When Harry met Seema
Harney Henderson on dating Indian women.Updated: Aug 22, 2013 12:15 IST
So, what are the dating prospects for a single, white Englishman in India? I first realised there were going to be some big differences in the way men and women interact at an event in London for Indian journalists.
I did a Richard Gere. Yes, I kissed an Indian lady - who is a friend of mine and happily married - on the cheek. It was greeted with audible gasps and piercing stares from around the room.
Whilst I wasn't quite given the Gere treatment and threatened with arrest, it was certainly a wake-up call. Cultural differences I have come from a culture of casual dating and one-night stands.
Of fast love and faster divorces. India, I have very quickly found, does not conform to the usual boy meets girl story that happens all over London (boy meets girl, buys her a drink, and another, and another and wakes up the following morning next to her).
Here, sexual promiscuity is a no-go-area, bringing shame on entire families. Casual, western-style dating without the firm goal of marriage is rare to non-existent.
Many relationships are still heavily defined by religion and culture, including the 5,000-year-old custom of arranged marriages. However, does all this mean that an eager, fresh-faced English boy can't get any?
Well, in my case yes, so far, but I have been on some exploratory missions to confirm this. Night club disappointment My first trip to a nightclub was a huge disappointment.
I went to a club in Bandra with a friend - not with the intention of chatting up women but with an open mind. The drinks were flowing, the girls were pretty and the skirts were short.
However, any sort of flirting or friendliness was completely absent. The Indian women were totally disinterested in us and the Indian men were prickly and defensive of their patch.
The friend I was with warned me that there is no point dating Indian girls: "I went out with a girl here for six weeks and all we ever did was hold hands and go on dates that included all her friends. It was pretty dull," he said.
Undeterred, I went out the following week to another club in Juhu. I got talking to a girl at the bar. She was a trainee airhostess and seemed very nice and friendly.
With a fresh level of optimism, I asked the girl for her number. It was given. I called her a couple of days later to arrange a date. All was looking good.
The date itself, however, was not. Maybe I was boring her to death, but the conversation was so oneway that I was running out of engine fuel.
Question after question, witty anecdote after witty anecdote, gag after gag and still no response. My date barely acknowledged my existence and just starred at her drink, smiling meekly occasionally.
This and that We parted amicably with what I interpreted as a mutual acknowledgement that things had not quite worked out. When she called me the next day to ask me out again I was shocked. Had she enjoyed it?
Had she just been bowled over by my sparkling banter?! Either way, I was un-convinced and so ended my only romantic dabbling in Mumbai. Thank God I never had to meet the father.
However, Indian girls in Mumbai are not as conservative as my experience suggests if one ex-pat I met is to be believed. A French guy I know is full of wild tales of his sexual exploits in the city.
He claims that one-night stands are a regular occurrence so long as the girl is satisfied her dignity remains in tact. "You have to meet them secretly and swear not to tell anyone." Call me traditional, but this line of dating struck me as pretty dodgy, creepy even.
The limitations of the sexual revolution and family pressures for inter-caste unions mean that you would have to put in a lot of hard work to win over the girl and convince the father you are playing the long game.
As for me, I'll just have to turn my attentions to cricket - which, after all, is better than sex, right?