So, this week, I wrote a story on the whole dating scene of today especially with all this swiping left, swiping right, and chatting business.
Okay, we didn’t have Tinder in the 80s or 90s. We didn’t even have WhatsApp, Hangouts, Yahoo Chatrooms because, hmmm, we had no Internet, you see. What the heck, we got television only in 1985 and cable TV (and in the process, Bold & Beautiful and Santa Barbara) in 1992.
The 22-year-old boy sitting next to me at office was bewildered. He asked, “So how did you guys romance?” adding, “you were so cute then, how did guys hit on you?”
That cute bit was to make sure I didn’t tear his copies apart, line by line. Nevertheless, who doesn’t like a bit of flattery? So I set forth to educate him and other twenty-somethings on romancing in the 80s and 90s.
“Hit on me? I would stare him down!” Ask the girls of the 90s what staring down a person means, and they’ll tell you it’s worse than looking a basilisk in the eye. If my looks could kill, a few people in Mattancherry would have been dead by now.
Romance was discreet – the aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara types – across houses, rooftops, classrooms, buses or even boats. First, you would look at each other, and maybe after six months, the girl would let out a half-smile. And that too only at the neighbouring school boys. Coming from a convent, it took us all of 15 years to talk to them, only because they were fiercely protecting us at inter-school fests. But once outside, in the bylanes of Fort Kochi, it would be back to half-smiles, lest the whole nunnery came behind us with “you are falling in sin” Catholic sermons.
College was better – we finally had boys in the vicinity though we had different stairways to reach our classes. I was the first to rebel, push my way through the boys on their stairwell and reach the top floor with a smile. Well, that was rebellion in those days. We encouraged budding romances – where couples had eyes for each other without touching; or a group of boys goading a shy boy to go talk to a girl. I don’t even remember shaking hands with a boy, even if he was a classmate, until I started Journalism school. It was all so sweet, innocent, and heady.
Outside college, we used to bump into the same boys because they came from the same neighbourhood, in typing classes, at Laxmi Bazaar (our go-to place for everything), at Shantilal Mithaiwala or at the different temples that dotted the area. There would always be a group of giggling boys smiling at a group of “Oh! I so want to talk to her but I don’t think I will” groups of boys.
Yes, the temple was an important meeting place. Between the circumambulations and various puja and bhajan gatherings, eyes met, smiles were exchanged and romances blossomed, only silently. Most of the time, people were too scared to take it any further than surreptitious telephone calls from phone booths or a walk together on campus.
When lives moved onto workplaces, and important careers had to be made, parents starting looking for grooms and most of the girls married by the age of 25. There were no Devdases lingering in the neighbourhood, no writs slit or beards grown.
Yes, there was a feeling of loss – of the innocence of childhood and youth, of camaraderie, and of friendships that drifted apart.
Now in 2018, when we have all connected on Facebook, and over WhatsApp Group, it’s so good to reminisce about friendships, romance and all the leg-pulling of men and women who are now in their 40s.
So twenty-somethings with Tinder, Woo, OkCupid and all those apps, this is how we romanced. Like we truly believed in it!