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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March 2005, 12:14 GMT
Speed dating comes to India

Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Speed dating
India's first speed dating event generated a lot of excitement
Time-strapped, wealthy professionals in India's western city of Mumbai (Bombay) are being offered a new way to find partners - speed dating.

The system works by bringing together a group of singles who have just three minutes to impress one another before moving on to the next potential date.

If two parties like each other the event's organisers, Bombayspeedd8.com, helps them set off on dating.

This is conservative India's first tryst with speed dating, which is a flourishing business in the West.

The setting for Monday night's frenetic event was serene - an open air lounge bar on the edge of the sandy beaches of the Arabian sea.

A gentle sea breeze wafted into the lounge... The atmosphere seems just right for romance.

Rapid fire dating

Forty men and women togged out in their best clothes were hoping to find romance or, maybe, life partners.

Cities like Mumbai are ready for a safe, informal way of getting to know each other face-to-face with a view to finding partners
Maha Khan, organiser

Neerja said she came with no expectations, but she did find a couple of interesting guys to date.

"I have ticked off a couple, but I have to confess I can't remember their names. I think a couple of them I would like to meet them."

Amit Soni, who lives in London, signed up to find Indian girls during his visit to Mumbai.

He was excited to have met 10 girls.

"I have done speed dating in London in the past, this is the first time in India," said Amit.

"In London you hardly meet Indian girls during speed dating. It doesn't really help, because I am a thorough-bred Indian.

"I have short listed a few girls and I'm certainly going to take them out."

Dheeraj was one of the most shy participants and was told so by some of her dates. But that did not stop him from finding "a beautiful girl".

But will speed dating work in a largely conservative country like India?

Neerja and some other girls interviewed said their parents were "cool".

Liberal city

But Dheeraj had to make up a story to come to the event.

Speed dating
It was a full house at a lounge bar
Organisers feel Mumbai was the right venue as it is India's most liberal and cosmopolitan city.

"Mumbai accepts a lot, its very tolerant city," says Sandeep Shetty, one of the local organisers.

Another organiser, Maha Khan, 25, a London-based British Asian who runs the Asian Speed D8, believes India is ready for speed dating.

"I think cities like Mumbai are ready for a safe, informal way of getting to know each other face-to-face with a view to finding partners."

The Asian Speed D8 company has been organising speed dating in the UK for the past two years.

They say they are encouraged by the sell-out in Mumbai for two nights running and a long waiting list.

Sandeep Shetty is happy with the turnout.

"So far it has been very encouraging. We always knew there would be a great response, the word has been spreading like fire, and people are interested."

Now the organisers are planning to take the event to Bangalore and Delhi.

Maha Khan, whose family comes from Pakistan, plans to take speed dating to Pakistan, with an event in Karachi.

But she's only cautiously optimistic about a foray into Pakistan.

"It is not going to be easy as Pakistan being more conservative it's not going to be easy. But we'll go ahead."




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