Rizvaan, 20 and Sumeir, 22 met each other on Snapchat.
Somewhere over matching flower tiaras and millennial names, they found and added each other, and (over a period of many Snapchat stories) hopelessly fell in love. One calls it fate; the other calls it public privacy settings.
Both agree that they look their cutest when they use the puppy filter, and use it extensively as they virtually woo each other every few hours. It’s that simple.
There’s no denying that Rizvaan and Sumeir have had it easy. It’s 2017, most things in life should be (apart from world politics and global warming).
Before Snapchat became an overnight phenomenon, the dating world for the quintessential gay man was a very different place, (sans the puppy filter) — in fact, we’ve come a long way — and it’s nothing like the world we live in today, or the one that we read about.
Our extremely reliable ancient texts have made multiple references to a multitude of saints, gods and demi-gods breaking gender norms much before Jaden Smith even knew what it meant — gay, bisexual or transgendered — it’s evident that LGBT men have existed ever since mankind did.
And they’ve been finding each other ever since.
Over the decades, we’ve gone past searching for the next big something under the neighbourhood streetlight — we’ve cruised past the beach, typed out our ASLs in anonymous Yahoo chat rooms and giggled over gay personals in queer magazines. We’ve looked into unused washrooms, signaled at each other with colourful handkerchiefs at traffic signals, and bumped into one another at seedy, dingy bars. The trip from the streets to the sheets has been long and hard (no pun intended), but it’s been an interesting journey indeed.
‘I’ve relieved myself in a public washroom more than once,’ 40-something Vijay tells me over drinks at a bar. He’s an activist, so I think nothing he says can be inappropriate (politically correct, yes).
‘I had help, and it was beautiful.’
Very beautiful, indeed — and a lot of men chipped in. A cab driver from Bhilai, a student from an Arts college in town, two stockbrokers who work in the financial district, a waiter from an Udipi restaurant down the road and a television star with a girlfriend who stays by the sea (the one time). His list goes on for ten more minutes — detailed musings of his encounters and escapades, as I drink glass after glass of diluted rum. Where do we go from here?
Not the restroom.
We evolve (So did Vijay, who is a veteran). Moving on from clandestine trysts in phone booths to the ones on our phones, dating apps today are the manifestation of what mankind has been doing for centuries — devise new forms of communication, and then manipulate them into finding love, sex and long-term relationships.
Even though online dating has been in the headlines (of mostly trashy online magazines and internet sex columns) for ‘hijacking modern love’ and trivialising the concept of everyday romance, we are at the dawn of a new age — every year, new apps and websites sprout up, making it easier for men seeking men to find each other, and fall in love (or in bed).
It’s revolutionising relationships. We’ve sent footprints to torsos on Planet Romeo, favourited boys on Grindr, woofed at hopefuls on Scruff and Super-liked our way through a dozen matches on Tinder. Closer home, we’ve hidden behind celebrity pictures and stock landscapes for our seven minutes of Heaven on Desiboys.in — and we haven’t stopped ever since.
We are only moving on to better things — retweeting tweets to rekindle romances through Twitter, poking men indiscreetly on Facebook and waiting for them to salaciously poke us back, sending Instagram love to anonymous strangers, sharing their intimate brunches, birthdays, all the while gushing at pictures of Bobo, their cocker spaniel, when you’d rather be gushing over a romantic breakfast in bed for two. If you look at it, things haven’t changed much. We still scout the roads and send winks, only now we do it from our smartphones.
Technology makes trysting easier — because now you longer need to explain to a policeman why two grown men are parked in a side alley at midnight, with their pants (and inhibitions) lowered all the way down to their knees. The underworld of gay romances is so out and about, it could be an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but we are nowhere near the finish line yet.
This is just the beginning. There’s a sea full of men waiting to be found out there, and an ocean full of opportunities to find them.
Just make sure you use the right filter to find yours.
Illustration by Siddha Kannur/Studio Klew