Why Are We Outraging Over the Age Gap Between Bigg Boss’ Anup Jalota and Jasleen Matharu?

Love and Sex

Why Are We Outraging Over the Age Gap Between Bigg Boss’ Anup Jalota and Jasleen Matharu?

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander/ Arré

The 12th season of the human zoo called Bigg Boss has hardly begun, and it’s already served up its first WTF moment. The shocker wasn’t Salman Khan-related for once, instead, Bhaijaan had the spotlight stolen by the Bhajan Samrat, Anup Jalota. The 65-year-old crooner of devotional songs, and your grandmother’s Dean Martin, entered the House with his girlfriend, the 28-year-old Jasleen Matharu. Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra are yesterday’s news, with their 11-year age difference looking more like a crack than gap, compared to Jalota’s and Matharu’s 30-year plus disparity. But does the fact that Jalota probably owns whiskeys that are older than his girlfriend matter, if they are truly in love? What governs our understanding of “age-appropriate” dating?

Milind Soman turned 52 last year and posted pictures online saying, “Thank you” to his fans. He looks great as ever in the photos, especially for a 52-year-old dude, but next to him in the picture, was his much younger girlfriend. Some reports say she is 18, some say she is 23. So, the two are at least 28 years apart. That’s practically a gap of two generations in today’s world.

However #woke the Indian internet and urban spaces get, dating older men can be a self-inflicted taboo, one that we have still to get by. What is age-appropriate dating? Does the half-plus-seven-rule apply? Or is age just a stupid old number?

A few months ago, I was in a bar and a visibly older man sporting a blue shirt, was on his his fourth glass of whisky. I’d been keeping count from the corner of my eye from the moment he’d come to stand across me at the bar. It was becoming increasingly difficult to pay attention to my friend’s rambling about her work woes when there was a fairly attractive man looking at us.

The fact that his gaze was friendly and not predatory, encouraged us to turn toward him and smile. He couldn’t possibly be older than 26, so certainly for us 21-year-olds, he seemed age-appropriate. He was doing that thing with this eyes – it was somewhere between an invitation and a wink. Pleased by our gaze, he casually walked over to join us, and in the course of linguistic salsa, we soon discovered that appearances could be a tad deceptive. The man, we learnt, was 32 years old. He seemed equally displeased to learn that it hadn’t even been a year since my friend and I had graduated.

““Uh oh. You’re too young,” he blurted out, which was followed by a silence strange enough to start wars. I caressed my glass and mapped out the calculus.”

The universal rule of thumb in the dating world with age differences is “The rule of seven”. It dictates that the younger person must double their current age and subtract seven to arrive at an age of the oldest person they can date, and the older person must divide their age by two and add seven for the youngest they can date. (Those who dropped mathematics after 10th grade may struggle with the mental calculation.)

The rule may seem arbitrary, but it actually carries within it an innate wisdom. This succinct age gap maintains the emotional-stability equilibrium taking into account the fact that women attain emotional maturity faster than men. This perfect age gap then circumvents all the petty shit in relationships like jealously or caring about who makes more money.

There are those that have ventured beyond this boundary. Numerous friends have dated people far older and though they’ve touted the benefits of being in a relationship with a person who is “sorted” in life, it comes with its own set of drawbacks. The dreaded “generation gap” creeps in and forces the younger of the two to feel sheepish about their life choices and taste in music. One really has go through their own phase of listening to Linkin Park before delving into the beauty of fine jazz with even finer wine. One wants #sots at every Social before settling for everyday dinners at Olive. Most importantly, one has to be able to talk in a language that belongs to their generation. Linguistics come and go out of fashion just like clothes or music. One year it’s #fam, the next year it’s “lit”, and it keeps changing. You don’t want to sit, explain your feelings, and then translate them into a language the people beyond your tribe understand.

But some would argue that all this crap about age doesn’t matter as much as the couple’s desire. Regardless of the age difference, if both of them are attitudinally similar, it probably wouldn’t make a difference how old they were (as long as they’re of legal age, of course). A recent study where women were in relationships with men an average of 17.3 years older than them found out that there’s no difference between AGRs (age-gap relationships) and SARs (same-age relationships). “The two age-based relationship samples were similar in both attachment style and relationship satisfaction. Further, the size of the age gap did not relate significantly to the satisfaction with the partner,” the study added.

I sipped the metaphorical courage in front of me and decided to give our mystery man a chance by dropping a casual “What’s up?” Colour me de-libido’ed then when he chimed in with, “Not much. But you guys must be excited about Justin Bieber coming to India, right?”

Alright then.

I bid him goodbye, realising that dating older men isn’t the problem. Or even men who are two generations older. The problem is dating men who expect you to intelligently bridge the generation gap in an effort to find middle ground, but don’t make an effort themselves.

I can’t imagine the very cool Milind Soman making such a fundamental mistake. It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that Milind Soman is woke. And hot. And a feminist. And hot. And millennially attuned. And hot.

So really, if I were Milind Soman’s girlfriend, dating rules could go take a walk. But when it comes to Jalota, the rules are unfortunately different.

This is an updated version of an earlier published essay.