Chennai: Photographer and actor Sunder Ramu’s idea to date 365 women this year may be the talk of the town (nation?), but it was born with a simple agenda.
I’ve known Sunder for about seven years now. We have common friends and while we have always hung out in a group, we’ve never actually, until now, had a real conversation, just the two of us. And this, he says, is a problem he shares with a number of friends. Going on dates, without having to accommodate and include other people, means the conversation can go beyond just coffee. It can get personal and honest, without the fear of a group judging you.
I’ve been closely following Sunder’s Facebook posts since January 1 this year. So when he called me randomly one day, I was surprised because, to begin with I didn’t know I had his number stored on my phone, it had been several years since we last met. I politely told him that it would have to be a weekend as work was busy over the week. He said it didn’t matter when, where etc as long as we made a date out of it. (Sunder is charmingly persuasive. It’s very hard to say no – which is why he’s probably had no difficulty finding dates)
So, weeks after this conversation, I spoke to my colleagues on the desk about Sunder and his “project” and this story that we could do. I had no difficulty selling the story idea, and what’s more, I was told to go on a date with him, on national TV! (There’s never a dull day when you’re a television reporter!)
Sunder and I met for tea on Thursday. Unlike a regular date, there was no awkwardness, despite the video camera rolling. He started off by telling me how and why he came up with the idea. Being a photographer and an actor, he was finding it hard to spare time to catch up with friends and have a good, long chat. He was getting stuck in a routine, and what’s worse he was getting comfortable, staying in and being alone. It had been a while since he had been in a relationship. He wanted to shake things up a bit. He didn’t realise his small idea would go viral.
But why only women? Besides the obvious, he says that his assistants at work are all men. He plays a lot of sport; his football buddies are all male. Talking to a guy was never a problem. It was harder to find time to meet up with women because his work often extended into the night. Committed to dating 365 women this year, Sunder’s dates can be anything from breakfast to dinner, with the women deciding the place, time and the meal itself.
Sunder says he has always been involved in social causes. Not paying a single rupee on his dates, Sunder goes at the end of every month to an NGO – an orphanage, an old age home, an animal shelter – spends time with people there, and buys them all a meal. It is his way of giving back; eating to feed others.
It’s strange how little I knew about Sunder before our date despite knowing him for several years. I didn’t know he grew up in Bangalore and that he went to college in Chennai. I knew the broad contours but not the specifics. Our conversation naturally weaved into relationships, love, marriage, children and adoption.
Whether other men think Sunder is a genius or not for inventing ways to date women, hardly matters to him. What does matter to Sunder is this new journey he has embarked upon, meeting new people every day, having real, honest and meaningful conversations and trying to give a little back to the society that he lives in. His mission is still going strong.