"We need to stop looking at love as females vs males"
British Asian singer, Jaya and British Indian media personality and writer, Meera Sharma have teamed up to bring listeners their fantastic radio show, Up Your Game.
Interestingly, Jaya, who has been in the music and entertainment industry for more than ten years, was the first British Asian singer to be signed by a major UK record label.
She has also toured across the globe with singers like Peter Andre and N-Dubz. Not only that but she has worked with various international brands.
Taking to the limelight on series 11 of the dating show, Take Me Out, Meera has gone on to utilise various mediums in order to explore identity and representation. Her work focuses on her Indian heritage and Western upbringing.
Co-hosts Meera and Jaya are helping their listeners break away from stereotypes concerning South Asian dating and relationships since their show launched in July 2020.
As well as breaking the stigma surrounding dating, Jaya and Meera have welcomed notable guests on their show. These include Natasha Sandhu, Nas from Love Island, and ZHK Designs just to name a few.
We speak exclusively to Jaya and Meera about their radio show, Up Your Game, dating in the South Asian community, sexism and much more.
Importance of discussing Dating for South Asians
Speaking about the importance of openly discussing dating amongst South Asians, Meera Sharma said:
“When you look at the media, how many shows, hosted by South Asians, can you think of that are talking about dating or how many South Asians do you see on dating shows?
“It’s very few and far between. I think it’s time we change this narrative and show that we do date – one just has to go on a South Asian dating app such as Dil Mil to see how many of us are actively looking for partners.
“There also tends to be a feeling within the South Asian community that you have to be married by a certain age – having discussions around dating will show that you don’t need to rush into things.
“You can be any age and look for the one! I want to stress to women, who are often the ones pressured into being married by a certain age, that it’s not about finding someone to complete you, it is finding someone who compliments your life and supports your choices!
“These discussions around dating will help people make the right decisions.”
Jaya continued to mention the need to create awareness in the South Asian community. She said:
“Conversation creates awareness and change. Love and dating have changed so much in the last decade so I think it is important to open up the discussion because we learn so much from other people’s stories and experiences.”
Up Your Game
We asked Meera and Jaya to describe the concept of the dating and relationship show, Up Your Game. In response Jaya explained:
“Our radio show is of course about all things love and dating.
“But we also discuss a whole bunch of topics within that to break down stereotypes and normalise things which were taboo in the past such as interracial relationships, same-sex marriages.
“The main aim of our platform is to encourage love and empowerment!”
Meera further added:
“It’s a relatable take on dating and relationships from two females in their 30’s. We share our own, often funny, personal stories, along with notable guests.
“We also have a segment called Ask the Auntie Gs where myself and Jaya give advice to listeners, who can submit their dating and relationship dilemmas to us.
“We want viewers to think of us as those Aunties we all wished we bumped into at weddings, the ones that tell you to live life on your own terms and pass no judgement. We’re giving a new meaning to the term Auntie Ji. ;)”
Take Me Out
Meera Sharma appeared on series 11 of the popular dating show, Take Me Out. Explaining what her experience was like on the show, she said:
“It was a fun experience. I met some fab ladies and got to use my platform to talk about the importance of South Asian representation in mainstream media.
“Our representation is lacking, especially in the UK, where there tends to be this narrative revolving around arranged (but usually depicted as forced) marriages and how we all have a secret life we are keeping from our suffocating families.
“By going on Take Me Out, I was able to show an audience, who are perhaps not familiar with the US shows with South Asian female leads (Quantico, The Mindy Project, The Good Place) that we are not a monolith.
“We can be just as sassy and opinionated as our white counterparts and our families don’t stop us from living how we want to!”
Why is dating taboo for South Asians?
Aspects like dating continue to be considered taboo in the South Asian community. Stereotypically, South Asians refrain from discussing such things. Revealing why this is the case, Meera said:
“I think a lot of South Asians can feel that if you date it automatically means you will be having sex with everyone you date.
“The reality is everyone needs to date to find out what they are looking for in a partner and perhaps what they are not looking for.
“You have to get to know someone before you commit to a relationship – whether that’s going for dinner or an activity date.
“It’s not always about having sex, it’s about getting to know someone and seeing whether this is someone you want to partner in life with.”
Jaya went on to highlight how some people still feel uncomfortable when facing such matters as well as the concept of perceived shame. She added:
“I think it is South Asian culture to avoid things that make us uncomfortable. We care too much about what other people think and the idea of sharam is still embedded in the community.
“Females especially are not brought up to be free-thinking and outspoken. But times are changing and I am so glad they are!”
Understandably, dating can appear to be quite a tricky concept for many. We asked Meera for her top five dating tips. She revealed:
“Don’t play games – there are these unwritten rules – don’t text back too quickly, play it cool etc. Reality is we need to put this ‘millennial’ dating mentality in the trash.
“If you like someone tell them, be honest. If you don’t like them then tell them too. Don’t string people along!
“Know yourself and be yourself – If you know yourself you will know what you are looking for and won’t lose yourself in the process.
“You will be comfortable being yourself. People tend to be something to impress others – it is better to have someone like you for being your authentic self. If they don’t, that’s their loss. Move on.
“Don’t think for the other person – we tend to have a habit of overthinking things e.g. someone didn’t text back quickly it means they are not interested etc.
“The reality is everyone is busy so it’s best to communicate and ask them if you are unsure about something.”
“Communicate – this is so important. Just keep an open dialogue and be honest!
“Discuss your love language – this is a good one to do from the start as everyone is different.”
When asking Jaya for her top dating tops, she disclosed:
“Be yourself. Love yourself. Turn up to the date knowing you are the shit! Have fun and if the date is crap tell your best friend to call and say there’s been a fire a hugeeeee fire.”
What are South Asian women mostly looking for in men?
To many, this may seem to be a complicated question with endless answers. In response Meera revealed:
“I can’t speak for all women but I can say what I’m looking for and what some of the female guests on our show have said – a man who is not intimidated by a career-oriented and ambitious woman, he has to have his own life and respect his partner’s time and choices.
“Great if he is family-oriented, ambitious, and has a good sense of humour – banter is important!
Meanwhile, Jaya believes for a woman a man must tick three crucial boxes:
“I can’t speak for the whole South Asian race but I think for the most part women want to be loved, respected and supported.”
She jokingly added:
“Oh and a man who can cook and clean also, thanks :).”
While many people assume women are complicated when looking for their Mr Right, what about men looking for their Mrs Right?
Understandably, Meera stated that she “wouldn’t be able to speak for men!”
Meanwhile, Jaya hilariously said:
“Someone like their Mama! Jokes jokes. You will have to ask men what they want because honestly sometimes I don’t think they even know.”
Sexism in Dating
The idea of sexism was once embedded in South Asian culture. Men were given more freedom as opposed to women.
However, times have progressed since then and women are beginning to control the reigns of their life.
Despite this cultural shift, both Meera and Jaya agree that sexism still exists in dating for South Asians. Jaya explained:
“Of course! We are still using this backdated idea of what a woman should be and what a man should be.
“All women do not want to be housewives and sacrifice everything they have built to cook you roti and raise your babies.
“Likewise all men do not want to be the alpha all the time. We need to stop looking at love as females vs males and more human vs human.
“Everyone’s wants and needs are different when it comes to looking for a partner.”
Sharing her thoughts on this matter, Meera said:
“I feel like there are still pockets of the community that frown upon a woman dating. There is also an issue with a woman being career-oriented or having a ‘non-conventional career’.
“I’ve seen guys say they are looking for a ‘homely’ woman?! We can also be judged by how we dress. So yeah, sexism is still alive and kicking in dating!”
What is the common aim of South Asian dating?
The idea of knowing where a relationship is headed is certainly favoured. However, everyone has different views on this.
Some want a serious relationship while others prefer a casual ‘see how it goes’ type of affair or even flings.
We asked Jaya and Meera what the common aim for South Asian dating is. Jaya disclosed:
“I think for the most part South Asians are looking for a lifetime partner because that is how it works traditionally.
“But again there are some South Asians who don’t want to settle down so each to their own!”
Meera, who has tried both non-South Asian and South Asian dating apps reveals:
“The common aim is a relationship. Obviously, you do get a few guys who want a casual fling but as someone who has used non-South Asian dating apps, and is now using a South Asian specific dating app, I can see that most of the South Asian guys say they are interested in a relationship.
“Many want to date, have a relationship before rushing into marriage. Makes a change from getting messages, on other apps, asking for a booty call! No thanks.”
Breaking the Taboo around Dating
We asked Jaya and Meera whether new generation South Asians are taking it upon themselves to break the cultural taboo around dating.
Sharing her view, Jaya believes the new generation is helping to break out of this mould. She said:
“Hell yes, they are! I talk to so many young females and am always amazed at how confident, cultural and forward-thinking they are.
“The future is defo bright for this new generation Devis and we are like the proud, wise aunties cheering them on.”
However, Meera believes South Asians in the UK are lagging behind those in the US. She explains:
“I feel there still are not that many South Asian’s talking about dating, more so in the UK. North America is more progressive in this way as I see many influencers talking openly about their relationships, which is great.
“When you look at dating shows in the US you do also have many more South Asians appearing on them – Marikh Mathias from the Bachelor is just one!
“Hopefully more conversations and shows like ours encourage South Asians to break those taboos and speak more openly. It’s time we change the narrative!”
We champion the work Jaya and Meera have undertaken to break the mould surrounding dating and relationships for South Asians.