The urban relationship manual is gradually changing a few rules in India. Age is no longer a barrier in relationships in an era of instant chemistry, gender empowerment and lifestyle insecurities.
For a growing number of young men and older women in India, age ceases to play an important part in relationships. India too is seeing its share of what in the West are called cougar women with the tribe of smart women entrepreneurs on the rise -- and in relationship mode.
Jayeeta Ghosh, a senior scribe at a leading newspaper in Kolkata, married her former student, eight years her junior after a torrid courtship during a stint in Mumbai.
"It was nostalgia...I was out of home and one day I came across my (present) husband, a sailor, at a party. We reconnected as friends...I told him not to call me ma'am. The fact that I taught, both in college and outside at a private coaching institute, fell aside as we caught up. It was almost like coming home," the 41-year-old journalist recalled.
They married two years later in Mumbai.
For Arpita Sen, tying the knot with a younger man was a karmic love story. A former student of Kolkata's Loreto House, Sen met her first "boyfriend", five years her junior, while in high school.
"He was a child...my younger brother's pal. We played together. We met years later when I was in the final years of my college. He had matured. And somehow there was chemistry. We ended in a physical relationship," Sen told IANS, walking down memory lane.
The 38-year-old Sen later married a colleague in California. "But it fell apart...I came back to Kolkata and connected to my brother's friend again. He was older, divorced and ready to settle down again," Sen recalled.
A former director of the Fertiliser Corporation of India, now a technical consultant, recalls how as a trainee he ran away with his girlfriend 10 years his senior.
"We eloped and married in a temple. Rejection of the relationship by the family kept us together...and when she passed away a few years ago, after five decades of companionship, I felt like a wasteland," the former government official, who lives alone surrounded by memories of his 'girlfriend' in Bihar, told IANS.
In clinical psychologist Atul Verma's view, "younger people usually are drawn to older people because they are more mature - and more successful".
A psycho-analytical theory says younger men are attracted to older women who bear a resemblance to their mother, Verma of the capital-based Unique Psychological Solutions told IANS.
According to Gurgaon-based Gitanjali Sharma, a marriage counsellor and relationship consultant, "a woman who is 10-15 years older than the man is more balanced".
"Young men are sometimes disillusioned by women they meet in their peer groups because younger women are more demanding. Their (young women's) expectations are greater. Many men would rather prefer a woman who knows how to tackle difficult situations and carry themselves," Sharma told IANS.
She said "in a young-man-older-woman relationship, a man does not have to expect much from the woman, who is more caring, compromising and sacrificing by nature". Fear and insecurity drive younger men to older women, she said.
"I advise such couples who often come to me for pre-marital counselling to address the challenges in the relationship," Sharma said.
A study by Cosmo says nearly 30 percent men (in the dating category) would be willing to date older women.
In the West, the "cougar (mountain lion or puma) women" typify the older woman-younger man affair. Sociologists say the term "cougar women" probably originated in the late 1980s to describe single older women who came to hockey games in Canada.
Initially derogatory, it was later redefined in the US by feminists or "real cougars" like writers Susan McBride, Linda Franklin and Hollywood actress Demi Moore, who married actor Ashton Kutcher 15 years her junior, into a symbol of a power woman.
Says Linda Franklin, author of "Don't Ever Call Me Ma'am! The Real Cougar Woman Handbook": "The real cougar woman is confident, smart and independent. She refuses to be defined by the age of the man she is dating...and is quickly becoming a role model for all women." in just 4 weeks