Before the dating app boom in India, meeting a handsome man in a coffee shop or bumping into a stunning woman while browsing for a book had to be largely left to chance. With the advent of dating apps, forging connections were left less to luck, and more to right swipes. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 further changed the dating scene for young adults, shifting it entirely to virtual platforms. As people were locked inside their houses for several months, movie dates and a walk in the park transformed into online meet-ups and shared streaming on OTT platforms. But how has this changed dating as a whole? We speak to two Delhi-NCR couples who stepped into committed relationships during ‘the new normal’.
That first meeting
The meet-cute of couples with COVID-19 looming over them has a new definition. “When he came over for the first time, I did not even greet him properly. The first thing I asked him to do was take a shower,” quips Shravi Jain (24) from Lucknow, who met her partner Lakshya Dawra (24) from Model Town through a dating app in March 2020. She was in Gurugram during the first lockdown at this time.
Similarly, Sneha Dasgupta (23) and Christy Varghese (26)—who met through an online theatre workshop for children—met face-to-face for a cycling date in August 2020. Christy mentions that they “were armed with spare masks and sanitisers”. Yet, more than the threat of the virus, it was the nervousness of meeting one’s potential partner for the first time that got to these couples. “We were both nervous. We had only interacted virtually before. But luckily, it didn’t take us much time to move past that,” shares Shravi.
Online interactions surely made it easier for them. However, physical interaction is a whole new ballgame altogether. “There was the threat of transmitting or contracting the virus. But it was also because I had not exercised during the lockdown. I looked a certain way, which was not to my satisfaction. When you are meeting someone you like for the first time, these things matter,” says Sneha. Lakshya mentions how his priority before meeting Shravi was to get a haircut. “I thought I did not look presentable enough, so I decided to cut my hair short. On my way I realised I had messed up because Shravi likes long hair.”
Love in the time of Corona
On conversing with these couples, we realise that the pandemic worked in their favour. Nonetheless, there were many factors centred on COVID-19 that complicated a simple date. “I had to get used to seeing only half of Christy’s face every time we met in public. Moreover, we had to take many precautions just to plan an outing. This time, I could not recklessly and hopelessly fall in love,” says Sneha.
The couples also mention that adhering to COVID-19 norms did not put a damper on physical intimacy. “While we were extremely careful every time we stepped out of our homes, we couldn’t wait for a hug or to hold hands whenever we met,” says Christy.
The pandemic-induced lockdown was a major factor in helping these relationships blossom into something long-lasting and serious. “I had casually met people through these dating apps before. The only reason this present relationship advanced so quickly was that we had a lot of time on our hands, which we spent talking and sharing moments. I believe we were in the headspace to invest in something positive at the time,” shares Shravi. Christy adds, “The fact that we could not meet as often as we wanted to is what led to an extended period of courtship.
We had no option but to take it slow, and that cemented a certain rapport we share to this day.” “I have fought with Christy a lot. There have been times I have been anxious and frustrated about not being able to meet him, but I feel if we can sail through those fights, this is something that needs to be cherished,” says Sneha. Now that life is getting back to normal, while Sneha and Christy have embraced their new fully-vaccinated relationship and meet often, Shravi and Lakshya are still in a long-distance relationship. The duo makes sure they meet once a month in Agra. “This relationship is the end game for me so long distance is not difficult to manage. We have reached an understanding,” concludes Shravi.