Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: Try Tinder

"Have you been 'tindering' away?" asked a school mate on the phone. I wasn't sure what she meant and was subjected to a 10-minute lecture on how the social app was revolutionising communication between the opposite sexes.

When I asked a journalist friend about Tinder, he laughed throatily and said that such apps are great levellers—one could get a "like" from the friendly dhobi, the nosy electrician or even the local vegetable vendor and they could all troop down to my house for tea one Sunday evening. The thought was disconcerting. I found my erstwhile part-time Man Friday, who also works for a well-known politician's lover, on Tinder. I didn't want to risk the Tinder way of finding a friend or a companion. I didn't download the app for a while but then curiosity got the better of me.

It's digital filth. Everything has to happen quickly—chatting, meeting, sex and break up and then moving on to the next person. There's no room for friendship, romance, companionship.—Aarav, banker.

My first date was an engineer who works for a multinational company. A strapping, clean-shaven and short-cropped-haired Sikh, he takes holidays alone every year to get away from his difficult, aging parents and a sister battling cancer. His long relationship with a Jain girl ended when she bowed to pressure from her family and broke off the engagement. A deliberate bike accident and hip and shin bone fracture later, the man only lives for the moment and has no plans to marry or even seek a companion.

I met several people at parties and clubs who had some fantastic experiences on the dating app—others, not quite so much

For Naina, a public relations professional, the possibility of dating a space scientist—a good-looking, divorced man—appeared too good to be true. Sharing of pictures and exchanges of text messages were followed by late night phone calls. Naina wanted to meet him, he said he was busy with "matters of national importance" and would meet soon. One day he called her to tell her that his ex-wife had sneaked into his apartment with a duplicate key and wanted to come back to him. He said he had to deal with the situation legally and needed time but would keep her updated. Several weeks and hundreds of messages later Naina is yet to hear from the scientist.

Rini, an architect, said that most men used fake information about themselves, photo-shopped their pictures or even used other images as cover photo to create the illusion of the perfect prince charming—moody, romantic and full of ideas that would make a lonely woman go mad with desire. Usually chats would begin with the customary "hi" and then graduate to "where do you live" and "what do you do"' and then steadily progress towards trying to get a date with promise of a "good time". Most men, according to Rini and Naina who have had a good dose of tindering seemed to be into salsa, waltz and other forms of western dances but quickly swiped left to unmatch if they were asked why they were not doing bharatnatyam or kathakali. Everybody was tall, athletic, sporty and liked living it up—conjuring up a perfect world full of modern day knights.

Sapna, a publishing agent, confessed that she was besotted with an NRI who repeatedly texted her that he needed to fold her in his arms and make love as soon as possible as the waiting was making him dysfunctional. He even offered to take her to a friend's house and woo her with wine and a candlelight dinner before the big act. Good sense prevailed and she finally did not commence on this perilous date.

I was also told that Tinder is a parking lot for married men who want to improve flagging interest in their wives by temporarily dating "fun" women. Not interested in anything "serious", only "fun, fun and fun"— sexually explicit messages abound in the profiles of these heroes on the prowl.

For Jhuma, a corporate executive, her Tinder date was perfect until he insisted that she come to his friend's house from where he had to collect important papers. It was nearly 11pm. Jhuma refused and called an Uber cab. Her date was livid and walked off in a huff, leaving her in the restaurant to settle the bill.

Tinder certainly hasn't been able to ignite my imagination nor a need to hang out with "friends" who could melt into the darkness.

Jay, a producer of a popular show on a news channel was "date-duped" by a ravishing beauty who took him to a rather seedy restaurant in an upmarket neighbourhood and notched up a massive bill by ordering expensive liquor and food which she only picked at. After making some enquiries he found out that his date was a professional escort and has an understanding with many restaurants in the area to get unsuspecting dates and empty their wallets for a certain cut from the entire deal. "It's digital filth. Everything has to happen quickly—chatting, meeting, sex and break up and then moving on to the next person. There's no room for friendship, romance, companionship. There's just no time. I think when people will get fed up of being duped and squeezed hollow, they will go back to the good old days of romance and courtship," says Aarav, an irritated banker with a history of bad dates asking for money upfront or under some pretext of going through a bad financial situation.

From a lawyer who is separated and "mom-struck", a fashion photographer who likes to photograph his dates, a journalist who dates on weekdays and flies to see his family on the weekends to a cardiac anaesthetist who has an on-and- off girlfriend and wants someone who is not an intense person, Tinder is full of interesting and yet complicated men. And the men say the same thing about women.

Am I willing to check more people out on this site? Not quite sure that I would like to be rushed into anything, Tinder certainly hasn't been able to ignite my imagination nor a need to hang out with "friends" who could melt into the darkness.

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