People have different kinds of passion and desires. Some have a passion for travelling while others obsess about owning some luxurious car. However, Sunder Ramu has a passion for dating and has set a goal for it.
In 2015, the Tamil actor and fashion photographer made a plan to go on a date every day. Over the past few years, he has gone on a total of 335 dates, but the feat he wants to achieve is 365. But there's one rule for the date. The women will have to ask him out, decide the place and most importantly, they have to pay for the food, The Indian Express reported.
How It Started: Raising Awareness On Women's Rights
Sundar's idea of going on dates with 365 women is quite different from what women expected. According to him, he is "always looking for love" in his life. However, his mission of dating multiple women is not to find love, but to raise awareness about social issues in the country and women's rights in India.
Sundar belongs to a very progressive family in Bangalore where there is no gender discrimination and women are treated with the utmost respect. He later shifted to Chennai to do a course in Visual Communication at Loyola College.
"It was a huge culture shock for me to move from Bangalore to Chennai. There I understood how deeply rooted the gender difference was present in our society," Sundar said, as quoted by The Indian Express. He said that the turning point in his life was the 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident and he had many sleepless nights. "I realised that if people didn't care about other people, they wouldn't even care about climate change or animal issues either," he said.
Sundar recalls that people would associate India with the country where women are treated badly whenever he travelled abroad. Sundar then decided that he would try to bring about a change in society by creating awareness. "We often brush off the issue thinking that it is the job of NGOs or the government to fix it," he said.
"That's when the idea of '365 meal' dates struck my mind. I decided to meet the women and start communicating about the issue," he said. Speaking about the importance of 365, he said that if you want to bring change, you have to work on it every single day, just like how you eat and work every day.
Sunder informed about the 365-meal dates plan on December 31, 2014 on his Facebook. He went on his first date on January 1, 2015 with his close friend. "My friend invited me for lunch and cooked for me. We spent such quality time and found out things about her I didn't know before, despite knowing her for a long time," he said.
Sundar follows three rules when going on dates. He never tells the girl what's the reason for the date. The girl has to decide the place, and she will also have to pay the bill. "We live in a world where a man feels stronger than women when he pays the bill. It has always been believed that men should always be ahead during dates. I wanted to break that stereotype," he said. Sunder gives the saved money from the dates to charity later.
He went on his first 20 dates with his friends. After receiving the attention from the media, he came to be called the "serial dater" and the "dating king". For Sundar, age, caste, profession and socio-economic level is no bar for dating. Anyone can date him.
Everyone has gone on dinner dates from actress Shriya Saran, dancer Rukmani Vijaykumar and Chief Minister MK Stalin's wife Durga Stalin to the beautiful 109-year-old grandmother and 90-year-old nun. Sundar has dated foreign women from countries like Paris, Spain, France, Vietnam, USA, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
"It's not easy going to a 60-year-old woman and asking her to pay for a meal, especially when she is making a living by selling watermelon juice on Chennai roads," Sundar said.
He also dated a 90-year-old Irish nun Sister Loreto at a convent in Chennai in the first meeting. Though he feels that all his dates were exceptional, the one with a 109-year-old lady was best as she passed away two years ago. "I already knew her long but it was the first time we had spent so much quality time and the conversation was one to be remembered forever," he said.
Plans To Educate Youngsters, College Students
Although Sundar aimed to go on 365 dates, he had to stop at 335 in 2015 because of the floods in Chennai in November 2015. Later, he started again but decided to take it slow.
"My next step is to address all college students and youth and make them aware of sexual harassment. I want to change the mindset of people when it comes to these issues," he said.
Sundar is now planning a project where he can create awareness among taxi, auto drivers and delivery boys. He believes they create a large community of men who can help raise their voices on gender issues. Currently, Sundar is working on a documentary and is writing a book in which he will tell people about his dates.
However, he believes that the change he has made is too small.
"The beginning I have made in society is tiny, but at least it is a start. The issue of gender inequality is one that will take generations to fix, but that doesn't stop me from trying today. If I try to find a solution, at least today, maybe tomorrow, someone else will be inspired and working for a better tomorrow," he added.