Falling in love is easy, but for many, taking the first step is the most difficult task. It was the same for Sid (name changed). He has been trying all means to profess his love to Vini (name changed), his classmate at college. But each time he tried to initiate a conversation, he turned nervous – his voice faltered, limbs trembled, throat parched and for the nth time, he had a change of heart and turned back. That was when he watched the Hollywood rom-com Hitch. In the film, Will Smith played a professional date doctor who trains men to woo women aiming at genuine relationships. For him, the idea of a dating consultation was a revelation. Surfing opened before him a world of services he had not known till then.
Yes, out of the silver screen, there exists in India a professional realm of experts – love gurus, dating coaches, breakup coaches, life coaches and grooming coaches who offer help to those who look for a perfect romantic relationship or a tear-free breakup. Their services include making a person feel confident by bettering themselves – the way they dress, talk, behave and treat another person, and soon, be able to open up to their love interest, like Sid, who eventually befriended Vini with the help of a date doctor. The couple has just entered the ninth year of their relationship.
Gone are the days of close buddies offering ‘romantic’ tips to woo a girl or a boy, advice which may or may not work. The same applies for handling heartbreaks, too. Mohit Arora, a ‘charismapreneur’ as he calls himself and the country’s first dating and lifestyle coach who has been in the business since 2014, has transformed many lives with his advice.
“People who come to me know what their problem is. They know what they are not good at; I help them work on it and better themselves. We talk over phone, meet up and then ask the person to attend a workshop during which each problem is addressed and at the end of it all, the client comes out as a confident person,” he says.
A rewarding job with cent per cent success rate is not something everyone can claim. An excited Mohit explains an interesting case, “One of my clients, let’s call him Ravi, is a hardworking guy who earned well and got married, but just back after honeymoon, she sought a divorce and pressed rape charges on him. The issue was settled after Ravi paid her a hefty sum and they got separated, but a week after the divorce she got married. It was an extortion plan by the woman and her lover. Ravi was distraught and the whole incident affected his morale. When he came to me, Ravi was nervous and socially awkward. I helped him and slowly, he gained confidence to meet girls. Right now, he is seeing two girls and is quite happy.”
His clientele age-group is between 18 and 39, says Mohit, who has no office anywhere. “I travel to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chandigarh and teach in one-to-one and group sessions. Developing a bond with the client is very important; they confide in me and I help them,” adds Mohit, who trains under two programmes – three-day workshops (mastery-level and ultimate mastery-level) and six-month workshops.
For Hyderabad-based dating coach Varun Gowtham Mannava, assuming the role of a best buddy to his client is not difficult, “Not many people used to openly reach out for help, but this generation is becoming self-aware and has no problem in talking about their issues. I put my clients at ease by narrating my journey from being an introvert in my early 20s to becoming an extrovert in late 20s. They can instantly connect with me and open up. Plus what they tell me is never going to be leaked.”
Varun begins coaching with a three-hour one-on-one session. “I give them basic foundation of how to interact with the opposite sex, what to expect, when to let go etc. They just need to understand and then build their own approaches on top of my foundation. The advice for each client is different, unique and suited to the client’s specific problem. Most of them freeze initially and don’t have any problem once the ice is broken. But some don’t have any problem with starting a conversation, but they find it difficult to steer it to a date. There are some who feel that dating is a bad thing even when these guys are extremely hardworking and successful in their career; they too are scared and uninformed. When such people send me a picture of their first date or a text thanking me for overcoming their fears, it is huge for me.”
Not always do things go as expected; there are advice gone awry too. “One of my clients had a sudden rage of self-introspection and started living life to the full extent as if there was no tomorrow. I got a little taken aback. I felt happy for him, but I also wish he calms down and gets a grip on what to do next,” he says.
Varun’s clients are young professionals aged between 27 and 33. “This is a niche domain, but the demand is high when I am able to tap the right audience. I am in this for the long innings and in no rush to make a quick buck. I believe now the time is ripe and by building one client at a time I will make enough clients in the months/years to come,” he says.
Ashish Sehgal, a life coach from Gurugram, focuses on developing the concept of self worth and emotional intelligence in his clients. “People are driven by emotions that come from deep-rooted beliefs which display in their behaviour. They can be respectful towards others only when they learn to respect themselves. Mutual respect is the key for better relationships,” he says.
In his 15-year-old profession, Ashish observes that confidentiality is the key, “While coaching my clients, I step into their mental maps, and help them become their best buddy. People are eager to get solutions and once they meet me and witness the non-judgmental attitude and safe environment, they open up with ease. I do not offer advice ever. I truly believe that advice do not work. I find out the inner resources my clients already have, by deep meta methods and utilise these inner resources to help them get the results they want. This works much faster than external advice, and has long-term results.”
His clients include people from all age groups – teens and youth to simplify their romantic life, middle-aged to sort out their pre-marital and post marital issues, infidelity-related trauma, divorce or post-divorce issues. “There are clients who visit me for closure in case of separation too. Clients book via website, phone or WhatsApp and after a brief chat over phone, we meet in person. All meetings are confidential,” he explains.
In the 2009 American movie The Ugly Truth starring Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl, the heroine who believes in true love is advised by a relationship expert to alter her personality and pretend to be someone else to impress a guy which she does. So, does a person have to live on pretence to have a love life? No, says Mohit, who never asks his clients to fake a personality, “I help them show the best of them. Just be themselves and focus on their strengths. There are certain things girls find attractive in men. Work on that. We start with the process of thought and move on to grooming. All the while, remain yourself, but be the best version of yourself – that’s what I teach.”
The sessions include grooming, etiquette training, body language development, improving socialising skills, etc. “They get trained in fundamentals like conversations, eye contact, smile, when to initiate a conversation and when to take a step back,” he says.
Varun too feels that only frankness works. “I always advise my clients to be frank about themselves and their present situation. A part of my session talks is about self exploration and strengths. People tend to fake because they are not proud/happy about what they have. I address it at the very beginning of my session. I teach them what I know, I clarify their doubts, I caution them about the stereotypes and then I just give them a disclaimer in the end that they are fully responsible for their actions once they leave the workshop. I also encourage my clients to call me and keep me updated on their progress,” Varun adds.
Ashish too helps his clients reach their relationship goals the same way. “People like to see themselves in a positive and progressive light which we utilise to bring out the best in them. Fake or frank, both are projections. My task is to bring the best out of them and get the results they want. So, I always take my clients on the face value and help them. Extreme cases in relationships become easy with love, curiosity and flexibility, my favourite attributes to work with,” he says.
Varun Gowtham Mannava is well-aware of his role as a dating coach at an age when jilted lovers, unable to take rejection, resort to heinous crimes like immolation, acid attacks and revenge porn. “These are difficult times indeed for youth, not just in love/dating domain, but in every other domain. In many ways I feel there has not been proper awareness about the dating domain; it’s a taboo topic in most families even today. The young minds cement their approach towards women by either getting guidance from siblings or parents or classmates or movies which repeatedly teach us that a girl saying NO means YES and keep justifying badmouthing a girl for rejecting love. I start by telling my clients that NO means NO and request them sincerely to drop off all that they learnt about pursuing women from movies.”
Ashish has a different take on love and relationships. “Love is freeing and relationship is about the bond. It is important to understand the dynamics between love and relationship in each social context. Romantic relationships are truly evolving with more acceptance being witnessed. Love is inside you and not dependent on someone else. One has to experience ‘being in love’ instead of just ‘being loved’ to understand its deeper connections. Moving on is important to reduce and remove all sufferings. It just has to become more mindful and heartfelt. There are methods and ways one can learn to move on. After all, some endings are inevitable, aren’t they,” he asks.
Over the years, romantic relationships have also evolved. The concept of true love has changed with people becoming more practical and moving on becoming easier. Varun observes that true love has always been fictional, “because it sounds better in a fairy tale than in real life.”
Though he hates movies for the persuasive romantic tips, Varun has always felt that Mani Ratnam portrays some of the best romantic relationships. “As it is clearly visible in his movies, the romantic relationships have evolved over the last four decades. People are more practical now because the options have steadily increased over the past few decades. Finding a partner has become very easy. Breakups too have increased as a result. People don’t value anything that comes very easily; same is the case with relationships, thanks to the popular dating apps.”
Ashish, however, feels otherwise, “The meaning of love, like any other emotion, is unique to each individual. I truly believe that love is a potent force and holds solutions to everything in life. I believe that all problems in the world are due to lack of love and all problems can be solved by adding love to them.”
Love has a different definition for many ranging from a casual fling to a long-term relationship. But whenever there’s a moment of doubt, now you know which door to knock on....