If there’s a TV series making its rounds like the pandemic, then it has to be this meme-worthy show that says ‘marriages are breaking like biscuits’ and ‘the stars have aligned’. If you’ve watched it, you definitely know where we’re heading.
The show that was lurking all along behind me, and finally marveled at my surrender is the latest show on Netflix called Indian Matchmaking. This is the last show I ever thought I would watch in spite of peer pressure. But Indian Matchmaking is one of those shows that is strangely binge-worthy which makes it an evidently enjoyable show for families as well, nevertheless leaving one cringing at its sheer display of a misogynistic and regressive nature of Indian marriages.
The show begins with Sima Taparia introducing herself as Mumbai’s top matchmaker whose aim is to bring happiness between two families, so as she says, by finding the right match for anyone who is looking to get married through this traditional medium after failing at finding love on Tinder or Bumble. She flies across India and the US, introducing herself as ‘Sima from Mumbai’ as soon she steps foot in a client’s house and cruises through their homes gauging their lifestyle, preferences, and personalities. Sima means pure business, like an athletic swimmer who dives right into the water stroking her way through till the end.
From asking her clients about their criteria to unabashedly advising them to adjust and ‘compromise’, Sima’s views on marriage have cheesed off a lot of viewers. In one instance, she says that she prefers her clients to meet personally rather than rely on photographs as they’d understand the “opposite person’s smartness, fair skin, color, or anything like that.”
Sima is the driving force of this 8-episode docu-series where she elaborately talks about how Indian matchmaking works, promising that marriages can last forever. But she doesn’t leave out the main leavening agent of it all- Caste. Carefully coded words like ‘similar backgrounds’ and ‘respectable families’ bring forth the underlying factor of what traditional Indian families are really seeking. Among the qualifications and liberal-minded facade of most of the individuals and their families in India and even in the US, the show displays that none of the above could deviate caste from finding its way ahead of the parade.
Viewers were left in a fit of pique over the agenda of caste which was very evidently marked in the criteria list, colourism, discrimination based on status and personality was another factor that angered viewers.
There’s a lot to hate and love about Indian Matchmaking. Based in Houston, Texas, Aparna is a feisty lawyer who boasts of being highly educated. As many viewed her as a free-spirited woman who lives life on her own terms, she was also criticized for looking down on men for not being as ambitious as her which is not entirely wrong as the first person she met on the show was quite a fun-loving man. Then there’s the most adored school counsellor- Vyasar, who is a breath of fresh air on the show. He belongs to a no-fuss humble south Indian family who is so accommodating that you’d instantly want to marry them.
I’d hate to leave out another reason why you should consider watching the show. Akshay is 25 who has just returned from Boston and belongs to a wealthy family in Mumbai. His mother‘s collection of treasured jewelry for her future daughter-in-law almost reminded me of my mother asking me to finish my dinner on the pretext of letting me have a friend for a sleepover.
Her rising blood pressure and constant bickering over her son’s indecisiveness in selecting a girl as well as her need to have a ‘flexible’ daughter-in-law is sure to leave viewers questioning the state of progressive thinking affairs in Indian.
Many viewers, especially Indian-Americans found it unfair that the harsh truth behind Indian arranged marriages was brought out in the open as a show. While on the other hand, it has been a treat for westerners to witness this fascinating concept of Indian arranged marriages come alive on screen. Indian Matchmaking persuades one to scrutinize and most importantly have conversations around what works and what doesn’t in an arranged marriage or rather in the whole institution of marriage.
Without ruling out the importance of financial stability and basic expectation of having an attractive partner, the presumption of most Indian families living in India and abroad makes marriage look like a commodity market, where one minute you’re liked based on your figure, color or status and the next minute you may have slim chances of finding the right person just because you’re divorced. It makes it concerning because we as a society have undoubtedly permitted these so-called norms to live and flourish.
Marriage is all about finding love, happiness, and compatibility but the confines of casteism, status, and compromises have undoubtedly left many single people to question whether they’d really want to be part of something this precarious. Can they be blamed?
As for Sima Taparia, while most resent her after the show if truth be told, she’s just doing her job which the society so carelessly asks of her.