Romance is going over the rapids. Apart from cinema and literature, it is the café culture and convulsive texting that have turned love to a slightly junk easy-to-eat version of what it used to be. The turnover in hearts appears to be a far swifter business today. Gratification is sought in a jiffy and the ensuing dumping act is instant too.
Just a few decades back a girl risked her reputation – not to mention marriage chances – if seen out with a guy in an eatery. Sipping a soft drink in public always spelt elopement for the couple. Aunties saw and whispered to uncles, then they barged into the girl’s house and told her parents in the girl’s ‘best interests’. Anyway, her character was written off as ‘not good’ and everyone watched her belly carefully for signs of swelling.
This is thankfully no longer the case. Girls and boys are in pubs till late at night and no one feels compelled to drop each other back, and if a stray uncle and aunty spot them, they themselves quickly take cover as the uncle may not be the aunty’s uncle. And bellies go largely unwatched. A pre-marital pregnancy is no longer
izzat ka sawaal for the whole khandaan.
Easy to get a phone number, initiate contact and go LOL every few seconds when conversation lags. A smiley here, a thumbs-up there… no one has to scratch their head about what to say, what to say. No clearing of throats, no awkward smiles. No need to pen bad poetry; just cut-paste something beautiful from Google, and the other party goes aaawww.
Following, liking, commenting, DM-ing, sexting. For the youth of today, the old-fashioned wooing in the black and white films will appear senile. We watched Jeetendra and Sridevi execute synchronised steps while screeching high-pitched; kids today watch terse dialogue by actors on Netflix.
Also, being the children of divorces or bitter marriages takes its toll. The present crop of lovers is cool with break-ups as they are with hook-ups. Earlier even if your father had murdered your mother you were happy they were married to each other right till the end; now mothers are openly vocal about troubled marriages and themselves in other relationships once the divorce comes through. The adults currently coming out of the conveyor belt are sensitised to the idea of impermanence.
Each era is vain about its courtship rituals. It is easy to look down on this generation and declare their amour immature, budding and building as it does in the ether most of the time. But that would be the blind take on it. It is not emotions that contract or expand, it is the expression of them that’s susceptible to fashion.
AI has infiltrated EQ; chat-rooms are war zones. What was bold once is ‘lame’ today. The nitty-gritty, the nut and bolts of new-age dating, of playing hard to get, of starting something, of going with the flow, of changing the mind, of starting all over again is on fast-forward, yes. All of it only spells evolution in the mating game.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. Read Shinie Antony's columns