The Phone Romeos of India

That is the topic of a short, fascinating new article in The New York Times.

The “phone Romeo,” as he is known here, calls numbers at random until he hears a woman’s voice, in the hope of striking up a romantic attachment. Among them are overeager suitors (“Can I recharge your mobile?”), tremulous supplicants (“I am talking to you, madam, but my body is shaking”) and the occasional heavy breather (“I want to do the illegal things with you”).

Intentionally dialing wrong numbers is a labor-intensive way to find a girlfriend. But it is increasingly common in a range of countries — Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh and India are examples — where traditional gender segregation has collided head-on with a wave of cheap new technology.

At the police call center in Lucknow, in northern India, roughly 700 calls come in every day, mostly from women complaining of persistent calls from strange men. The Hindustan Times recently reported that phone recharging outlets were selling the numbers of young women to interested men, charging 500 rupees, about $7.60, for a “beautiful” girl and 50 rupees for an “ordinary” one.

In related impacts of technology on love, some experts believe Tinder is decreasing the importance of home court advantage in the NBA by making hookups more efficient (no need to spend all night at the club before an away game).

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