Illustrator Indu Harikumar partnered with Tinder to ask #HowWeDate, and came up with some interesting observations and answers.
As a 40-something woman with 20-somethings as colleagues, I am not far from the dating scene, in terms of information at least.
While Tinder may have changed the way young people approach dating today, have we wondered what kind of impact it has on the way women look at relationships? Probably not. The truth, however, speaks of a befuddled generation of women who are trying to traverse the dating route – objections, observations, traditions, et al.
It is in this context of unravelling the answer as to why women date that illustrator Indu Harikumar partnered with Tinder.
Previously, she had met success with #100IndianTinderTales – a 100-day project showcasing crowdsourced stories of how Indians use Tinder. This time, the focus was on crowdsourcing stories on dating, love and relationships using social media, and then turning them into illustrations.
Different perspective towards dating
“In 2016, I decided to start a 100-day project titled #100IndianTinderTales in an effort to crowdsource stories on how Indians use Tinder, the way they date and to illustrate real-life Tinder experiences. Given the resounding success of user submissions, partnering with Tinder for more insight seemed like an organic extension. We started #HowWeDate, with the purpose of capturing India’s perspective towards dating – how we date, where we date, what we like/dislike and our experiences, are what makes us swipe right on Tinder. It’s indicative of what we’re looking for when it comes to dating/ love/ relationships,” explains Indu.
The artist, illustrator, storyteller and prolific children’s writer opened up her Instagram direct messages late last year and started asking people questions on dating, sex, sexuality, and menstruation. Indu started to put out user submissions as Instagram stories and her expression of vulnerability encouraged other users to be open as well.
Indu found the user stories reflected regular apprehensions, fears, perceptions and even validations about the idea of love, dating, and sexuality.
“The responses are indicative of the changing nature of women’s mindsets, approach and candour when it comes to romantic relationships and expressing their sexuality,” she says.
From what her crowdsourced stories tell us, women are looking for a lot more than only long-term romantic relationships online.
Gender dynamics and self-realisation
From stories of love at first sight to epic first dates that turned into friendships, from platonic relationships to longing for deep love, or heartbreaking tales of unrequited love, Indu came across a myriad of anecdotes.
“We asked about 20 questions in all, and had responses pouring in from users that sparked even further conversation. I didn’t track the number of responses, but it would easily be hundreds, if not thousands. I go with my gut feeling when it comes to picking a story to illustrate. I pick a part of the story that appeals to me most and start drawing. It comes together as I continue working on it. If I can call what I do as a process, then I would say it is chaotic, full of energy and I never know what I am going to draw until I’m finished. #HowWeDate was a mixed media project and I hand-drew all the illustrations. I also used scraps of paper from glossies (that I cut up to create patterns) and used fabric swatches from a tailoring unit. Then, to make it more three dimensional, I digitised them in Photoshop,” she says.
She quotes a sample from these crowdsourced stories women shared with her.
“This is probably the least romantic relationship I’ve ever been in by the usual metrics. Both of us know that permanence can slip away just like that, and that you can get over anything, really. It’s not all roses. We fight about space and monopoly and social media and why the f**k must he be so rigid and why the f**k must I skew towards believing in humanity. We try for honesty. We live in the age of shifting geographies and uncertainty. Right now though, I’m happy to co-exist in this little Venn diagram of possibility, this little corporate-sponsored accident of love.’
From ideation to crowdsourcing stories to illustrating them, the entire project lasted less than three months.
Love and finding love is not linear
Indu believes the one thing that stood out to her was that the experience of love and finding love is not linear.
“For me, personally, the choices that dating apps have provided have helped me self-discover, have a healthier and more established sense of self and identity, and a positive body image. I’ve always liked online platforms as it brings together people of common interests through active choice rather than common backgrounds and passive happenstance. I am amazed at the variety and plurality of people’s experiences, and it helps me accept my own flaws and shortcomings,” she says.
“I grew up in a time when Bollywood decided the rules of romance for most of us. Like most women of my generation, I bought into this idea, and wasn’t looking to meet men outside of checking the long-term commitment box, like marriage. The way our society is structured, it is difficult to meet people outside family and immediate friends. I have instances where women have said that ‘if I am an engineer, the only men I get to meet are also engineers’,” she adds.
For Indu, the most important outcome of this exercise was all about choices. “From what I have gathered based on user submissions, this generation has mostly seen and often partially lived first-hand a world of arranged marriages, gender segregation and sexual taboos – a world of limited choice. And now they can see and have the option of something different, so they are choosing a different paradigm for themselves – especially women.”