Has lack of qualification ever stopped Indians from volunteering opinions? No, right?

I say this as preamble for this column where I, a married woman, is talking about the single life in Bengaluru. By some estimates, I am overqualified, having been in a stable relationship for several decades. To be fair, I interviewed a ton of single folks before writing this. Some threads emerged.
Dating isn’t set up for introverts. Whether you are on Bumble or any other dating app; whether you attend singles meetups that happen regularly in the city; the whole set up favours extroverts who project confidence. So what do you do if you are not much of a talker?
Action was the answer given to me. If you are not good at the self-marketing that needs to happen when you do speed-dating, consider just speed. Join one of the running clubs in Bengaluru. They meet on weekends in Cubbon Park and run together. Folks are friendly, inclusive, interesting and best of all, don’t force you to talk. You can just show up, stretch a bit, sip water, make eye-contact with folks you find interesting, and then run in the group. Over time, that cute single you are interested in will come up to you with a simple, “Good run, wasn’t it?” and off you go.
The same applies to the many hiking groups that exist in the city. India Hikes, the portal, offers overnight hiking trips to Savanadurga, Rangaswamy Betta, Nandi Hills and other excellent hiking spots. Talking isn’t necessary, walking is.
Nature is the other area where folks aren’t judged by how much they talk. As a bird-watcher, I can tell you that nature allows for singles and silence. When you are standing in Lalbagh and watching a green sandpiper (a shorebird) on the lake, there is no need to speak and impress. You can stand next to the object of your interest and ask a simple question: “Do you know the name of that bird?” A non-profit website called “Bngbirds” announces bird-watching meetups that happen every Sunday in different parts of the city. Carry a pair of binoculars and go.
Dating is both exhilarating and exhausting. There is the hope of course, that you will meet THE ONE, which, I can tell you is a fool’s errand. The problem with the whole “soul mate” idea is that it forces you to imagine one person to be attentive friend, a lover, caregiving parent, and fun-filled date at the same time. It is as if you have rolled up all your needs into one person, rather than parsing it out to different people which is what happens in real life. That’s a lot of pressure on any person. No wonder things fall apart.
Clubs like Let’s Socialise and Small World which organise singles meetups make the whole dating thing a caricature. The hired facilitator forces you to do uncomfortable things like salsa dancing and clay-painting. Tell me, in all the relationships that you have seen (whether it is parent, sibling, cousin or friend), have you ever once heard a couple talk about salsa-dancing as a way to improve the relationship? Clay-painting at least forces you to get your hands dirty, quite literally. It takes away from the tension of being well-dressed because guess what, you are going to have soil on your clothes anyhow.
Speed-dating is a different beast and rather exhausting. Going in with low expectations and having a sense of humour helps defray the tension, I am told, but most singles hate speed-dating. They do it because they work at start-ups with little free time and believe that speed dating can be an “efficient” way to meet a future partner. Having a pre-prepared script or at least a few bullet points about what you are going to talk about helps. Asking normal questions (Where do you work?), personal ones (I love going on safaris. Do you?), and stand-out questions (Did you like where you grew up? When was the last time you were afraid?) help you stay memorable in the minds of all those folks you meet for 3 to 5 minutes.
Bookstores are a good place to meet folks if you happen to like to read. A couple of weeks ago, at Atta Galatta, I came upon a stack of gift-wrapped books by the counter. When I asked Subodh Shankar, the genial owner of the bookstore about them, he said, “Oh, those are what we call a ‘blind date with a book,’ in that you don’t know what book you are getting.”
There are a lot of dates happening this month in Bengaluru, with Valentine’s Day around the corner. When I went on Tinder’s section on dating ideas in Bengaluru, it recommended Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Wonderla, and weirdly, the Iskcon temple as places to go to find single folks. But maybe the temple, church, gurudwara or mosque is not a far-fetched idea at all. It happens even today all over India. When I asked two young women, who work as nurses in my building about how youngsters of marriageable age meet in Chikmagalur or Sakleshpur, they said, “At family weddings or in temples.”
So go ahead and date away. Do it your way, whether it is through a jog in the park, a drink at a bar, or dinner and a movie. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Shoba Narayan

Shoba Narayan is Bangalore-based award-winning author. She is also a freelance contributor who writes about art, food, fashion and travel for a number of publications.

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