How a Lockdown Love Story Evolved Entirely Online
Through rap battles over voice notes and shared movie-watching, Sharan and Tanvi marked the milestones in their digital relationship.
In this 10-part series, we explore how Indians are embracing digital connections under the Covid19 lockdown in the absence of in-person intimacy. Here, 24-year-old Sharan and 23-year-old Tanvi break down the digital milestones in their budding relationship.
The First Time: We realized this was more than just friendship
Sharan: We knew each other as acquaintances before the pandemic. When lockdown started, we started watching movies and TV shows together. That was the new ‘hanging out’ — we didn’t have any other way to be around each other. When you watch a film with someone, you see which characters they get attached to, how they react when they see certain situations playing out.
Tanvi: The first thing we saw was The Haunting of Hill House. On Episode 1, we were talking about how the sets looked nice. On Episode 6, we were talking about how we related to certain scenes because they reflected our mental health. We eventually started picking things to watch because we wanted to discuss the topic that was in the show. It led to us talking a lot, both texting and spending many, many hours on the phone. I remember there was a turning point, when one night I realised ‘oh wow, I’ve spent six hours on the phone with this person.’ That’s when you realize there is something different going on in this relationship. I guess that’s what happens when you can’t spend time with someone physically.
The First Time: We said ‘I Love You’
Tanvi: I’m someone who says ‘I love you’ a lot. I meet someone, I like them, I love them. But I know when my ‘I love you’ to Sharan changed from ‘hey, you’re one of my best friends I love you’ to ‘hey, I actually really like you, I think I love you.’ He was in Delhi, I was in Mumbai — I knew nothing about what was going to happen. I was in my head, I wasn’t letting myself be too into him. But then, one night, we discussed how we behave when we have a crush on someone. And that’s when I realised I was behaving with him the way I was describing to him, but because he wasn’t in front of me, I hadn’t put two and two together.
Sharan: It’s honestly not something I was expecting. I guess I had this preconceived notion that if your friendship with someone is entirely digital, then it’s not likely to lead anywhere while it’s still digital. Initially, I knew I liked her but we were also far away from each other. I thought it would be ridiculous to start loving someone while in that state. Then one day, mid-conversation she goes: ‘I love you.’ I was like, ‘Hmmm? Are you serious?’ That’s when I started thinking about how much I wanted to be with this person. The biggest milestone for someone who’s interested in someone is to meet, right? Thats when you think about taking things forward. But that wasn’t happening. So, over time, I think I just reached a point where I wasn’t interested in entertaining her, or putting on this facade of always being an entertaining, engaging person. I was just interested in being myself.
The First Time: We were vulnerable with each other
Tanvi: A thing we started doing very early on, which I think helped me be more comfortable, is sending voice notes. We used to sing to each other, back and forth. Random songs. He’d be fooling around on his guitar, then he’d send the recording to me, then I’d think of a song his strumming reminded me of. It was almost like word association.
Sharan: There was this one whole day we were just having a rap battle over voice notes. Over the course of the entire day.
Tanvi: I’m also kind of an awkward person. Like, I don’t think I can still sing in front of Sharan. But over voice notes, it didn’t feel like that big of a deal, which I guess was quite important for me.
Sharan: I was full on doing covers for her. I would record it at night, so she could wake up with a voice note ready to hear in the morning.
The First Time: We learned how to resolve an argument
Tanvi: I remember having a problem with this one thing Sharan would do quite often — interrupt me when I’m speaking. When you’re talking on the phone, especially, it’s constant conversation. Theres no sitting in silence. So if I’m getting interrupted, I’m going to notice. In the beginning, I think I thought less about it, or let it go many times. But I remember a time came when I got so comfortable with him, that I could actually call him out on it and be like, ‘hey, this is bothering me.’
Sharan: I also had a tendency to be defensive about it. Like, that was just how I am. Then I realized it’s something I’d like to change about myself — being more open toward listening. It’s hard though. You can’t really read body language or facial expression cues. It makes a little difficult to gauge when the other person is done speaking.
The First Time: We talked about sex
Tanvi: I remember this one night when we had an almost two and a half hour-long conversation about sex, and our past sex lives. We never really flirted overtly over text, but we still acknowledged that ‘hey, yes, we like sex.’ It was mostly just addressing that there were thoughts and feelings, that we essentially will put a pin in until we meet. We talked about what sexual things we like, about sexual stuff that I have done and he hasn’t, or the other way around. Then we went through kind of a list asking every kind of question, like a truth or dare game. ‘Have you done BDSM?’ or smaller questions like ‘have you ever had sex in someone’s parents’ house?’ I definitely remember feeling less inhibited around him after that. Also it made me really want to have sex, as soon as possible, haha. I have a vibrator, and I remember, right after the call, I went and masturbated.
In terms of sexual intimacy, when you get to know someone, when you have sex with someone, you slowly find out what the other person’s likes and dislikes. In that conversation, we took like 15 steps in the span of a call. I guess that’s just what this whole thing has been.
This project was done in partnership with Tinder India.