Scanning the nightclub, marketing executive Rishi Neotia spotted a buxom girl in a hot red dress sitting alone at the bar. As he ogled at her, he saw many other men doing exactly the same. Though none of them actually went to chat her up, most men had the same question in mind - is she available?
As she turned around, most of them braced themselves for the arrival of a boyfriend. Instead they found her air- kissing another pretty girl. "It sort of raised our hopes. Instead of trying to hit on just one attractive girl- there were two. So we'd have better chances of scoring," says Rishi. "And sure enough, men swarmed around them, offering to buy them a drink, asking for a dance and, if they got lucky, some additional action as the night progressed."
'Additional action' - is that what all men want? Would it have mattered if the girl they spotted at the bar had a great body but no conversation? Or if she had a beau? "Chances are most of us would have backed off as none of us really want to infringe on someone else's territory," says Rishi. "However, there are quite a few who enjoy the chase as well."
Making the list
While most women tend to classify their men friends as 'just friends', crushes, friend with 'benefits', 'almost like my brother', extremely desirable or marriage material, men think of women in a less convoluted manner. Their categories are simpler
Women they want
Women they don't want (whether there is an opportunity or not)
Women who are off limits
"Making this list is always the simplest thing to do and many of us did carry it in our pockets in our younger days," says advertising professional Ryan Kothari. "For starters, it kept us in check. In the sense that there were a few people who were off limits, such as my best friend's sister, that hot cousin etc. And in reality the hotter they were, the more we had to learn to restrain ourselves."
But not everyone draws the boundaries, so does it matter who you have a quick romp between the sheets with? Ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar believes that any reasonably attractive woman who is hygienic works perfectly well.
Yes, there are some men who feel that they can make do with any woman who comes their way. "It's not like we're definitely going to land up with that one woman we have been lusting after. To find a woman who is attractive as well as available to be hit on is the rarest of rare," says banker Aditya Saurabh.
Strategy analyst Sudhir Syal agrees with Aditya's argument and says, "It's not as if we are spoilt for choice, since all the good women will always be taken even before we can get to them. Choosing between forbidden fruit and a plain Jane can get tough," he says, "And in dire straits, even the plain Jane will work."
The general view is that men are not averse to having sex with any reasonably nice-looking woman, and at times, even with a not so nice looking woman - if that's all they can get at that point.
But there is another set of men who feel that what gets them going is the chase. "I was once stuck in the lift with a girl who looked just like Sameera Reddy. While she kept talking on the phone with her boyfriend, all I could do was undress her mentally," says 29-year-old Ryan Kothari. "Somehow I got her to give me her number and I pursued her relentlessly. And although she did not give in one bit, I just enjoyed the chase so much that it seemed worthwhile."
For such men, the chase is all-important and if the girl in question is attractive, then even more so. "It's a burning lust that just needs to be satiated, and the chase does exactly that," says Amit, "It's the most exciting part and how it ends just doesn't matter." But, as Prahlad Kakkar points out ruefully, "With an attractive but unavailable woman you really have to use every trick in the book to pursue her". And not all men are up to it, no matter how interested they are.
It is equally true that there are many men who believe that as you grow older, your ideas of what you want in a woman change. Thirty-five-year-old music videographer MC Mathew believes that if he were faced with the same women ten years ago as compared to now, his choices would be extremely different.
"In my 20s, it didn't matter to me who the women were, what they looked like or what was going to happen next. All that mattered was how many of them I had been with," he says. "But now, even if she's hot, available and wants me desperately, I would still have second thoughts unless I really liked her".
And, as Colin Fernandes, deputy editor of the men's magazine Maxim, points out, "Of course the body quotient matters - we all do check out the hair, smile and the backside, but there's got to be something to carry forward the relationship," he says. There are men who feel that there has to be something in the woman for them to even feel like hitting on her.
Not every attractive woman is desirable, they say. According to musician Arjun Gupta, attraction is not just about looks - it's about a multitude of things. "You have to be attracted to a women on a number of levels. A good mind does matter a lot," he says.
Thirty-one-year old banker Amit Shukla agrees with Gupta. "So you sleep with a bimbo for a bit, but then what?" he asks. "What kind of conversation do you expect to have? I am not looking for someone who is supremely intelligent, but I need someone I can share common interests with, and with whom I can have a few laughs. While it needn't blossom into a long-term relationship, it does matter if it can last."
So while most women believe that the one thing all men want - without exception - is to get them into bed, the truth (it seems) is that quite a few men have a different perspective. A woman, whether available or not, has to appeal to them more than physically before they decide to actually make a move on her - and definitely before they decide to commit to her in a serious, long-term relationship.