Romantic rendezvous with a deadline

This matchmaking process, popular among youngsters from Delhi-NCR, allows one to meet and network with like-minded individuals in one go
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

The dating rulebook in the 21st Century is constantly rewritten. Romantic comedies from the early 2000s such as Notting Hill will have you convinced that the love of your life is dusting books in an unfrequented store on the street corner, friends will pester their ‘single besties’ to seek a romantic arrangement by swiping right, and the old-school thinkers will suggest you wait—‘You'll find love when you're not looking’. The recent addition to this slew of dating strategies is ‘speed dating’—a matchmaking process that combines the merits of both traditional and modern dating ethos.

Speed dating dates back to the late 1990s; this process of socialisation was popularised in the US. The idea is to get a few eligible singles under the same roof; a person then goes on to converse with individuals for a few minutes. The point is to get to know more people at the venue and then take the conversation forward only with an individual that one connects with instantly. Not only does this process bring back the charm of face-to-face meet-ups—no more being ghosted online by a Tinder match—the time restriction is also in sync with our strenuous day-to-day lives where one would prefer steering clear of indulging in hours of meaningless conversations with people.

A musical chairs of sorts

Unlike the West, speed dating has mostly found resonance with the college-going crowd, mostly in the metros. “I just tried it once for fun, without an intention of getting into anything serious,” comments Soumyadeep Khan, a student at Ramjas College, North Campus. “It was a gala experience.” Khan shares that he ended up going for the event—it took place as a part of a college fest—in order to get to know more people.

Over the course of an hour, he spoke to more than 20 people—about a minute and a half with each—out of a 100 participants. By the end of the game, Khan had clicked with two girls, and they both remain his friends till date. “Even though it is called speed dating, I realised most people were there just to see if they could connect with a new person. It’s almost like networking,” shares the 18-year-old. While this may or may not be a precursor to a future relationship, Khan mentions the activity is a great way to get a conversation started.

There are many who ridicule the idea of speaking to someone for a brief moment, with the aim to build a connection. “You cannot ascertain anything in one go,” says Stuti Goyal (21), a student of Delhi University who had a chance to participate in her first (and only) speed dating event a little before the pandemic hit. “Honestly, I barely spoke to anyone. I joined because the organisers were also conducting games with those we paired with. However, in the process, I did not speak to any guy. I just did not feel like it,” she adds, stressing the ephemeral nature of the idea.

Know, interact, connect

In the age of dating apps, it is only attractive for one to try their hand at speed dating. Priyanka (22), a chartered accountancy student from West Delhi, tried the same at a recent pop-up that took place in Delhi. She tells us, “It was a nice break from the dating apps to meet someone.” Yet, shattering the seeming benefits, Priyanka adds, “While there are hardly any chances of being catfished, the only way to know the person you meet at the event will be through texting which is no different than what happens on dating apps.”

A number of groups and dating services are now experimenting with this format to come up with novel ways to conduct a speed dating event. Case in point, Prem-a-Culture, an organisation—co-created by Suyash Saboo, Arti Bhandari, and Geetika Arora—that works to promote conscious dating hosts ‘Slow Speed Dating’ events wherein participating singles get to know each other thoroughly—through games and activities. “People often find it difficult to connect with others at such events. For me, the idea of speed in speed dating did not work,” shares Saboo who set up this organisation in June this year to give a thoughtful spin on the rather conventional idea.

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The New Indian Express