Your first date forensics tells us a lot about you. Like if you’re aiming high or keeping your ear to the ground. If you want conversation or to just read between the lines on the karaoke screen. Maybe you’d rather have a comedian as opening act…or let the ocean fill in the awkward silences.

Finding romance in the Big City needs possibly cosmic collusions, and The City Story wants to map where the first little sparks fly/stars came out to shine.

This is a 10-week series where we ask people from Mumbai about their first date experiences and to give us dating advice.

Raja Sen

Hometown: Delhi

In Mumbai since: 2004

Profession: Film critic

Tell us about your first ever date: The first Bombay date (or at least the first date that counts) was in the summer of 2004, when I went to see a sprightly Catholic girl with flowers in her first name and occasionally on her shirt. It was a molten Sunday afternoon, and I met her at the Cha Bar cafe inside the Oxford Bookstore at Churchgate.

I was close to two hours late and – here’s a tip – there is no better place to keep a date waiting than a fine bookstore. She was fuming regardless, but a quick jaunt around the aisles, with two twentysomethings reading rhymes out to one another in naively pretentious attempts to impress and to woo, cooled her jets quick and made for a memorably sunny time.

Did it work out? Look, I’ll forever be indebted to the girl with the flowery name because she dug up the Terry Pratchett novel I was mentioned in. We may live in different worlds now, but I’ll call that working out immensely well indeed.

Best first date recommendation: When in doubt, let the place do most of the talking. Literally, like a movie, or evocatively, like someplace remarkable that impels you into conversation, like a museum or a gallery or, as we did, a bookstore where a girl who knew the shelves showed the new boy in town the way around.

Sheetal Sudhir

Home: Bangalore/Mumbai

In Mumbai since: 1999

Profession: Media/Design pro

Tell us about your first ever date: Class 10. It was lunch at the “only place” I think… one of Bangalore’s best steak houses. There was a bouquet of flowers on the table… (Which I didn’t take home, so I could avoid the conversation with a suddenly very interested in my life dad!) I ate like a pig.

Did it work out? Hmmmm…I’m 41 and single!

Best first date recommendation: The dates that have fascinated me the most is when I’m taken to a world where I am truly introduced to the person…whatever or wherever that may be… If the person is interested in architecture…then a walk. Music…the opera or a recital. When someone’s really passionate about a thing it makes me more fascinated and the experience is more delightful.

Dating advice: Be a whore. Be a prude. Whatever makes you happy.

Pasham Alwani 

In Mumbai since: 2003

Profession: Senior Fashion Editor at Grazia India

Tell us about your first ever date: Café Leopold. I wasn't really sure if it was a date or not, to be honest. But then again, when you're 17, nobody who wants to be “just friends” comes all the way to town from the suburbs just for a drink, right? It was really sweet to think about it, we had a few beers, chatted and giggled a lot.

Did it work out? Nope.

Best first date recommendation: The Tasting Room is my absolute favourite place for a first date. It's quiet enough to have an actual conversation, they do great wine cocktails. and the lighting is super flattering!

Dating advice: Don't take yourself too seriously. The other person is probably as awkward as you are. Oh, and at least offer to split the bill.

Genesia Alves

In Bombay since: 1987

Profession: Writer. Mostly.

Tell us about your first ever date: We’d Mulder and Scully-d it for a while, which I suppose happens when you acquire a crush on a very close friend. I was 18. He was 23. Long story short, all my friends were going on a college trip to Manali and my mother had refused to give me permission. I was furious, miserable. So this guy offered to take me to VT (now CST) early in the morning to catch my friends as they left by train. Say hi. We’d chatted for years but never been out together before. I said yes before I thought it through.

It was my first lesson in how therapeutic a long motorcycle ride, early in the morning can be. My eyes watered as we sped into town, thin smog still sitting over the city. I was grinning into the wind.

We were too late to catch the train but instead we rode around the wide empty streets of South Bombay, then went to breakfast at Café Ideal.

Did it work out? Yeah. It took us a few years to get there but we got married and lived happily ever after. Sort of. I’m not even kidding.

Best first date recommendation: Depends on who you’re going out with and how well you already know them. The internet makes it okay for us talk to strangers, but maybe a movie or comedy show as a conversation crutch if it’s the first time you’re meeting someone. Five star coffee shops are great for prolonged people watching and figuring out if you’ve got a long future of playing GuessThatPerson’sStory together. Dinner, if you’re wondering if the truth is out there and want to ask them what exactly the status of this damn relationship is (keep the question for just before dessert).

Dating Advice: I only went out with one guy and married him (no X Files – okay I’ll stop with the rubbish references) so I’ll say this: I don’t know what you crazy kids call dates anymore. What is this Tinder and is it hygienic? Are you looking for a date for the Bandra Fair or for a lifetime of ferris-wheel rides, up and down in the same place, hinges and bolts falling off?

Priyanka Agrawal 

In Mumbai since: 1986 

Profession: Some kinda stuff in digital advertising 

Tell us about your first ever date: I was 16, just met a boy through common friends and decided to go out for lunch. We went to the most authentic (that's really questionable) American comfort food restaurant on Marine Drive called New York New York. It was a summer afternoon and I ordered an Iced Tea. When it arrived and I lifted the glass to have my first sip, the glass broke on me, spilling all the iced tea on my first date. We left from there and ended up eating at McDonald’s. Haha! 

Did it work out? Haha yeah! We dated for about a year or so. Can't say it was the best. 

Best first date recommendation: Choose a place that serves sushi. It's a great ice breaker, it's not farty food, it's simple and delicious. And yes, it's important to choose a good Japanese restaurant or else things will turn out disastrous. 

Dating advice: Never ever, just never ever, discuss your past relationship on your first date or for that matter first few dates. Also, most times people tend to put on a fake accent on a first date, just please don't do that.

Rohan Joshi

In Mumbai since: 1983

Profession: Writer, comedian, performer

Tell us about your first ever date: My first ever date, I was nervous as hell, but I pulled out all the stops (or well, what 18-year-old me thought were all the stops) I borrowed dad’s car, picked her up, and I took her to Cloud 9. Nope, that’s not a weird metaphor, we went to the Cloud 9 Cafe in Colaba, which I loved back then because it was “nice” by my college-boy standards. By night, It also has one of the best views of South Bombay, especially the Colaba, Gateway, Taj area. From what I can remember, it was a pretty good date. (It's cool though, two years later I took someone else there, told them I liked them, and was told they had a boyfriend. Following that, I walked into a glass door and hurt my face, so balance returned to the universe)

Did it work out:  For a bit, yeah! 😀

Best first date recommendation: I don’t know if Cloud 9 is still operational, but I’m a fan of any place with a view. Because if the date goes badly, at least you still have a great view. Luckily Bombay isn’t lacking in places with great views; The Harbour Bar, Aer, Asilo, The Dome. And while some places with views are expensive, remember you can always get a drink at Woodside Inn and then offer to go for a walk along the Gateway (THE BEST VIEWS ARE FREEEEEEEEEE)

Dating advice: Ask the person you’re going on a date with what they like, what they hate, so you don’t end up at a place where they’re going to be awkward at (e.g. if they hate loud places, a club or a bar makes for a shit first date). And if the choice is yours, then pick a place that you have a bit of a connection with, a place you genuinely enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing something that isn’t you, just to impress your date. Also, in a place you love, you have multiple ice-breakers waiting to go if conversation falters (“Have you tried the chocolate mousse here? It’s the best!”)

Sapna Bhavnani

Profession: Coiffeuse by day/writer, actor, documentary maker, yogi by night

Tell us about your first ever date: He was 17, I was 13. He was a gujju breakdancer (yes) and invited me to a college event to watch him perform. I was so fucking blown away I licked his leather glove.

Did it work out? We didn’t go beyond first base, so, no.

Best first date recommendation: I go on an average of three dates per week, mostly all from Tinder. If I’ve never met them before then I prefer to meet them at cafés. If the date is not from Tinder but from the ‘real world’ and I know them, then my most favourite thing to do is take them for a midnight drive in my Thar and listen to obscenely loud music. Mainly because I don’t like to talk too much while driving. Sometimes I like to take an Ola instead and constantly change the drop locations just to test the spontaneity of my date.

Meher Mirza

Profession: I write about nice things, like food.

Tell us about your first ever date: It was extraordinarily odd! A bunch of us went to watch a movie, and I sat next to an acquaintance, who kept blathering on about random rubbish throughout the film. I'm not one for chatter during movies, so I responded with glares and shushing. After the movie, we went our separate ways. Later, my friend told me that the acquaintance had arranged the whole thing as a 'sort of' date. Had we hit it off, he would have taken me to lunch (hopefully, without the entourage).

Did it work out? Nope.

Best first date recommendation: I had a lovely first date while I was studying in London, with someone who took me to a little museum and then we had coffee and drinks and pastries at the museum shop. (I realise this has outed me as a fuddy duddy museum type). I think food is a great way to cover up lack of chemistry/conversation, but also a wonderful topic of discussion. Coffee/whiskey/wine tastings are nice, too – they take the pressure off.

Oh, here's a big Don't. If a woman pays (or offers to pay) her half of the bill, don't take it as a threat to your masculinity, and definitely don't make jibes like "there's a limit to women trying to be equal nowadays."

Dating advice: A full stomach leads to a contented relationship. I am speaking purely for myself, of course.

Vijayeta Kumar

In Mumbai since: 2007

Profession: Filmmaker

Tell us about your first date: I was 15, and in Delhi, just after my 10th board exams. (Remember those? Still give me goosebumps!) He was a friend’s cousin who had also got done with his 12th boards. We went to watch Jurassic Park at Priya Cinema in Vasant Vihar. I was so bowled over by the film, I couldn’t think of anything else. Later, we went to the Nirula’s nearby and split a Hot Chocolate Fudge. He was talking about the stress of college admissions, DU cut-off lists and I was mentally calculating the money in my pocket and if I could have another HCF later.

Did it work out? I can’t even recall his full name now. So no, it didn’t work out.

Dating advice: Take it easy. Don’t make too big a fuss with how you look, what you wear etc. Wear comfortable shoes. Let him see you at your regular best. Talk less, listen more. (Best way to spot any red flags.) Keep it simple. A movie or play or a stand-up act is a great ice-breaker. And great fodder for conversation later.

Rohit Raj

In Mumbai Since: 2007

Profession: Advertising

Tell us about your first ever date: Back in the day before the iPod and mp3 revolution happened, was these music store chain that went by the name Music World. The flagship music world store in Hyderabad had about 10 listening posts where you could sample music from their latest collections. So, when I finally managed to grab the attention of my high school crush on the pretence of having similar musical tastes, I devised this genius plan of taking her out on a date to Music World and exploring our tastes in music and movies. Pop culture references, intense debates on favourite films and a few dozen music trivia quizzes later, I would say judged the hell out of each other and got to know each other much better. More importantly, no part of the hard-earned pocket money was spent doing this. Music shops > Coffee shops

Did it work out? We did end up going a second date and also ended up dating for a while until long distance drifted us apart. We are still friends who throw some music trivia at each other once in a while.

Best First Date Recommendation: Don’t go to the movies. Because you won’t get to converse, and that is probably the most important thing to do on the first date. Because if you can’t hold a conversation for two hours, you aren’t going very far with this.

Don’t go to a fancy restaurant, because the risk quotient of a first date going wrong is super high and then if you also deplete your bank balance having a bad time it’s a double whammy. Pick a place where you have some form of leverage (Know the waiter, know the usher) and that can go a long way. Also, you generally can’t go wrong with beer or sushi!

Dating advice: Play to your strength and do something that gives you an opportunity to play the expert. So if you’re into comics, also go to the comic book store and introduce something new to them. If you are a movie buff, carry a copy of your favourite film and revolve conversations around it to have them interested in the film. You can end the date by giving them a copy and also hope to get a second date on the pretence of getting the copy back.

Ravina Rawal

In Mumbai since: I discovered that it actually wins the Delhi vs Mumbai debate when it comes to the people.

Profession: Writer and editor.

Tell us about your first date: It was a blind date at someone's house party with a friend's friend who used to prank call me (we had landlines without caller ID at the time) because he liked my voice.

Did it work out? Um. He excused himself to go to the bathroom and came back three hours later. We didn't speak again for a year, but we've been best friends since. So no, but yes. (Wow. He needs slaps. Why am I even friends with him?)

Best first date recommendation: Some place where the music isn't too loud so you can talk, but not too quiet that the silences get awkward. Taj Mahal Tea House if you're not drinking, a rooftop bar with watermelon martinis if you are, a walk along/around the sea if you're still deciding. Walks are great in general. So is the sea.

Dating advice: Don't panic, be straight up, never settle.

Jose Covaco

In Mumbai since: I was born here in 1982

Profession: Radio, Television, currently some kind of content person on the Internet.

Tell us about your first ever date: I come from a time when there was no concept of "dating". We used to call it "holding hands". My first date ever, was behind a building close to where we would all hang out. We said nothing. It was incredibly awkward. We sat there, next to the building's water tank, holding hands, until her older sister found us and started yelling. I ran for my life.

Did it work out: I'm married to someone else and we have a kid. So no, it didn't work out.

Best first date recommendation: Don't go to a restaurant. Definitely do not go to a club. You can't hear people in there and they usually look completely different once the lighting gets better. Get to know each other over a light walk or a drive instead and get some coconut water. Even coffee is too much pressure.

Dating advice: Do not take dating advice from people. Go with your gut. If you have a history of making bad decisions, then you should probably talk to someone about it. Always give it all you've got. Love like it's going to be your last. Be real.

Neysa Mendes

In Mumbai since: 1996

Profession: Arts Consultant + Smoothie Maker at Good Slice

Tell us about your first date: My first memory of what qualifies as a proper date was at The Ghetto. I remember that I wore a blue halter top (one I wouldn't be caught dead in now), we talked about the Pearl Jam they played, probably got drunk on a single beer, and actually had quite a fun time.

Did it work out? Yeah, for a hot second. But it was definitely the most carefree, easy, relationship ever. I thought he was hot, we got along, and that was all it needed to be. It was a lovely, young summer romance that ended around when the monsoon clouds arrived.

Best first date recommendation: Parks. I believe in parks. I've also learned first dates are pretty much the only times men will come with me to a park, so I take complete advantage of that! Parks are fairly low key, there's lots of interesting people watching, and sometimes walking, without having to face each other throughout can take some of the edge off.

I also believe in fun bars. My favourite sort of bar is one like The Bombay Canteen – it’s busy, but not so you can't have a conversation, the music is good, and so are the drinks and food. I also really like sitting at the bar over sitting at a table. It's more fun, and you're actually closer, which is easier for conversation.

Dating advice: Use proper sentences. I went on my first date with my husband because he spelled my name right. Yeah. It sounds strange, but the little things just mean that the other person has made the effort to know a little about you, or taken the time to craft a proper message.

If you like the other person, call or text the next day. Don't put it off.

I always offer to pay, but I sorta like it when a man pays for the first date. But only the first. After that, it's gotta be equal.

Enjoy it all. It can sometimes take a while of sifting through the nonsense out there, but every so often, you'll find yourself on that perfect first date, where everything just feels easy, and you never want it to end. Those are the best.

Vidya Balachander

In Mumbai since: 1998 all the way until 2014 (with just a couple of years in Chennai)

Profession: Food journalist

Tell us about your first ever date: The first one of any significance was with a very lanky (and nervous) boy. We had known each other for a while, but had finally started 'dating' in the proper sense of the term. We went to New Yorker or Pizzeria, I've forgotten which, but barely ate because it felt so odd and formal.

Did it work out? Yes, despite not being in the same city for the next six years. It will be 15 years to that first date this October. Fun fact: A well-meaning doctor once told Vishnu, the lanky boy in question, that he would put on weight 'once he settled down'. Inexplicably, his prediction has come true.

Best first date recommendation: Don't go to fussy, fine-dining places where you have to mind your Ps and Qs. (Save that for a few dates down the line). Kala Ghoda Cafe makes for an intimate yet casual location, and if you'd prefer a stronger libation, go to Woodside Inn in Colaba.

Dating advice: Not a great deal—I haven't been in the dating game for a long time, my advice might be rusty—but to be yourself. Dress sharp, and smell great. Don't drink if you're uncomfortable. Humour always helps — especially when the date is a disaster.

Sheena Dabholkar

In Mumbai since: On and off since 2010.

Profession: Creative director at LOVER

Tell us about your first date: My first real date that I can remember was when I was in uni. He picked me up in his rickety van and we went to a top of hill and drank a bottle of wine in huge actual wine glasses and watched the city lights. It was really nice.

Did it work out? Thankfully no. I later discovered he copy-pasted the same things to everybody in his life.

Best first date recommendation: I'm going to go with one of my favourite things to do in the city with my boyfriend – Art Night Thursday – which is on the second Thursday of every month. All the galleries are open until 9.30 p.m. and some of them have new openings (aka drinks and snacks and the artist present). You essentially gallery hop so you won't get too bored even if the date sucks, the art is usually great, and if not, then that's something to bond about.

Dating advice: Do something you're both into – get a light bite and go to a show, or go on a midnight walk with a hipflask of something strong. Talk a lot, listen a lot, be curious, be kind, keep your phone away, drink a heap, and always share dessert.

Simin Patel

In Mumbai since: 1984!

Profession: Historian and Blogger: Bombaywalla

Tell us about your first date ever: I went on what seems like 50 first dates – drives, coffees and more drives – with a guy who had an SUV with Superman stickers. I was 17 going on 18 at the time and didn't fully fathom what was happening.

Did it work out? Then on one drive, as we approached Wilson College, he mentioned he was dating a friend of his, whom I had briefly met. A few group drives with his friends followed. A year later, they had broken up and we were back to our drives for two. Things could have gotten somewhere but I couldn't get over being slighted so!

Best first date recommendation: I'd say tea at KGC (Kala Ghoda Café) if you're not quite sure about the person. If more certain, drinks at The Ghetto.

Dating advice: Girls like me tend to be drawn to alpha males, who talk the talk (and are all over the place). But actually, it's the guy who asks you for chai at five at the library that are really sweet (as I discovered with my chappie, with whom I am very happy).

Nisha Damani

In Mumbai since: Birth

Profession: Creative consultant

Tell us about your first ever date: I was 17, studying in FYJC at St. Xavier's College, and the cutest boy in the world asked me to our college prom. Of course I said yes. He took me to Thai Pavilion, and we chatted for hours and almost missed the prom.

Did it work out? Well, it's complicated. Haha. We ended up being best friends. Until we started dating at 23. Dated for five years and been married for 10. To think it all started with stir fried morning glory and chicken green curry.

Best first date recommendation: Don't go to a stuffy uptight place that makes for awkward conversation pauses. (Yes, I am aware my first date is the opposite of my recommendation. But I was 17 and no place seemed stuffy to me then.) Keep it light and simple. Maybe a bar for some drinks and snacks. The second date can be more intimate. Try The Table. Best food in Bombay.

Dating advice: Trust your gut. When in doubt, chuck it out.

Naman Saraiya

Home: Calcutta

In Mumbai since: 2011, and plenty of summer holidays visiting cousins ever since I can remember.

Profession: Writer, photographer and filmmaker. I can't pick one just yet.

Tell us about your first ever date: It took me a while to recall this one, but I have it now! I was possibly in Grade 4, and our parents were friends – so we'd end up meeting for dinners and other such things. Shweta had gotten a VCD of Space Jam from cousins abroad but couldn't make it work on her PC, but I had it all figured out. It was a lovely summer afternoon watching Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny and the gang slam dunk their way into our hearts. There was popcorn involved, and a short evening terrace shindig, before my Mum and I returned home.

Did it work out? Well she got married last winter, so that's that. But she's given me grief for missing the wedding, so while we didn't end up ever dating, we remain friends.

Best first date recommendation: This is a tricky one, but I guess it's best to ensure that both parties are comfortable with what's happening, and on the same page. It can't just be a date in one person's head, because that would almost entirely suck. I've done casual drinks, a fancy-ish dinner, a gig, a lovely Lodhi Gardens stroll in the winter (yeah, we have many in Bombay too!) and even visited a photography exhibit. Hell, my girlfriend and I, our first date was a cab ride from Colaba to Lower Parel on a traffucked day, so I was sweaty as hell, but at least I got to spend plenty time with her. More than anything else, it's important that both are comfortable and being themselves; not awkward. Otherwise, it's great television content, not a real date.

Dating advice: Pffffffft! Don't listen to anyone, except your gut. And of course, listen to the person you're with because if you're not – are you even dating?

Kunal Rao

In Mumbai since: Birth, apart from 4 years in the middle when I was in different countries

Profession: Comedian, Writer, serial track-pants wearer

Tell us about your first ever date: Let's leave aside the sad loser-like excuses for dates in college! It's not really a date if you're meeting in the college canteen for pav bhaji! But since then... First date was an ice cream date! It was simple and silly and allowed both of us to be ourselves, which was supremely important to me.

Did it work out? Sure! Glad you didn't ask for how long! But yes, it works out often enough. Sustaining is the hard part!

Best first date recommendation: Anything that induces conversation is a great first date for me. So that cuts out things like movies, plays and live concerts. Walks are probably the best on the first date, because I think people find it harder to lie when they're concentrating on avoiding potholes! It's comfortable and induces honesty.

Dating advice: I really shouldn't. I'm in no position to do so! But I'd say – it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Insia Lacewalla

In Mumbai since: Always. Till I got to Jaipur on Christmas Eve, December 2015.

Profession: Food and Beverage Curator. Hospitality Consultant.

Tell us about your first date: I was 16. A senior from college who I was eyeing asked me to a movie. I wore very high-waisted white pants. Got there and he said, “nice pants,” which, after many months, I learnt was a sarcastic comment and not a compliment. I was so nervous, I ate four scoops of chocolate ice cream (Now, I don't recommend you wear white pants if you are going to order chocolate ice cream). After two hours of Shanghai Nights and a crazy sugar high, he asked me to come over.

Did it work out? Surprisingly, yeah! Dated for four years. Wonder what the f**k I was thinking!

Best first date recommendation: Eating with someone can say a lot about the person. Go to a place where you are comfortable and which is equidistant for both of you. (Also, sit close to the door if you are the "I can't do this, let me take off" type) I recommend The Pantry or Taj Mahal Tea House, which are quiet and perfect to have a conversation.

Dating advice: Sweaty palms/Sweat patches/Body odor are a big turn off. It's natural for it to happen when you are nervous/anxious. Use adequate amount of deodorant and carry tissues.

Be nice. Don't try to prove how awesome you are or brag about your achievements or exes. Listen to the other person. Again, Be nice.

Please offer to pay at least half the bill.

Boys - Just be chivalrous. Hold the door, pull a chair, let her order first, ask if she'd like to share something.

Keep your phone on silent and off the table

Don't "Oh my god, have you seen this video?" Cat/puppy/little baby videos are not fun to sit and watch on your first date.

Ramona Arena

In Mumbai since: Let's just say most of my life minus about 10 years

Profession: TV Personality, Live Event Host, Singer, Actor, Writer... I could go on but don't want to show off.

Tell us about your first ever date: It was a date with six other friends present, so we would not have to feel awkward and call it a date. Everyone ordered soft drinks, except him. He ordered last and thought he'd be romantic by ordering only a straw to share my drink with me. Talk about a rude shock. That was crossing the line of lameness in my independent, free spirited teenaged mind.

Did it work out? Absolutely! Not!!! Never even in my worst nightmare.

Best first date Recommendation: Any nice café for a good cup of coffee or juice, if it's a blind first date. You don't want to see strange eating habits or stay too long. If it's a first date after having hung out with each other, definitely a restaurant for a nice meal – that’s not way too high end, or way too cheap; only in Bandra West. Oh and split the bill.

Dating advice: Just be who you are – don’t slap on a personality you think the other person may like. Smile genuinely and listen to what the other is saying. That's how you have a conversation, instead of a list of questions you're getting answered. Above all else, most importantly, I can't stress this enough: Be intelligent.

Manish Anand

In Mumbai since: 1989

Profession: Actor

Tell us about your first ever date: It was at Bandra Fort. I was 11, she was 13. We got there at 6:30 a.m. on our cycles, watched the sun rise, drank coconut water at bandstand and cycled back home. We held hands!

Did it work out? Yes it did. We were boyfriend girlfriend for one week.

Best first date recommendation: Not an amusement park and certainly not on a roller coaster ride.

Dating advice: You don't own your partner! Just take it easy and if it's easy, take it again :)

Malini Agarwal

In Mumbai since: Jan 1, 2000

Profession: Creative Director & Founder of MissMalini Entertainment

Tell us about your first ever date: I think my first "date" was at the age of nine with boy called Arun who lived in the same apartment complex as I did, in Delhi. We went downstairs to play "glow worms" – remember those? We'd hold the plastic snails and such under a lightbulb till they would start to glow and then make up stories about them. (They had a cartoon based on them and everything!) Anyway, that day we played glow worms and held hands for a while sitting on the stairs alone. Least complex and sweetest date I ever had! I wonder where he is now and if he still has his glow worms...

Best first date recommendation: Well I don't know if this is the best – given its messy factor – but it’s certainly unique! On our first date, Nowshad (my now husband) took me to eat crabs at Trishna. I remember looking mildly horrified as the waiter passed me a bib, but its a great ice (and shell) breaker for sure! Today I'd suggest the crabs at Bastian though. But if you don't want to risk catapulting a crab claw across the room on your first date, I'd say do something fun, like bowling (Smaaash, Lower Parel) or pool (145 Colaba or Bandra). Lots of opportunity to play around and make accidental physical contact, a little friendly competition gets the sparks flying I feel. Plus it takes away the stress of only having to talk! (Just don't be a sore loser.) Food-wise I'd say One Street Over, amazing food, great vibe and if all else fails get a round of pickle backs from Chef Kelvin for liquid courage! If its just drinks try Luna at the St. Regis, or their Asilo rooftop, roof tops are romantic right? Oh there's a darling new place called 1Above in the mills as well. Massive and lovely.

Dating advice: 1. Text a bunch first, it breaks the ice! And you can tell whether or not you want to waste your time on someone who spells "lyk dis."

2. Ladies dress cute but comfortably. You'll regret the, "I can't feel my little toe shoes" immediately. Boys – no need for a leather jacket. Its 40 degrees. She'll think you're stupid.

3.Listen more than you talk. When you ask a question, pay attention to the answer. Don't just think about your next question.

4. Gentlemen, go old-school. Open the car door (walk around to the other side of the uber, don't make her slide!) Call me old-fashioned, but I like a boy who buys dinner on the first date even if I offer/insist.

5. Girls, smile. Don't bring up ex boyfriends or how many kids you want to have... yet.

Most importantly, be yourself. That's who they asked out anyway. God speed!

Bhavika Thakkar

In Mumbai since: Forever. Or 1984 to be precise.

Profession: Freelance writer/Events and television producer.

Tell us about your first ever date: I was a "mean girl" in school and so my first date ever had to obviously fit into that stereotype. I don't remember the details except that it involved a bad boy and a fast bike. I'd like to blame the lame American teenage movies I watched.

Did it work out? My first date ever? No. I look at him now and he has a paunch and a balding pate. Such a far cry from the good-looking, bad boy. Such a cliche (again) and I'm so glad it didn't work out.

Best first date recommendation: Go somewhere fun. I find dinners stifling, really. A concert is nice or drinks at your favourite bar. Something informal, basically.

Dating advice: For the men : Make the first date last. It's the only first date you'll ever have. For the women: Make sure you have a friend who can bail you out, you know in case the guy insists on making it last and he's the serial killer type.

Chhavi Sachdev 

In Mumbai since: 2008

Profession: radio journalist and podcaster (India’s best love, sex and dating podcast, y’all)

First date ever: It was Valentine’s Day and I was in 12th grade. We were a group of six girls who were friends with six guys and we sort of picked straws about who would go on a date with whom. I was psyched: my date was the cutest of the lot. I still remember what I wore. We ended up at a fast food joint in Vasant Vihar, Delhi, but the side effect of us being a group of hormonal teenagers was that the mix and match didn’t work for everyone and there was massive tension and FOMO. Our date was crashed fairly quickly by four of the others.

Did it work out? Not for me. But my date and one of the other girls in the group married each other. The high-school sweethearts have two gorgeous kids and the proverbial white picket fence happily-ever-after.

Best first date recommendation: Insist on public spaces! Coffee shops or an early evening drink for a first meeting are great because then you can extend the date if it’s going well, but bail if it’s not. I am also big on doing stuff together (hey, get your mind out of the gutter!) if you can identify something you both enjoy exploring – whether it’s a pub quiz (Doolally?), art show, or a wine tasting (bonus thumbs up for getting a nice buzz while you’re at it). And then, if it goes well, relocate and go for a walk or go get dessert.

Dating advice: Oh, I have plenty:
 Don’t be late. Be yourself, which means, eat what you want, drink what you want (as long as it doesn’t make you burp or fart very obviously. If you think there’s going to be kissing, make sure you’re both getting onions or garlic). Don’t judge, but don’t censor yourself, don’t agree with things you don’t agree with. Put your phone away. Tell at least one person where you are and whom you’re with. Arrange for a bail out call at a set time. BYOC (where “c” = condom). And if it sucks, be nice and let them know you won't see them again.

Munjaal V. Kapadia

Home: Navsari

In Mumbai since: 1996-2009; 2016-now

Profession: Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Tell us about your first ever date: Our first date wasn't really a date to begin with. I was in my second year of medical school and she was in her first. I had this noisy Tata Indica and I was giving her a ride home from college. We got talking. Although, she did most of the talking that day. About everything: her school, her friends, heartbreak. I listened. As we were approaching her home, she asked if I had time to take a little detour. She took me to this garden at Breach Candy and we walked all the way out to the sea, by the rocks. We walked around and held hands. When I finally dropped her back home, she asked, "Where have you been all my life?"

Did it work out: 18 years and two kids. Who'd have thunk?

Best first date recommendation: Be stupid. Don't try too hard. Once a girl has been with someone who has no filter between his heart and his mouth, no one else will ever come close.

Dating advice: Smile goofily, kiss awkwardly and laugh together during sex.

Payal Khandelwal

Hometown: Delhi and Mumbai

In Mumbai since: 2006

Profession: Editor of The Floating Magazine

Tell us about your first ever date: My first date was when I was in school. It was at McDonald's in Delhi with a family friend that I had a huge crush on, only he didn't know it was a date. My first non-imaginary date was at Candies at Bandra Reclamation, which incidentally was also my first time in Candies.    

Did it work out: No. I think I fell for Candies instead of falling for him. I did go on a couple of more dates with him, but I was just being polite.

Best first date recommendation: I think going for an evening drink for a first date is a good idea. Avoid anything too loud or too formal. I still prefer all the good old local watering holes like Yacht, Janta, Soul Fry, Strand Hotel's rooftop restaurant in Colaba (with a fantastic view of the Gateway of India and the sea), etc. If the date isn't going well or is too boring, you can always eavesdrop on other people's conversations. If it's going alright, you can head out after a couple of drinks to just walk around or get something to eat elsewhere or watch a late night movie. The tiny, charming and decrepit Gem theatre (in the Gaiety-Galaxy complex) in Bandra – with a string of fairy lights on its screen – has often been my favorite movie date spot. 

Dating advice: Go with the flow.

Bhavana Singh

Home: I move around a lot.

In Mumbai since: 2014

Profession: Communications strategy at a PR agency

Tell us about your first ever date: I was a super nerdy kid; asthma, badly-cut hair, braces, soda-bottle glasses and always lugging a heavy book. One day a boy from another school’s debate team asked me out to dinner. I spent all day getting ready, imagining us holding hands and discussing literature. He took me to McDonald’s and bought me a burger. Try to imagine an awkward 16-year-old eating a burger with braces. At the end of the date, he said, “You have stuff in your teeth” and walked off.

Did it work out: I’ve spent two days trying to remember his name, so I’m going to go with no.

Best first date recommendation: Go for a walk in the city where you live! It’s the best way to gauge if someone views the world in a way that’s interesting to you.

Dating advice: Use spell-check. Drink a lot.

Anisha Shah

In Mumbai since: Birth (It was called Bombay then)

Profession: Dance Choreographer

Tell us about your first date: My first date was when I was 15 and Barista was a rage at the time (at least for 15 year olds)… He got blue Curaçao and I got coffee.

Did it work out: Not with my first date but thank God I eventually found a man who loves coffee, beer, food, dogs and dance!

Best first date recommendation: For me it's always been about being able to find an activity that I can do along with the person I'm interested in, and it's been the best ice breaker always because it's then when you can’t fake who you are. If that means finding common interest in music or dance or games or food or pets or sudoku even or a certain kind of movie after which you can sit and dissect it. It's not too personal and yet a big part of who you are and you can ease into the details as you move along.

Dating advice: Don't be insecure.

Hrishikesh Kannan (Hrishi K)

Home: Of no fixed address. Grew up around the country thanks to my father’s transferable job.

In Mumbai since: 1995

Profession: Radio Producer & Presenter, Voice Over Artist & MC

First Date: We met at an Andheri coffee shop because she had been part of a workshop that I had conducted at the Xavier Institute of Communication on announcing, broadcasting, compering and dubbing. She called asking for some help with contacts as she was a TV presenter looking for work at the time, and I told her that I didn’t remember her name but also that I didn't forget faces. She asked me if we could meet briefly since she wanted to show/give me her showreel so I could circulate it to people I knew in the TV world. I agreed, and what was to be a five-minute meeting went on for several hours. Our next one was walking down Carter Road. I was driving in from town and I said let's meet half way in Bandra and travel back to Andheri together. Good old fashioned walk amongst nature and the jostling Bandra runners and jaywalkers.

Did it work out: Sure as hell did! We have an almost five-year-old child to show for it.

Best idea for a date: Coffee shops – clichéd but they work! No loud pub music, no concentrating on the menu and food at a restaurant. Ideal for conversations, which is what you need.

Dating advice: No loud shirts. The neon pink and neon green can come in later. Keep it simple in the beginning. And lure her with the right words and lots of straight in the eyes looks. No shifty eyes please.

Meera Ganapathi

Home: Bangalore/Mumbai

In Mumbai since: 2008

Profession: Writer and editor of Design Fabric/Soup

Tell us about your first ever date: My first date was in school, over cold coffee in Brigade Road surrounded by five guffawing friends. The entire date was a series of advertising clichés from the late '90s and even ended with him gifting me a card from Archies. To complete the circle of clichés I also wrote about it in my diary later. My diary was bright yellow and yes it did have a lock. Also from Archies.

Did it work out? Soon after I met another boy who gifted me a book of love poems by Tennyson. Being a raging nerd I moved on faster than a babbling brook. So, I guess not.

Best first date recommendation: I find it a bit stifling to go to a very obviously romantic restaurant and meeting someone I’m meant to be interested in. Finding something to wear, eating in a non-monster-like fashion and the general expectations involved make me very anxious. Instead I prefer walking and umm…talking.

My first memorable and most beautiful date in Bombay was just us walking around Bandra and ending up in Zenzi for drinks. December is the best time for a walk in Bombay, follow the Christmas lights in Bandra for a uniquely romantic night. While all of Bandra tends to be extravagantly lit up for Christmas, I recommend walking through quaint old Ranwar Village, which is my favourite side of Bandra and making your way across through Chapel Road, on to Hill Road.  Make a quick stop at Yacht Bar*, if your date is fun, he/she might appreciate the company of local drunks and the odd rat, but quite honestly, the fleeting red traffic lights make for an unexpectedly charming ambience. Don’t settle (it’s hard to because you simply cannot pee there) and make your way across Chuim Village to Soul Fry in Pali Market. Try the super sweet and highly potent Planter’s Punch and Sungta Maria.  If you’re still up to it, make your way down to Pali Village Café for Red Snapper and sangria or wine. Carry mints, in case you kiss and wear comfy footwear so you don’t die.

Dating advice: Put your phone away.

*No yachts involved, this is a dive bar.

Gino Banks

In Mumbai since: Birth

Profession: Musician

Tell us about your first ever date: It was during my school days. I had just started to ask this girl out so we decided to go out for dinner. It was a big deal since we had never done this before. Prior to that date we had only met each other at school. This was in the '90s so we didn't have cell phones either... simple times. I met her half-way and then we took a cab to the restaurant. We were nervous but still happy to be doing this. I took her to a restaurant called Pot Pourrie (it's on the corner of Turner Road, Bandra). The place served Italian/Continental /sort of cuisine, so I assumed it was fancy and figured it would impress her.  For the whole meal she just ate french fries. We had a good time.

Did it work out? It was great for the time. We are still good friends now.

Best first date recommendation: Find a cuisine that you both enjoy. Also do not go to a place with loud music. You need to be able to hear each other's conversation. That's very important. Especially on the first date. The conversation will either make it or break it. So, definitely no clubs!

Dating advice: Be yourself. It really matters in the long run. And remember Karma is a bitch!

Chetan Kapoor

In Mumbai since: Birth. Go fish.

Profession: Advertising. Creative Director.

Tell us about your first ever date: There used to be a jazz club by the sea called Jazz By The Bay. It sells pizzas now! Great music, awesome spaghetti, candlelight, the works. It could only happen in the '90s. Imagine taking someone on a first date to a jazz club now!

Did it work out? Swimmingly. The memories still come in waves.

Best first date recommendation: The venue doesn't matter as long as you can be heard. The Indigo terrace in Colaba is a great place. Never go to a nightclub on a first date. Always ask what the other person likes before you decide.

Dating advice: Keep it real. And TALK. That's a human on the other side of the table. Well, usually is...

Abish Mathew

Home: Noida

In Mumbai since: 2012

Profession: Comedian

Tell us about your first ever date: A common friend wanted to set us on a blind date. But  both of us had figured out who it was gonna be beforehand. And after we met and expressed how this is barely a date, the rest of the night turned out to be a roast of that common friend of ours.

Did it work out? Well, not very well. I was an ass and came dressed in shorts and a t shirt. That should explain how the date went.

Best first date recommendation: Nothing better than a drink and snacks. Anything more is too formal. Dinner is too formal.

Dating advice: From me? Ha! Well, you should *** and remember to **, be careful not to *** else *** might happen. And that's the perfect formulae for a perfect date.

Tushita Patel

Home: Now Bangalore, previously Somnath Lane, Bandra

In Mumbai since: 2000 to 2011

Profession: Secretary

Tell us about your first ever date: I studied in a co-ed boarding school, so being alone with boys with romantic intentions came early. Does going for school tea with a boy exclusively count? If yes, I can't remember the first. If it's the first time I went out with a boy and a restaurant bill was paid, it was to a Chinese restaurant in North Calcutta which was called Mombasa. Naturally, many jokes on the geographical inappropriateness of the name were made, establishing we were from a similar, slightly elite, college-going, buzzer-round quizzing, familiar-with-the-atlas type. It was a delightful afternoon that led to a long evening. All good dates should hold some promise. For us, the pinnacle of Indo-Chinese cuisine (golden fried prawns, chilly chicken and sweet corn soup) must have been a hormonal trigger. I paid, because I used to earn giving tuitions. Learnt many things about myself too.

Did it work out? Of course. We went on several great dates (most of which he paid for as he started working very soon), super wild holidays, did many wonderful things together for many years. That for me is working out.

Best first date recommendation: Should be easy and low pressure, ideally involving a few activities that may also provide an easy escape route. A walk in Humayun's Tomb (or equivalent) can lead to a drink and if things go well, some dinner (eating can be overrated on a date - restaurant dinners don't do much for me. On the other hand, if someone is cooking for you, that's intimate, and you're pretty much decided on the rest of the night, aren't you?) I think walking to a destination, taking a Metro together can be indicative of the kind of person you're with. Also some dancing. Always some dancing. Over-planning can be a bit dull though, on a first date. However, no detail can be too small in an old relationship.

Dating advice: 1. Love in the time of anti-Romeo squads can be scary, so don't throw caution to the wind about the surroundings. 2. Being smart is not being unromantic. A 19-year-old I know and respect studies in the US. She was going on a date with a frat boy, but his frat house had what she described as a "rape-y vibe."  I'm glad she sensed it and chose to go somewhere else. 3. The most enjoyable dates are those which are light and not burdened by the weight of some vagueness about the "future." It's always about the present. Here and now, baby.

Shruti Seth

In Mumbai since: Birth

Profession: Actor, TV Presenter

Where was your first ever date? Little Italy in Juhu

Did it work out? No

Best first date recommendation: I personally really like Asian food, though I love Golden Dragon at the Taj, and that would need some deep pockets.

Dating advice: Do not feel shy to eat on a date. Let your love for food always cloud your judgment in trying to impress someone.

Kanu Gupta

In Mumbai since: 2007

Profession: Entrepreneur – Savor Experiences

Where was your first ever date? Pizza Hut. I had made a bet that if I lost I would pay for dinner and if she lost she would pay for dinner. Don't think she really realized I was winning either way.

Did it work out? I don't think she even thought it was a date, so, no.

Best first date recommendation: A dirty decrepit dive. If she/he loves it, you do fine dining on date two.

Dating advice: Don't listen to advice.

Yudhishtar Urs

In Mumbai since: 2000

Profession: Actor

Where was your first ever date? My first date was with my first girlfriend ever. We went to this restaurant called Orange County, which was in Bangalore. At that time it was a fancy place and they had a buffet for Rs. 999/- but we choose the à la Carte menu and my heart just stopped. Bells went off and my pulse quickened as I was going into uncharted territory with very few rounds of ammunition; I mean very few as in just about enough to split the buffet. Now, as luck would have it she had already had an early lunch and opted for a cold coffee. Though I really think she could read minds and let me off easy or else I would have been an employee of the hotel for the duration of the day. Once we finished and the bill arrived, to my surprise she suggested we split the bill as she had a great time. So I guess, there is a God and she/he has filled the world with amazing women.

Did it work out? Yes.

Best first date recommendation: The best place to take your date would be a place that makes her feel special and at the same time doesn't set up the wrong expectations. Some place nice and easy to have a good conversation and get to know each other. In Mumbai : The 'Eau bar' at the Oberoi hotel. Great cocktails and there's a band that plays some nice music with a jazzy groove. Try the whisky sour or a gin fizz. Spend about as much time and call for an Uber once you’re done. Don't get too drunk as that's unattractive. You’re going to be out a few quid, so make sure your carrying a platinum card.

Dating advice: Be your self and don't bullshit. If things don't go the way you expected, always remember to be a gentleman. Some times the fine print is too small to get but when it gets clear be gracious and get the point. Most of all have fun. The mood you bring is the mood that will stay.

Varun Thakur

In Mumbai since: April 20, 1987 12.32 pm

Profession: Comedian

Tell us about your first ever date: I was 14 and unlike the nightclub hopping 14-year-olds of today we had a much more sober childhood. Her parents were very super protective so we couldn't really go out. I remember getting her a slice of cake and going to our building terrace. Unfortunately it was locked and the building secretary had the keys. So we just sat on the steps outside in 35 degrees.

Best first date recommendation: Dinner dates, long drives, movies, are boring and done to death. Go crazy. Surprise her. Take her out to a place that has some adventure sports or on a scary roller coaster ride at an amusement park. She may like, she may not, she may think you're downright retarded, but she sure as hell will never forget that day.

Did it work out? I don't know. Never tried it. Let me know if works.

Dating advice: What am I, Pooja Bedi?

Karishma Upadhyay

In Mumbai Since: 1998

Profession: Journalist

Tell us about your first ever date: I have two words for you - chhole bhature. It doesn’t get more Delhi than that. I was in school and he was my BFF’s cousin. You’d think it would be perfect but it wasn’t. Stinky onion breath might have had something to do with that.

Did it work out: *shudder* No, and thank God for small mercies.

Best first date recommendations: Once I moved to Bombay, one of my favourite date spots was the Sailing Club, in Colaba. If you have access to it, I highly recommend it. It’s by the sea, mostly quiet and booze is cheap. Prithvi Café used to be another favourite. If the date turns out to be boring, you can always people-watch.

Dating Advice: It’s clichéd but “be yourself”. My husband’s first impression of me was that I was “an annoying girl from Delhi”. Fifteen years later, he can’t complain. It’s his fault he married the “annoying girl from Delhi”.


Pooja Dhingra

In Mumbai since: 1986

Profession: Pastry Chef

First date: My best first date was just walking around Colaba, drinks at Marina, followed by dinner at The Table and more drinks at Woodside Inn.

Best first date recommendation: Shameless plug, but I think Le15 cafe is the ideal place for a dessert and coffee date

Did it work out? He didn't like sugar. It clearly couldn't.

Dating advice: Do not order a burger or anything with spinach.

Ishaan_200pxIshaan Nair

In Mumbai since: 2009

Profession: Director, Fashion Photographer, Writer

First date: It was probably Priya Cinemas in New Delhi when I was 12.

Best first date recommendation: Used to be Royal China in Bandra when it was around. So now my go-to is Kofuku or Pali Bhavan.

Dating advice: If your date can’t eat with chopsticks consider it an epic fail.

Cyril_200pxCyril D’Abreo

In Mumbai since: It was called Bombay

Profession: Entrepreneur

First date: First date was at the Bandra Fair; it involved candy floss, a ride on the Ferris wheel and some very bad jokes. Think she felt bad for me so it worked out.

Best first date recommendation: The Fatty Bao - nice food, great drinks, and top it off with some nice desert. It has a nice casual vibe not formal at all, and after a good meal, walk to Monkey Bar next door and dance away the extra calories. She should appreciate that.

Dating advice: Don't start a date on a high note, keep it simple let her enjoy your company more than the ambience.

Anu_200pxAnu Menon

In Mumbai since: 2004

Profession: Actor, Comedienne

First date: It's been a while since I've been on a first date. Mine was at Indigo Deli with a guy that was chivalrous to the point of annoyance. But his posh British accent kept me amused.

First date recommendation: The Bombay Canteen. It's cheery. And if you run out of conversation you could always comment on the waiters' "punny" t-shirts

Dating advice: Do keep a couple of stories handy...not to amuse your date, but to amuse yourself. For there will be times when cocktails won't be enough to do the job.

shivani-shahShivani Shah

In Mumbai since: Always. Born and raised.

Profession: Editor

First Date: Dinner at Busaba. I feel like we went for drinks somewhere after that, but I can’t remember where.

Did it work out? Nope. He didn’t live here, so it was always a long shot.

Best first date recommendation: Food! Always food. It doesn’t matter where. If things work out you’ll be sharing a lot of meals with this person over the years. Might as well find out early on whether he/she shares fries.

Dating advice: Have fun and be yourself. Life’s too short to play games.

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