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Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 1:24 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 2:58 AM (IST)

They click to stray...

The worldwide web of dating for married people is making inroads into the country and finding many takers

Jasmin Pannu

When a bunch of 20-odd women decides to change how the ever-so-coy and conservative Indian woman looks at her marriage, the cultural and moral sirens hoot aloud. But who cares? Fuelled by the cryptic technological world, the vast spaces online are offering Indian married couples a completely new opportunity to seek love and companionship outside the supposedly sacred confines of marriage. Dating portals for married couples — like Gleeden.com that has already made a whopping 3.5 million mark overseas — have now made their dramatic foray into India. The service, run exclusively by women and free for women, brings an opportunity for like-minded partners. In a fascinating first, men have to pay up and have to be verified by the all-women team before they can use the services.

“We speak for those men and women who want that this hypocrisy would end one day!” That is precisely how Solène Paillet, head of communications at the website describes the ideology of this dating portal.

Right vs wrong

So, is the Indian marriage system ready for the so-called revolution? “Young and smart married women form elite classes have found these online dating sites an easy route to thrilling romantic escapades,” Shamina Deol, a Ludhiana-based relationship counselor comments.  You may or may not agree with her, but things have, interestingly, moved beyond lust and physical intimacy for most of the women, especially in their forties. Given a chance and if freed from the social stigma, a majority of them would love to have a fulfilling emotional affair.

“When it comes to emotional needs, there is no right or wrong. Ethics and needs don’t go hand in hand,” declares Ananya Gupta, who feels there is nothing wrong in her temptation to register at one such portal. Mother to two teenagers, Gupta feels the pangs of loneliness as she adds, “I will at least have someone who will listen to me without being judgemental!”

What fuels the temptation

So, what is the real threat here? “A scaringly huge amount of youngsters in India still marry for the wrong reasons. Trapped in the web of societal norms, they trudge along, trying to adjust for years and keeping a pretense of happiness,” Pallavi Khanna, counselor and psychologist says.

Laced with a lot of excitement, these portals tempt you with the allure of freshness. As Maria (name changed) puts it aptly on findnewpassion.com, “I’m in love again! I cannot stop smiling, I tingle all over and I cannot wait for him to call. Thanks for giving me back my joy of living.”

This writer makes a couple of phone calls and there are not many who are shocked at the emerging trend. They don’t need any explaining too. They know the reasons too well. “I am always striving for an emotional connect, while physical intimacy rules the roost for my husband,” quips this young mother. On the other hand, Jaspreet (names changed), another woman in her thirties, blames the rush for money and luxuries to be the cause of the rift. “The temptation to stray is too strong when there are conflicts in a relationship. After all, it’s an easy, affordable pleasure as compared to the hard work of marriage!” she rues.

Talking of how the Indian familial system might fuel the need for such portals, Dr Harpreet, a new mother, adds, “One often feels fed up of trying to gain acceptance of the in-laws, which is why the modern urban woman is not shy of seeking companionship anymore.” On a similar note, self-proclaimed superiority of men over their wives is another reason according to Shreya Verma. “Why keep trying to prove my mettle to my husband who thinks he is always right and, worse still, that others have better spouses. Why can’t I seek happiness in an anonymous fling and lead a happier existence, even if briefly?”

The fallout

Indian marriages are all set to stand a test of endurance with online platforms promising to help you become open to modern configuration of romantic and sexual relationships, which is how the founders of open-minded.com like to talk about their portal. Personally, the adventurous sorts must keep a few things in mind.

So, what can go wrong, apart from the obvious relationship disasters? Well, things can go terribly wrong if hackers lay siege to a portal like it happened in the infamous Ashley Madison case. Details of thousands of users of the dating portal were leaked out and the users stood absolutely exposed. Amit Gupta, a web designer, has a word of caution: “It’s very easy for hackers to lay hands on sensitive information such as email addresses, pictures and even banking details. Make sure you are logged into a secure network and cross check before you put any photos or sensitive bank details on the portal.” Would it be better still to not stray? Who are we to say?

‘Debate open relationships’

Talking to The Tribune, Solene Paillet, head of communication management with Gleeden, a France-based website headquartered in Florida, says they don’t want to change the Indian society in any way, neither do they want to interfere in the institution of marriage. “The idea is just to raise a debate and to overcome the taboo of open relationships. Gleenden is promoting a service which allows married people (or in couple) to connect and to interact on a secured platform in complete privacy, with a moderation and customer service 24/7,” she says. Paillet says the concept is not fully accepted yet in India, especially by women. “However, a change is being seen with more and more women subscribing to dating websites.” She says the three cities that respond the best to their concept are Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. “Like married people from all around the world, married Indians have to deal with the daily grind: the work, the responsibilities, the couple, family life etc. and a lot of them don’t feel completely satisfied or happy in their lives. Gleeden is a way for them to make new encounters and to have their secret garden,” Paillet says.

How it works

To register, you need to give a few personal details, including your email address, sex and so on. You have the choice of giving your picture or not. You can choose to not reveal your identity. Once done, you can surf around for like-minded partners. The portals claim to offer complete security, anonymity and freedom to interact and allow you to chat and exchange pictures.

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