No, we don’t.
We claim kinship to members of the opposite sex, exchange gifts on a designated day of the year and occasionally append a ‘bhaiyya’ or ‘didi’ to their names. We hang around in bunches when we’re in college and pretend we’re not specifically there for one person. When Facebook decides that India is a big market, they’ll probably add ‘is rakhi brother/sister of’ to their relationship options.
I’m confused. I straddle two worlds, one that recognizes and lives in the above references. The other whose daily relationship landscape includes hooking up, one-night stands, living in, asking out and multiple relationships. Where does someone who lives in both worlds at once stand and what is our language for it?
This new, urban India I represent, it has an oft-used passport, it’s on Season 6 of HIMYM (even knows what that stands for) and has a favorite browser and smartphone app. But it also has a life that’s kept separate (even secret) from family, consumes Bollywood-bedecked archaic rituals and is petrified of talking about sex (only talking about it, not doing it).
Attraction – should it be acknowledged or not? We can’t say. We’re simultaneously cool and appropriate.
We don’t live under strict rules of interaction with the opposite sex (though many of us were brought up with those in childhood and well into our adolescence). We’re allowed to hang out, even solo and be friends with the opposite sex. But we don’t know how to differentiate between the friendly interactions and the ones with a definite romantic/sexual motive.
I seem to often err on this. I’m friendly and approachable so conversations, interactions and associations abound. Sometimes lines get crossed, motives are misunderstood and feelings are hurt. Relationships and conversations are complex, this is true. But we don’t even have a language for broadly distinguishing what might be what.
We need an India-friendly way of saying “I’m interested in you but if you’re not interested or single, don’t worry, I’m not weird.” Subsequently we’ll also need an India-friendly way of saying, “No, thanks. That’s not possible. But it’s okay. We’re just two human beings and we’re alright.” And until then, ‘friends’ doesn’t cut it and ‘dating’? That’s just plain foreign.