New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) The cameras were looking and so were the crowds. But there they were, Shane Warne and Liz Hurley one day, and Siddharth Mallya and Deepika Padukone on another, kissing away on Indian ground. And if the celebrities can do it, then urban youngsters can't be far away.
Public display of affection has certainly moved beyond holding hands in conservative India. While it's a more bold lot in the metros that likes to romance openly, many youngsters in smaller cities too flaunt their relationship status on social networking sites.
Nabanipa Bhattacharjee, a professor of sociology at Delhi University, says relationships have become much more fluid and confident.
'Public display of affection has definitely increased as people have become much more confident about their relationships. Today relationships have become much more fluid and acceptable. So people don't fear to let others know in this urbanised society that they are in the 'dating mode',' Bhattacharjee told IANS.
Sometimes partners do it just to reassure themselves.
'It could be a stint to make a statement - by that I mean people are sometimes insecure and to reassure themselves they make public announcements and get closer to their partner in public places,' she added.
On the other hand, psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh says couples hugging and kissing publicly might be genuinely serious.
'When the couple is sure about the status of the relationship and is comfortable with it, then pshychologically there is little need to hide it. When people are mentally clear about what the relationship means to them, then going public about it should never be a problem,' said Chugh.
Even celebrities, who used to keep their affairs secret, are more open nowadays. For one, the cricket ground has become a happening place for them to get cozier with partners and spouses.
The shutterbugs went berserk when Siddharth Mallya hugged and kissed girlfriend Deepika Padukone during an Indian Premeir League (IPL) match, while cameras captured Kiran Rao reach out to husband Aamir Khan every time the ball crossed the fence during a World Cup game. Australian cricketer Shane Warne was spotted locking lips with Liz Hurley on the field.
The common man has all these years had to romance coyly in parks or in the darkness of a theatre or clubs and bars. Filmmaker Sai Paranjape beautifully captured it in her movie 'Chashme Buddoor'; so did Basu Chatterjee in 'Rajnigandha' and 'Chhoti Si Baat'.
But the new generation has gone many steps further, often weilding technology to flaunt their relationship. 'Dating', 'in love', 'engaged' are the status messages often flaunted on social networking mediums like chats, Facebook, Twitter and Orkut.
Status updates help in creating a lot of curiosity, says Nitika Seth. The 24-year-old said, 'When I first updated my status on Facebook, I received a great response. Since then I keep updating my wall what I feel about my partner and about our relationship. It makes me feel stronger and creates a lot of curiosity within our friends circle.'
To an extent, it is a Western influence, says Bhattacharjee.
'It can be the 'follow the trend' aspect - people are getting affected by Westernisation. In the West, such acts have always been there, but now people are evolving here too,' she said.
Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist at Max Healthcare, said, 'I don't think there is anything wrong in it. People used to be secretive, but now, influenced by other parts of the world, people are trying to be more expressive. It is not a threat to our society.'
'We have learnt to re-think about our moral positions,' he added.
In college campuses, couples are often seen giving each other a peck on the cheek or forehead, or wrapping arms around each other.
So should people draw a line?
'As long as we pay heed to the setting in which we live, the kind of people we are surrounded by, a lot of undesirable situations can be avoided,' said Chugh.
(Manpreet Kaur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)