She walks into Starbucks 15 minutes late, wearing a loose-fitting black t-shirt, skinny jeans, and brightly decorated sneakers. Ordinarily, I’d be pissed at her tardiness, but she’s new to Bombay and has come all the way from Pedder Road to meet me in Bandra.
Her words are gentle, calm, and unhurried. She is pleased that I’m meeting her for coffee on Sunday afternoon (every other guy suggested drinks). She shares my passion for music and is very close to her father, whom she considers a genius. She’s a sweetheart.
She’s on Tinder because she doesn’t know anyone in Bombay to whom she isn’t related. Unfortunately, her previous dates with Tinder guys haven’t been pleasant. She sheepishly tells me about her last experience: the guy who seemed normal when he was buying her shots at a bar last weekend. Except he’s not normal. He’s exceptionally needy. Every time she takes longer than four hours to respond to his texts, he freaks out and calls her incessantly until she answers.
I ask her what she wants to drink and walk to the counter to order. When I return to the table, three minutes later, I find her gazing idly at her phone.
To me, three minutes isn’t a long time. It’s just enough time to look around — at the furniture, at the road outside, at the baristas, at the other people hanging out in the coffee shop. But instead of doing any of those things, she’s looking at her phone, oblivious to the world. It’s a completely understandable, innocuous action, but it fills me with sadness that turns unexpectedly into revulsion. This girl can’t be alone with herself for even three minutes.
I’m not sure why I’m so angry. Ostensibly, I’m mad about Tinder, but I know that it isn’t the real problem. Tinder is merely an expression of the deeper issue: my fellow millenials and I live in an antisocial society.
We don’t talk to strangers because we prefer to be with our phones. We aren’t getting laid because we’re Whatsapping too much. Deep down, we are lonely and dissatisfied with the present as it unfolds around us. We crave warmth, intimacy, sex — anything to soothe the nagging emptiness in our lives. We love Tinder because it doesn’t ask us to change, to stop staring at our screens. Tinder tells us that we’re fine, that we’re OK, to scroll more and swipe more and type more, because the next face to pop up on our smartphones might just be the one.
I sink back into my seat, deflated. I give up trying to be bright and cheerful. I am boorish and disinterested. This conversation isn’t going anywhere, but if I yawn enough, then maybe I can.
Watch out for Date #10
By Kunal Bambawale
Photography: Karan Khosla