After several decades of Independence and a few years of Valentine’s Day celebrations, India has come a long way in the world of romance. Love is, of course, not a new phenomenon in India. Whether it is Prithviraj Chauhan and Sanyogita or Mumtaz Mahal and Shahjahan, India has always witnessed glorious tales of love in history. Although lovebirds have always made their pleasant (sometimes awkward) presence felt in the park benches, school corridors, and, college canteens, the new-age of romance has a novelty of its own.
With the advent of dating apps like Tinder et al in the love landscape, love has ventured into an all-new dimension. In the words of Oxford anthropologist Anna Machin, who has dedicated her entire career to studying the most intimate human relationships, there has been “a wholesale evolution in the world of love”.
Young urban India is no longer scared of hookups or sexting or breakups. The notion of one life, one love has eroded from the globalised minds of the youth. Well, a few might be raising their eyebrows, thinking how love is losing its aura. There have been rumblings about the gradual dehumanising effect of technology on relationships.
Many believe that the dawn of apps has turned relationships into transactional games played by lonely adults. However, ask any youth and they will say how love is changing its definition. It is not just the apps that are revolutionising the world of love but it is the mindset of the millennials that is taking a paradigm shift.
Shunning the judgements of good or bad, and getting past over the boundaries of moral policing, it would not be wrong to opine that love, today, embraces a whole lot of freedom. The new-age romance extends its horizon much beyond the moral shackles. It no longer dwells in the Manichean black and white but finds comfort in the grey.
The youth today, prefer to explore and move on instead of staying in a toxic relationship. Love has moved beyond the era of ‘Devdas’. That does not mean we have lost romanticism altogether. ‘Ranjhanas’ are still alive in every nook and corner. However, the relationships are governed by the idea of liberation rather than confinement.
Hookups and casual relationships do not indicate that the youth shy away from commitments forever. Young adults do forge bonds for a lifetime when they find the right partner. Such ideas of love were always available to the upper strata of the society, what Tinder and the likes have done is bringing them down to the middle-class urban youth.
Thanks to globalisation, the mode in which a whole generation finds a partner has been revolutionised. The approach to romance has been simplified. Who knew that the flammable material used for lighting a fire, previously defined by the word “tinder” would adorn a more volatile meaning to ignite a new level of entropy in the love-romance dynamics?
If this seems to be the ending of fairytale love stories, well, it’s not. Daniel, a software engineer from a renowned IT firm, met his life partner Leena on Tinder. Daniel and Leena, a dance teacher, did not expect they would find the love of their lives on Tinder. But soon enough, they found in each other a match. Their first interaction was nothing special.
Then, things took off from there. “After I met her for the first time, I was driving home and I kept thinking to myself, 'God, I need to see her again before next weekend,'” Daniel recalled. The next day, he showed up at Leena’s apartment with the pair of anklets she said she wished to buy and now they are getting married. There are several other stories that begin like Daniel and Leena’s and end up in a relationship for a lifetime.
The new-age love or relationships also overcome several social dogmas. Millennials, today, are seeking partnership not for social reasons but for self-fulfilment. As more and more women are becoming economically independent, the dynamics of relationships are also changing. The youth is turning away from the social and economic reasons to find a partner. They now are looking for really personal things.
According to Dr Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, humans travelled in little hunting and gathering groups for millions of years. People commuted to work to gather fruits and vegetables and women contributed to 60-80 per cent of the meal. Most of the marriages or relationships, for that matter, were forged not for social reasons, but for personal reasons—for self-fulfilment. If people were stuck in a bad marriage they walked out. Therefore, the new-age love seems to be a move forward to the past, towards the sort of relationships we had for millions of years, on which the brain was built, on which the notion of love is built on.
Yes, in modern India, we are still living a prismatic life where tradition shackles relationships, where dating is still frowned upon. We still talk of the dichotomy between an arranged marriage and love marriage.
We still deny marital rapes. We still ignore consent. However, a change in the equation of love among the urban youth does cast a ray of hope to our movement towards an era where one can practice their will fearlessly. It might take a few more Valentine’s Days to iron the frowned eyebrows and reach a day where relationships will be more personal than economic, societal or political.
By: Soumya Mukherjee