Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New Delhi and Mumbai, India

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Joshua, 31, Mumbai

What do you do?
I'm a producer. I make ad films.

Are you single?
No, I'm not.

Well, that makes it more boring. But you must meet a lot of women in your job.
I do meet a lot of women. If I'm single, I get naughty, but if I'm committed, I am committed.

How did you meet your girlfriend?
I was playing basketball. I love basketball. I'm a big fan of the New York Knicks. If I weren't producing and I were about six-foot-seven, I'd be playing basketball. So I met her on the basketball court. She's a big fan too. And she's nine years younger than me. And she never believed that I was nine years older than her.

How long ago was this?
Two years.

Was it love at first sight?
Yes. Absolutely. Two years ago I was much thinner.

Well, you're still very handsome.
Thank you. But two years ago I broke my ankle so I couldn't run, so now I've put on weight.

You're obviously successful and good-looking. What was it like before you met her? Because from everything I hear from women, I imagine a man like you was in high demand.
I was. Even before I got into production and ad films, I never had a problem with women.

Any good stories?
Loads. Like recently, I turned down a Playmate.

Like a real Hugh Hefner Playmate? You obviously have to give me details.
She was hot. But it just didn't feel right to me. I met her in Bangkok on a shoot. She was on my set. I was the producer, so all the models wanted to know who I was. And, damn, she was hot. I'll give you that.

Is it hard then? Being monogamous?
No, it isn't hard. Before this, it was, to be honest. But now it's not.

Your girlfriend is very lucky.
She is lucky. I can cook also.

You're breaking a lot of hearts with this interview. Do you sometimes wish you were still single?
I wouldn't say I miss it but there are times when… I don't know how to put it… when things aren't going right, you do wonder why you're in it, for a brief moment, but then you realise you're in love with this woman. I'm just being honest. If a lot of men were sitting with a hot woman like this, they would lie. Trust me. I've met a lot of men like that.

I've met a lot of men like that while doing these interviews.
For me, she's just so amazing that nothing else matters.

What is it about her?
She can't cook. She looks fabulous. She's an air hostess. And she loves basketball. In India, we don't get a lot of women into basketball. They're all cricket fans.

When you walk past a beautiful woman, is there anything in particular that you notice?
I'm not saying you have to be heavenly blessed, but you do have to carry yourself well. There are a lot of women who look good but just can't carry themselves. There are some women who aren't blessed but they carry themselves absolutely beautifully. That's the first thing — what appeals to the eye sends a signal to the brain. It's all about the first look. Unless you're really, really, really drunk. That's a different case altogether.

I feel like you have more good stories from your single days.
Well, I don't want to get dirty.

Please do.
No, no. It's unfair to the women. But once I was trying to hide from one woman, because I thought she was spying on me about another women. It was complicated, but I slept with both of them. And one of their sisters. I've been with a lot of women but I've never been dishonest. I don't like to hurt people.

Where do you see your future going? Marriage, kids?
Feb. 21, 2014. That's when we're going to get married. The 21st is the date we met, and 2014… well, it would have been 2013, but she's a little superstitious. Indian mentality. So 2014 it is.

Olivia, 23, New Delhi

What do you do for a living?
I'm a student at JNU. I'm really a U.S. student. A foreign researcher. I'm doing research on feminists in India.

How long have you lived in India for?
I've been here a year.

You mentioned that you're seeing someone. Is he Indian?
He is. We met about a year ago, when I first came to Delhi. He used to study in the U.S., and a mutual friend introduced us. He was the first friend I had in Delhi when I came. He showed me around. It was platonic for maybe a month or two, and then things kind of picked up and we started dating.

Had you dated Indian men before?
I had not, no. I've always liked them. But he's the first one.

What's it like? Are there cultural clashes?
His family is pretty progressive, I would say, so they don't have a huge problem with him dating a foreign girl. His sister studies in Singapore, so they're a really international family, and they just seem really cool with it. So no, it hasn't been too bad. He's a lawyer and all his friends are lawyers as well, so they're also very cool with it.

Any misunderstandings around the city? How does the Indian public perceive you with your boyfriend?
We definitely get dirty looks from aunties all the time. For a long time, early on, when we were dating, I wouldn't hold his hand in public. I'd feel bad because I was slightly taller than him. But then we just kind of grew into it — just kind of stopped caring what people think. I think the people in the neighborhood kind of know what we're about now, so they're not so freaked out.

So you live together?

How does your family in the States react to him?
They're great with it. There's a slight age difference, but they've been very open about it as well. My dad came from the U.S. to see India for the first time, and I introduced him to my boyfriend. My dad's a lawyer as well, so they really got along well.

How much is the age difference? Does it trouble you?
It's about eight years. But it doesn't trouble me. He's very young at heart, and I'm very serious for my age, so I think we balance each other well. He's going on another international fellowship next year and I'll be in Bangkok, so we're going to have to do the long-distance thing.

How do you feel about that?
I feel kind of worried about it because I've never really had a successful long-distance relationship.

Any good hookup stories?
Random hookups on the dance floor. Just regular bad decisions.

Anything good in India?
In India, kind of, yeah. I think foreigners, especially when they don't know Delhi very well, they run into this problem a lot… I don't know, there are a lot of rich Indian men in Delhi who prey on new foreign women who don't know what they're doing yet. So yes, I've definitely had run-ins with a few of that type, who own clubs and drive BMWs and you think oh my gosh, you're around really rich people and kind of freak out about it. But then they're kind of skeezy, making out with you, being really pushy about trying to sleep with you. I mean, it's fun hanging out with them, but you always know they're expecting something else, so you try to remove yourself. I've definitely had… that.

Rekha, 33, New Delhi

What do you do?
I work as a maid.

And you're married?
Yes. I married Mukesh when I was sixteen.

How did you meet him?
My family met his family and they liked each other. But then for three years, nothing happened. We didn't meet that entire time. Mukesh's family wanted to rush things, but my family said no at first. They thought I was too young. So after three years, Mukesh's family went to see another girl. But that day, Mukesh came to my house, and he saw me for the first time, and he said he didn't want to marry the other woman. He wanted to marry me.

What did you think?
I don't know. I saw Mukesh, but I didn't feel anything. I was willing to do whatever my family said.

But Mukesh knew immediately?
He did. He liked me.

Is it a good marriage?
Yes! Absolutely.

Do you have children?
I have a son. He's fifteen.

Women these days date and have multiple boyfriends. What do you think of that?
I think people should experience things. The age at which I got married should have been the time to be young. I didn't know that. I was engaged when I was fifteen. There was a lot of tension. Instead of being young and enjoying myself, I suddenly had the burden of a husband and a home. I took care of everything. I didn't get a chance to explore anything, understand anything. I didn't question anything. I think it's good that people now marry who they want to marry.

Will you let your son choose his own wife?
Yes. It's his decision. Hopefully he'll be intelligent and he'll find a good life partner. Someone who will understand him and someone whom he will understand. I want him to be happy.

It sounds like you have a happy family. You got a good husband. But do you have friends for whom the arranged set-up didn't work out?
Yes. I have friends who've had unhappy marriages. Especially one who married someone who didn't look anything like her picture. He only saw her at the wedding.

Did your family have to give a dowry?
Yes. We were quite poor. We gave a bed, some chairs, a cycle, a wrist watch, a clock, a small black and white t.v., a table fan, and some cupboards.

That's quite a lot.
Mukesh didn't want any dowry. He had said no. But my family thought they had to give something. Mukesh comes from a richer family and he's more educated than me, so my family had to do something. He could have had a better match, but he liked me. 
Mukesh and I were happy. We didn't need any of the traditions that go with a marriage. A simple temple wedding would have been enough for us. But the families wanted to follow tradition.

Do you think it's possible to fall in love at first sight?
Of course, of course. I didn't think it at first sight but Mukesh did. My father — why should I lie — he drank a lot. I used to get very angry — we were poor and my father drank a lot. My father really wanted Mukesh to fall in love with me. I didn't even like Mukesh coming to my house. I didn't want him to see our house. But then I also slowly fell in love with him. Now we get to live like a young couple. We go out, we do what we want. I don't know if it's luck or fate or God's work, but I got very lucky. Everyone always says how lucky I am. Mukesh is such a good man. He loves our son. He's so understanding. It's all fate in the end.