Published: 28th August 2018
How Indu Harikumar is finding out how Indian peeps date on Tinder, via Instagram
Artist and illustrator Indu Harikumar explores modern romance, relationships, how Indian women date on Tinder and all things love through her drawings and Instagram
Have you ever wondered how dating apps have changed the way we date? Or about the paradigm shift in the dating culture in India. To find these answers, artist and illustrator Indu Harikumar, started #100IndianTinderTales — a project where she crowdsourced stories and individualised portrayals of the relationships people build on dating apps.
But what was her inspiration behind #100IndianTinderTales, we wonder. "It was in 2015 that I first used Tinder on the insistence of my Russian flatmate. I was 35 years old then and was visiting Vienna for an art residency. I thought my chances of finding a date were dismal. I was also apprehensive about using the app in a German-speaking country but decided to give it a shot. I used the app several times in Vienna and came back with my ego nicely massaged and tried it here. I soon realised that I wasn't an exotic stranger who men were googling, and that was a bit disconcerting," she explains.
So she figured that she wasn't alone. There had to be a sisterhood out there, "I wanted to know what other people's experiences on the dating app were and decided to find out. I knew my project was doomed because why would anyone be vulnerable to a stranger," says Indu Harikumar adding, "As the project picked up, absolute random strangers started talking about what goes on in their heads, hearts and bodies when they put themselves out there. I began hearing stories of wants, fears, sexual behaviours, dispositions, attractions, and preconceptions — all of that and more."
For the artist, it was heartening to see that a good many women asserted themselves as sexual beings — taking control of their bodies and their minds, giving into desire and willingness to share their stories without shame or embarrassment. "This made me feel I am not the only one not experiencing the 'happily ever after' that so many of my Facebook friends are bragging about. And just like me, everyone was looking for a connection," she adds gleefully.
Indu has also illustrated several children's books. After the success of #100IndianTinderTales, she started another crowdsourced art project #HowWeDate in association with Tinder. "In 2016, I started #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 insights seemed like an organic extension; we started #HowWeDate, an attempt to capture India’s perspectives on dating. How we date, where we date, what we like/dislike, our experiences on Tinder, what we’re looking for when it comes to dating/love/relationships and most of all what makes us swipe right on Tinder," she adds.
The way our society is structured, it is difficult to meet people outside family and immediate friends, and women have elucidated “if I am an engineer, the only men I get to meet are also engineers"
Indu Harikumar, Artist
Here's the big Q. Have dating apps changed the way we date? "It’s so interesting to watch how urban Indian society is transitioning and the desire for the ability to make their own choices increases with each generation. I grew up in a time where you only dated if you thought there was a solid future or you were in love. Among my friends, I knew lots of people who married the first guy they met (or at least aspired to), with variations across parts of the country and even within parts of Mumbai. I remember the lack of social media sharing of pictures and couple photos unless the twosome was married/nearly married, but this trend is also changing," reasons Indu.
She also says she is amazed at the variety and plurality of people's experiences and it helps her accept her own flaws and shortcomings. "I had no idea the project would change my perspective on gender, sexuality, dating and up my self-esteem. I think the journey over the last few years has helped me slowly move away from my pious Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki image and be more accepting of who I am," she avers.
So what's next on the cards for her? Currently, a part of #100IndianTinderTales is an exhibition called Amor to Tinder at Kunsthalle Bremen, a museum in Germany. "I am collating people's experiences through Instagram stories for a crowdsourced art project on love, sex and desire," she concludes.