are looking for friendship, marriage and companionship. All with the awareness that nobody is going to be meeting anybody for the next few months. In a strange way, it feels like a phenomenon that was in vogue decades ago – pen friends.
Before the Internet spun a worldwide web around us, before mobile phones appeared in every hand – people from our parents’ generation wrote letters to strangers. The correspondence usually involved letters, pictures, and postcards exchanged by people who lived across continents. Upon a little research, I found that two of my favourite authors – PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie – were pen pals for years. So too was the case between JRR Tolkien and Leo Tolstoy; Henry Miller and Anais Nin. Most of these friendships spanned decades, and resulted in correspondence that has been treasured over time.
In a strange way, dating apps in the pandemic resemble pen friendships. Strangers are sharing messages, pictures and memes – making connections while being aware that they will not be meeting anytime soon. After spending four months swiping left and right, I have found another reason to root for an early discovery of the Covid vaccine.
For years, I assumed that science and god were mutually exclusive ideas and entities. However, staying cooped up at home has made me reach a compromise between the two. Even as an atheist, I pray to god to help scientists discover a vaccine at the earliest. I have downloaded every single dating app available (after duly deleting the Chinese ones, of course!), and am waiting for the vaccine to turn up. It might be true that ‘god helps those who help themselves’, but after four months of spending quality time with myself, I am beginning to place my bets on science!