Suraj Punjabi and Tanaya Gupta

Until recently, Suraj Punjabi believed that it was pointless – idiotic even – to consider using dating apps when seeking a life partner. That is, until he met Tanaya Gupta, an Indian TV actress, on a dating app Happn.

A part time actor and businessman – he set up two companies one dealing in hand embroidery exports, and a digital/influencer marketing agency – Suraj admits that for a while he was on several dating apps, not keen on a serious long-term relationship. “To me, dating apps help in that you don’t need to meet someone at a random party or social event to strike up a casual friendship,” he says. “On these platforms, the mindset is clear – you are there because you want to date someone, which removes the first awkward introductory step.”

He says that he made it clear to Tanaya when he first ‘met’ her on the app, that he was on multiple dating apps and was meeting a few others too. But recognising that they shared a chemistry, a few days after chatting with each other, they decided to meet up for a coffee.

Suraj met Tanaya on the dating app Happn. Once he felt he had found the right person in Tanaya, Suraj says he deleted all the dating apps from his phone

That first meeting was in July 2016. That first meeting was surely not the last.

“I think it was a three-hour conversation in which she spoke for more than two and half hours,” he says with a laugh.

Tanaya remembers seeing the app in an ad and decided to check it out hoping she would meet someone who she would vibe well and could chill out with, Although a happy-go-lucky person with a friendly personality, Tanaya admits that she is not an out and out extrovert.

“He was the first and last person I met on the app, and the first meeting was enough for me to understand that I could go on a date with him,” she says.

Suraj smiles. “She perfectly complimented my thought process and ideology. She supported what I wanted- or didn’t want- in our relationship, and likewise, I extended that same level of support to her.”

He is pleased that she is one person he could “open up with about anything under the sun. There wasn’t something that we couldn’t solve or talk out”. So it didn’t take long for the relationship to develop organically and move from the casual to the serious stage, and eventually to marriage.

Before that of course, the duo spent a lot of time getting to know each other. “We shared likes and dislikes, lifestyles, even discussing about our previous relations and lessons learned from them,” he says, adding that once he felt he had found the right person in Tanaya, he deleted all the dating apps from his phone.

As for Tanaya, once she realised that they shared a bond, she was keen to meet Suraj’s family and some of his close friends to get to know more about him.

Close to a year after they first met, Suraj, in May 2017, introduced her to his family. “Both our families are open-minded and didn’t bother too much about how we had met,” says Tanaya.

A year later, Suraj proposed to Tanaya in the Maldives. “I had planned it months in advance. I had a massive bank of backup ideas if the first one didn’t work and coordinated with the fantastic team at the Maldives resort I successfully pulled it off,” he says, all smiles at having found love on the net.

The couple tied the knot on March 30, 2019. Soon after their marriage rituals, they hit the dance floor at a restaurant in their traditional wedding attire and danced the night away.

A major takeaway from her experience in finding the right person, says Tanaya, is the fact that she trusted her instincts. “I believe it is important to trust your instincts when you are looking for a relationship. The more open-minded and relaxed you are, the better you will feel, and you’ll have more fun.”

Veena Hari and Vivek Iyengar

“The main thing that clicked for us was an alignment of values and a matching of energy. It helped me decide that she was the one for me,” says Vivek Iyengar, who found his love Veena Hari through Aisle app.

Thanks to his busy professional life, Vivek, an investment banker in Mumbai, was finding it a challenge to socialise outside his immediate social circle. Although keen to find a life partner, he, however, was not comfortable scouring through matrimony websites simply because that “usually meant more family involvement”, he says. Meeting through dating apps, he felt, was easier. “There is not too much pressure; one can be more direct and frank on these apps.”

Veena admits to having certain reservations when she met Vivek the first time. “The second time we met was after almost a year,” she says, “and that’s when things clicked for us.”

Vivek had been looking for “a life partner” for over three years before he met Veena on the Aisle dating app

She admits that when she downloaded Aisle, she did not have many preconceived notions about how it would work for her. “I believe that was helpful for me- not to take this process too seriously,” she says. A mental health practitioner and the podcast host of Mothering, she did not have a lot of time to spend on such apps, “so I don’t have any bad experiences, but I do know of friends who have had unpleasant experiences.”

After dating for eight months, the duo broke the news to their families who were happy for them. “Vivek is a great guy, and my family was thrilled about our decision and were entirely supportive,” she says.

Vivek’s family also viewed their relationship positively. “Given that I had rejected many proposals over the years, my family was delighted that I finally decided on someone,” says Vivek, adding that his family “did not have any issues” about the fact that they had met on a dating app.

Veena wanted to make it clear to her immediate family how she met Vivek and she acknowledges that “Vivek’s support helped me get over the reservations I had about being judged for being on a dating app in the first place”.

Vivek says that he was cautious about marrying the first person he was attracted to fearing he might have erred in his judgement. “For over three years I had been looking for a life partner before I met Veena on the app. It can be a gamble as it’s impossible to know ahead of time about the person, and initial feelings can also be wrong.” But the more they got to know each other, the more comfortable they felt in eachotehr’s company.

Four months after they informed their families, the couple tied the knot on April 2, 2017, in Bangalore, India.

His approach was taking time in building judgment and taking an informed decision as that reduces the chances of regret in life.

“I think the trial and error of meeting many people was an essential part of the journey to understanding what I wanted – and did not want – from my future life partner. Fortunately for us, it’s going great, and we are very happy together.”

Veena agrees. “[The app] worked out well for me in the end,” says the mother of one. 

Amal Bahloul and Ltaief Dhaouadi

For Ltaief Dhaouadi, it was love at first sight, but it took almost a month for him to realise he was truly in love. Until then, he was convinced love at first sight wasn’t real and kept finding excuses to underscore that.

A Tunisian hospitality manager in Malaysia, Ltaief met his life partner Amal Bahloul, also from Tunisia but raised in the UAE, on Bumble.

Ltaief struggles to make it clear that he didn’t fall in love with her on Bumble although admitting that he had a gut instinct that he had found his partner the moment he met her on their first date. “I’d met so many people before that, and I knew that she was special. With each passing day, it became more and more evident that we could live peacefully and lovingly together.”

Ltaief met Amal on Bumble

Ltaief downloaded Bumble during the pandemic, hoping he would meet someone with whom he could have a serious relationship. “I liked the app for its reputation; it’s a feminist app that isn’t a hook-up platform, but for serious relationships, networking, and friendships. I wanted my intentions to be clear.”

Like Ltaief, Amal, too signed up to the app during the pandemic hoping to expand her social circle. “Dating apps help you widen that circle. When you meet new people, you learn what you like about certain people what you don’t. I had to be open and work on my prejudices to find love. I had to get rid of that checklist that society put into my subconscious and follow my instincts,” she says.

Amal says she can very easily notice any red or green flags during a date: “Ltaief had a lot of really nice green flags and no red ones.”

So on their second date, she asked Ltaief if he would like to accompany her on a trip to Kenya. Ltaief agreed. “I fell in love with him during that trip; I realised I had found the right person,” she says.

When Amal, an entrepreneur and film producer, told her parents about the man she was in love with, they were initially a bit concerned. “They were apprehensive but, with time, became more accepting.” They urged her to make sure that she had thought through things clearly. To break the ice, she introduced Ltaief and to her mother before they went on the trip to Kenya “to be more comfortable with the trip.”

As for Ltaief’s parents, they were supportive from the beginning. “I’m very close to my family and two days after Amal, I told my mom about her.” Then once he decided he was going to Kenya with her, he told his dad.

Ltaief admits that he had experienced a few rocky relationships, but going through a journey of self-love helped him “enter this relationship with an open heart and no expectations”.

“Communication and honesty made me understand what I expected from a life partner. I wanted healthy and true love, and with Bahloul, it was clear that she wasn’t one to play games. I loved her in a month as if I had known her for 26 years,” he says.

On January 15 this year, the couple got engaged in Dubai. They are planning to get married next summer.

Geet Kandya and Dhristi Wadhwani

“I thought our first meeting would probably last 15-20 minutes to know each other; surprisingly, we ended up talking for about three hours,” says Geet Kandya, who met Dhristi Wadhwani on Tinder.

It was Geet’s best friend whopersuaded him to open an account on Tinder so he could meet someone with whom he could connect. “At the time, my expectations weren’t high as I didn’t see my friends or close ones clicking with someone on dating apps” says the entrepreneur who works in the oil and gas sector. But he felt he should give it a shot as “I felt a vacuum in my life, especially given that there were limited engagements due to my nature of work and everyone in my social circle and my close friends was getting married.”

Geet’s best friend persuaded him to open an account on Tinder, where he would find Dhristi after a month on the app

Geet did strike a few matches but they didn’t translate into anything meaningful. Then one day, after about a month on the app, he met Dhristi. After chatting for a week he persuaded her to meet up at a cafe.

If the first meeting lasted for some three hours, Geet admits speaking for “90 per cent of the time” sharing with her stories about his life and experiences of growing up in India and moving to Dubai as a teenager.

Although he felt “the connection was there instantly”, the two were reluctant to rush into a relationship and felt they needed more time to get to know each other.

Over two months, they chatted “almost throughout the day”, and would meet each other once or twice a week usually on weekends. “By then, I knew that she was the one in my heart.”

Geet says that deep inside both knew that they were extremely comfortable in each other’s company and that “nothing, and no one made us as happy as we felt with each other”.

After dating for six months, Geet finally decided to propose to her.

As for Dhristi, her family were gently persuading her to get married, even arranging some marriage proposals. However, she was not keen on an arranged marriage. It was her sister who convinced her to join Tinder and although she was initially hesitant, she realised “I needed a sense of belonging with a life partner”, so signed up on the app.

But after close to three months on the app, during which she had a few not-so-pleasing experiences she was about to give up and quit the app when she connected with Geet. “He was very calm and a complete gentleman from day one,” she says.

“There was mutual respect from the first chat, and that is when I knew I’d like to chat further.”

During their first meeting itself, Dhristi was delighted to note that they were able to share a positive equation of friendship, honesty, respect and ease. “Once we began dating, I requested him to meet with my sister and brother-in-law, as my family is the most important part of my life, and their consent and support means the world to me.”

Geet agreed and won their hearts.

A few weeks later, “convinced that Geet is a safe and gentlemanly guy whom I could trust”, she told her mom about him and that she was keen to marry him. “Initially, my family was apprehensive, but once they interacted with him, they were completely comfortable. They always told me to take my time and ensure the trust is built with mutual respect and understanding,” she says.

In Geet’s case, his family were very supportive and did not place any pressure on him for an arranged marriage. “They were happy if I could find a life partner on my own. I feel very fortunate with the ease and support of my family.”

So when he was convinced that Dhristi was the woman of his dreams, the first person he spoke to was his father. “Dad was on a project overseas at the time but I called and told him. I knew he would be supportive, and he was delighted but asked me how serious I was and how I planned to move forward.”

The next step, says Geet, was to travel to India to meet with Dhristi’s family. With that a success, Geet travelled once again to India, this time with his father, to seek Dhristi’s mother’s blessings and permission with an Indian traditional style formal proposal.

Once Dhristi’s mother gave the green signal, Geet decided to surprise Dhristi on her birthday and pop the question on the attractive settings of a dhow at Madinat Jumeirah. “She made me the luckiest guy in the world by saying Yes,” he says, the joy and happiness evident in his tone.

Six months later, on June 25, 2020, the couple got married.

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