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"Either the picture on the website was the BEST picture he had ever taken, or it was a picture taken many years ago, or it was just not them!"

30 Dates in 4 Months!

One South Asian’s Online Dating Experience

By: Lakshmi Natarajan

People say that Indians growing up in the US have the best of both worlds. And, in many ways, we do. One glitch, though, is the question so many Indians ask themselves at one point or another—can I marry a non-Indian? Having been in many non-Indian relationships, I came to more appreciate being “Indian.” I realized that there are certain aspects of my life that I am not willing to compromise and sacrifice. I want to maintain my culture, my religion, and my family traditions. These decisions led to my pursuit—find an Indian man.

I have taken the “traditional” route before and let my parents introduce me to Indian boys. Most of the time, the guy was nothing like his parents described him and there was too much expectation around the initial “meeting.” Sometimes the parents were too involved, which put added pressure on an already awkward situation.

So I took the technological plunge into online dating. Yes, online dating. The new world of meeting other Indians.

Why online? I always find places to eat, new music, and vacation destinations—why not try to meet people online too? And, I could meet him on my turf—no parents, no family expectations, and no pressure. Only him and me.

I first pursued the major players—match.com and eharmony.com. But their profile systems did not include the “Indian” criteria I was looking for. They did not ask about all the different Indian languages, religions, and traditions. The contact information I received was from all non-Indians. So I delved into more specialized sites and discovered how many Indian dating websites are out there--IndianMatches.com, BharatMatrimony.com, Merapyar.com, and Shaadi.com, just to name a few. I chose one site and entered personal information in my profile which had drop down menus—where I am from, where I live, what languages I speak, and then a little blurb about me and what I am looking for in a in match.

Let the Dating Begin…

As a non-paying member of IndianMatches.com (now, IndianMatrimonials.com), I did not have access to others’ contact information. Instead, I waited for the men to contact me. And contact me, they did! In just two days, I received about twenty emails with introductions from different prospects that included their profile information, sometimes pictures, and personal messages. I made a generic email that I sent out to everyone on the first point of contact, but usually I hand-wrote the last sentence based on his profile. My generic email consisted of information not already indicated on my profile such as where I went to school, what specifically I do at work, things I like to do, and a little more about my family.

Some of the emails led to an exchange of phone numbers, and some did not. But in less than ten days, I had lined up my first date. And within 4 months, I went on 29 more. Some Saturdays were jam packed with a morning brunch, an afternoon coffee, and dinner. At times, I couldn’t remember which conversations I had and withwhom. Most of the time, pictures had been exchanged, so there weren’t any big surprises. But, about a third of the time, the pictures that I saw looked very different than the person I met. Either the picture on the website was the BEST picture he had ever taken, or it was a picture taken many years ago, or it was just not them!

Call me an optimist, but I was still more-or-less satisfied with the success of my dating marathon. I like to meet people and talk, two characteristics that have really helped me along this process and enabled me to keep an open mind.

Some of my online dating experiences gave me insight as to what makes a successful date. Here are some tips:

Online Dating--Navigating Your Way

For my first online date, I met Aanand (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) at one my favorite Thai restaurants in the New York City, Peep in Soho. Good food, moderately priced, and nice ambiance. It was a weeknight, so the restaurant was much quieter than normal. We had emailed each other for a few weeks and spoken on the phone a few times. I arrived about 5 minutes late; he was already waiting for me. So, we sat down and ate dinner. Our conversation wasn’t too exciting, but it did make me realize that we really had nothing in common and different goals in life. When, the bill came, I was surprised that Aanand paid. While this is the polite thing to do, I did not know what to expect from online dating. I figured that you must always be prepared to be independent. My date with Aanand leads me to Tip #1- Pick a place that is affordable to you and that you like… if nothing else, at least you had a good meal!

A few more dates down the road, I met another guy worth highlighting. Raj and I had been emailing each other for weeks and our eventual phone conversations were wonderful. We would stay up until 3 a.m. to talk—we really got along well. The picture that he sent to me was blurry and small. I wondered why, so I made some comments about it. He said that he would have to find more pictures and scan them, but I didn’t insist because I really liked his personality. So, I never actually got a clear photo. On our first date, when Raj approached me, though, I didn’t even realize that it was him. He must have sent me a picture that made him look really good, because he did not look the same in person. I took a deep breath and tried to move past appearances. I kept drinking during the date to loosen up a bit, because I couldn’t get over the fact that he looked nothing like his picture (this would be the 30% indicated earlier). It was at that moment that I came to another conclusion: while personality is extremely important and definitely the foundation of a relationship, there still needs to be a physical chemistry and I didn’t have it with this guy. Tip #2- Don’t let people tell you that looks don’t matter at all. They are definitely not at all the top criteria, but you need to feel some physical chemistry and that can’t be forced no matter how great the guy’s personality.

So I had two not-so-positive experiences, but the glass is still half-full. My most recent online dating experience with Kumar was excellent. It helps that we are probably at the same place in life. We are both not completely settled in our careers, but are seeking one person with whom we can grow. He also has a very optimistic attitude, which is exactly how I am. While we do not have a lot in common when it came to interests and hobbies, we definitely complement each other’s personalities. I am an enthusiastic and passionate person, while Kumar seems calm and quiet. Our first date was in Hoboken , New Jersey —for just coffee. This leads me to something else I have learned over the past year: Tip #3- Try to have the first date be coffee instead of dinner. This way, if you don’t like the person, you aren’t stuck with him for too long but, if the date is going well, you can always go continue on to lunch or dinner.

After our first coffee date, we met up a few more times. I don’t know if there was a strong chemistry or that special “click,” but we definitely get along. I learned something from him in every story he told and I enjoyed being around him. Unfortunately, geography prevented our relationship from progressing—I moved—but who knows? Maybe when I return to the New York area, we can meet up again.

All in all, if you want to meet more Indian people and start dating, is online dating the way to go? I would say it is definitely an option. True, thirty dates later I am still single. Living in a new city and working everyday, it is not easy to meet people. However, I am a firm believer in fate and destiny and I do believe that I will be able to meet “the one.” I don’t expect my prince to come to me on a white horse with a sign—or in a pop-up ad or email, for that matter—but he will come when I least expect him. But it doesn’t hurt to help him along with a technological siren.

Final Tip- You must have an open mind and want to meet many people. You cannot expect a connection with the first person you meet. At the very least, I have definitely learned more about myself and what I want from a relationship by going on so many dates. Online dating has really opened up my eyes to different things and I think for that reason alone, it is worth it.

 

Lakshmi was born in India and came to the US when she was four and grew up in Northern NJ. While she is Indian at heart, she has adopted to being American as well. Lakshmi works for a Fortune 100 diversified financial services company in the Corporate Global Business Development organization currently based in London. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new restaurants, volunteering with children and the Indian community, spending time with family, and traveling. She is open to hearing from you, so if you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact her at indianladyusa@hotmail.com.


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