Frustration. For some singles out there, the pandemic and lockdown have been extremely frustrating. (Everyone interviewed was in their 20s.)

*Navya explains, “I prefer casual dating. I like to meet new people and have a good time with them, in cafes or clubs or even going sight seeing… but Covid 19 has put all that on hold. Its extremely frustrating, I miss that sense of adventure and the adrenaline rush. And I know I may not be able to indulge in it again any time soon… which aggravates the frustration!”

Arpita laments, “I am 23 but I have never been in a relationship. With the pandemic striking, the possibility of entering in one has become even more difficult. Avoiding social spaces means not being able to meet new people. I’m afraid I might die single only!”

And what about dating apps?

Not for *Arjun. “Personally, I find dating apps detestable. They force me to judge a person on their looks and swipe accordingly. I find that a little disgusting, can’t bring myself to do it. Yes, one can choose from the person’s bio as well, but those can easily be faked. In the end, it all boils down to the looks.”

Tiya has a similar problem with online dating:

“I don’t think dating apps would work for me in the current situation. Im not willing to take the risk of venturing outside to meet anyone, especially a stranger. And personally, Im uncomfortable with the idea of virtual dating, as I don’t believe it will help me understand the other person completely.”

“Getting to know a person and trusting them enough for a relationship requires much more than looks or the grey matter in ones head,” she explains. “It means understanding their overall personality and general attitudes. These can be understood through non-verbal cues, including body language, which are revealed only in physical meeting.

“For example, in the film Lage Raho Munnabhai, a girl dumps a guy when he does ‘choo choo’ to signal the waiter. You can not discern these elements through virtual dating.”

For those already in a relationship, like *Aarohi, this period has been a test like no other.

“My relationship did not work out well during the lockdown. There was a lack of communication between us, and that is a big disadvantage in times like these. However, this period gave me the time for some serious introspection, as to what my needs are, and what expectations I have from my future partner.

“The experience has been very revealing. I believe everyone should use this time to understand themselves better before committing to a relationship,” she says.

*Dhruv and *Lisa too learnt some important lessons during the lockdown.

“We were classmates, but are now miles apart from each other. Our relationship started in January; in March the lockdown was enforced. The initial months were tough, as there was a lot of negativity and uncertainty around and one tends to become cranky during these times…

“It’s extremely important to be patient and understanding during these times. If one manages these, then all misunderstandings can be solved maturely.”

“We are not happy with this separation, but we are confident that our bond will survive this period as it has grown much deeper,” they conclude.

For *Dhruv, “This lockdown has made me realise the true power of love. A bond of true love can withstand all obstacles if you are determined to see it through. This lockdown and its travails are a temporary phase. This too shall pass.”

*Shivam shares how circumstances forced him into the dreaded long-distance relationship.

“I was always skeptical to commit to a long-distance relationship. I used to believe that distance can ruin bonds. But now that the pandemic has forced me into one, that fear of distance is gone. It has made me realise that if the bond is strong, then it can outlive these barriers.

“Plus in times like these, when life is becoming monotonous, you have to be creative in your relationship. We go on dinner dates, watch movies together through house-party apps, read novels together, discuss random topics on philosophy or psychology, update each other’s binge-watching list… It keeps the spark alive!”

*Manisha, whose relationship is something of a secret, recounts her experience of keeping it hidden from her family.

“My partner and I can communicate only through texts. We havent seen each other, or even heard each others voice, since May. We are an inter-religious couple and havent told our families about it. Now, stuck at home, we need to be cautious all the time.

“When the lockdown was enforced we knew our bond would be tested. So we had an honest conversation about it. A strong relationship isnt built in one day. It is a process, and hurdles can appear at any time… Honesty helps sustain the bond during such crisis.

“Some days I do feel empty and miss him, but in the long run it has strengthened our bond. Its comforting to know that I can rely on his honesty.”

There have even been some improvements, she adds. “This lockdown has made us understand each other more. We listen more and fight less. Despite engaging mostly on texts, we have fought only once since March. Our bond has matured a lot.”

For Divya it has been a similar experience.

“Even though we have shared a long-distance relationship for two years, this lockdown has strengthened it immensely. While I am relatively free, he on the other hand, remains busy all day long. We get only 10 minutes for texting daily (sometimes nothing!) and 10 minutes on call, once a week.

“We have to make do with this, and have no other option. It’s made me realise the value of empathy in a relationship. You have to respect each other’s personal space. We understand each other’s situation, and have attuned ourselves to being patient with each other.

“It’s not the quantity but the quality of conversation which matters to us now. With such a short time in our hands, weve started to value each other even more. Even if we have nothing new to share, just random talk of How was your day is enough to bring the heart peace.”

Akriti has managed to meet her partner once during the lockdown.

“We met only once since March, when we decided to go grocery shopping. Initially it felt a bit annoying. There was nowhere else to go. The mask ensured we could not see each other’s faces, and we had to follow distancing. Adding to it was our anxiety about catching the infection.”

“But the fact that we could meet when so many others could not, and that he drove more than 30 kilometres just to meet me, made the day extremely precious. We were happy to be in each others company and cherished every moment.

“In these extraordinary times you have to focus more on the positives than the negatives. It provides the warmth needed for the bond to grow strong!”

Dayal, who lives with his partner, was also surprised by how well things turned out.

“In pre-Covid times we at least had our coaching classes. Covid-19 meant we were together at home the entire day. Initially, we were both nervous about it, but as it turns out Covid has had a positive impact on our relationship.

“We indulge in a lot of activities together, cooking, studying, laundry etc. This makes each day lively. We rarely fight and solve our disagreements maturely through dialogue and compromise.

“Remember that life is unpredictable, so take it as it comes. Its important we keep our ego aside and remain calm no matter what. We’ve started to understand each other better and enjoy this time even more!”

Are there glimpses of the future in these relationships? If post-Covid we do see a ‘new normal’ in our lives, how will it extend to love and dating?

*Subhash has a hope. “I hope that people as a whole will become more reflective, communicative and more sensitive towards the human interaction of dating. They would be less afraid about it after having dealt with a very real threat of death and illness for so long.”

*Naina speculates that “in the new normal, people might actually want to talk more. They would be more honest about themselves. The quality of time spent would take precedence over physical attraction as a factor for committing to a relationship. People may not be that nervous about long-distance relationships, and may even become more creative in their dating lives!”

But for Angad, there is a limit to long distance.

“Relationships today have been forced to convert into long-distance ones. They had no choice. But after a point, people do crave the human touch. Every relationship has its own vibe and subtleties attached to it, which diminish with increasing distance. Personally, I would be uncomfortable with starting a long-distance relationship even after Covid.”

Pranav thinks the nature of online dating will change.

“Covid-19 has made many people join the dating apps. I feel this will help reduce the stigma around dating sites, as different people will bring different perspectives and approaches with them.

“It will no longer be just about casual dating. It might increase the chance of finding more serious relationships out there.”

*Names changed