On our first day at work after the shutdown, my colleague Nahin (alias) left early saying he had some urgent work. Three hours later, I spotted him at a coffee shop in Gulshan, holding hands and smiling with a girl wearing a green dress. The moments our eyes met, his face turned pale. I smiled reassuringly, but I was unsure if he trusted me.
The girl, I later noticed, had beautiful long hair and glistening eyes. Her name is Megha, a banker by profession and a lover of books. I looked her up on Facebook, but could not find her. And that was when my colleague told me they met on Tinder.
I was not very surprised. A recent survey has revealed that nearly 240 million people around the world are using dating apps and websites. The number has seen a sharp rise amid the lockdowns as people have been forced to stay within the confines of their homes and refrain from meeting others physically.
So when the government eased the Covid-19 restrictions, Nahin started jumping in glee.
He told me that he met Megha on Tinder during late March, on his second day of home quarantine. It was his first day on Tinder and Megha was his only match. They started talking, which quickly picked pace and moved to WhatsApp voice calls and later transferred to long video calls.
Then l, their waiting phase began. The government kept extending the shutdown before one could even finish, and it made Nahin very impatient. On Eid day, he went to meet Megha but she could not come out because her building was under lockdown.
Many people are turning to social media to find love and companionship. They are also taking to social media to vent their frustration on the social distancing protocols that have barred them from meeting a prospective partner.
My neighbours Muntasir and Taniya have been dating each other for the last eight years and got married in January this year. The two love birds are extremely happy about the lockdowns because they are spending more time together. But many singles are feeling lonelier than ever and eventually are seeking companionship on online platforms.
Recently, these dating apps have gained momentum in Bangladesh and as the shutdown began, people flocked to apps like Tinder just to someone to talk to. Surprisingly, many succeeded.
What started as conversation soon turned into a connection and went as far as a relationship. While many saw the warm rays of sunlight, few are lost in the darkness of their past.
Three years ago, Sabrina (alias) found a message on the 'others' folder of her Facebook messenger. It was from Rakib (alias), a man who lived and worked in Germany.
Sabrina did not know him but still could not resist her temptation to reply to his "hi". The conversations picked up and soon they grew close.
They fell in love. While Sabrina fell truly, Rakib played with her emotions.
Such incidents are not rare. Once a person gets attached with the other emotionally, it is difficult to get over the heartbreak.
Relationship experts have warned against falling for the charming personalities too early. Despite the red flags, online dating is increasing day by day.
Earlier, many people considered video chatting to be a "business thing" and using it for dating seemed creepy to them. But Zoom chats with friends and family have become a routine in the age of Covid-19. And people are surprisingly willing to join in on video dates.
When the Bangladesh government lifted the nationwide shutdown on May 31, couples and singletons started to swarm coffee shops, even if they are serving only takeaways. Couples wearing masks and gloves can be seen taking rickshaw rides in the city.