I (like probably many other brown people) was very proud to see Indians back on my Netflix homepage again – surprisingly (but amazingly) soon after Devi and her brown fam in Never Have I Ever. It reminded me of the pride I used to feel when I’d spot Indians on TV or when I’d find out an actor was ¼ Asian; so seeing Indian Matchmaking pop up was basically like Christmas for me.
Trash reality TV has a special place in my heart, I love and hate it. And if you haven’t seen it yet, the show follows Indian matchmaker Sima Taparia (she’s from Mumbai if you didn’t know lol) going around India and the US to match her clients.
I found the show fascinating but at the same time irritating, regressive and difficult to watch. Many of the beliefs, like marriage has to happen at the ‘right’ age, you are not whole without a partner and divorce equals failure are beliefs I am actively trying to unlearn and challenge as a single 28-year-old. And as a British Asian woman, I have the privilege of choice but receive many opposing messages about how my life should be lived.
Before we start, how long into watching the first episode do you think it took for me to sit back on my sofa and shout WTF?
It took one whole minute.
Here are some of the stand-out moments that really made me cringe whilst watching Indian Matchmaking.
1. ‘Once he gets married, my life will be settled’ – Pradhyuman’s friend
Whether it’s Pradhyuman getting married so his friend’s wife can have a more ‘settled’ life (or so his sister will finally back off and mind her own business) or Akshay’s mum’s high blood pressure issues being miraculously fixed when he gets married, marriage is portrayed as being some sort of magical fixer – and I’m not having it.
From my experience I’ve never seen an arranged marriage – or a love marriage and thought holy shit I want to get in on some of that, it looks great! Other than on TV, I did not see a happily married couple in real life until I reached the age of 21. Genuinely.
What irritates me throughout this programme is married people constantly putting pressure on non-married people to put a ring on it, so we can all live happily ever after in some dream-like Teletubby world with the big sun and rolling hills.
Whilst giving him the death stare over dinner, Preeti (Akshay’s mum) claims that Akshay is to blame for his brother’s delay in having a baby because both of her sons were supposed to (in her mind) get married between the ages of 23-25. This episode was a lesson in manipulation – I definitely won’t forget Preeti getting out her blood pressure monitor anytime soon.
2. ‘Not too dark, you know, fair skinned’ – Richa.
There is blatant colourism, body shaming and a general obsession with physical appearance throughout the series.
Sima suggests that someone who is ‘slim’ and ‘fair’ will be easy to match, someone like model Rushali who basically looks like a Bollywood actress. Whist writing this I am struggling to name a single Bollywood actress who isn’t slim or who has dark skin…
After sharing that finding a match has proven difficult in the past due to comments on her weight and appearance, Sima describes ABSOLUTE badass businesswoman Ankita ‘un-photogenetic’, this was just plain rude!
3. ‘My mom is literally what I want to be looking at in a wife’ – Akshay
I have nothing to add to this other than LOL.
4. ‘You made mistakes before’ – Amarji (Rupam’s dad)
Rupam, who comes across as an absolute sweetie, says that she is finding it difficult to find a match as a single mother. ‘They very much feel like a failure’ (divorced people), she says. Despite her stating that she has felt like a failure and that she ‘didn’t realise the stigma of being a single mother’, Sima the matchmaker rubs salt in the wound by telling Rupam that her ‘options are limited’ and ‘it’s a fact of life’ that she will be difficult to match.
This was actually heart-breaking to watch.
What made it worse was that her dad reminded her of her previous ‘blunders’ and used this as a reason as to why Rupam wasn’t in a place to make her own decisions on a potential match.
make mistakes learn lessons.
As opposed to challenging the stigma of divorce, the show seemed to reinforce it.
5. ‘They lasted forever… so it works’ (Nadia’s mum)
The idea that a relationship lasting ‘forever’ and therefore being the biggest achievement that deserves a massive trophy is what ends the series, when nice old couples proudly state they’ve been together 42, 47, and 48 years.
Does lasting forever necessarily mean it works? A few of my Asian friends used to tell me how their parents would live under the same roof but live separate lives, sometimes working opposite shifts so they could avoid each other, just to keep the relationship (and appearances) going. I don’t think this equals success.
On the flipside of this, when parents decide to go their separate ways even children feel judged. I remember my friend from sixth form telling me how the girl he was dating one day broke up with him after deciding he was unworthy to marry because he came from a single parent household – we were 17 and he was heartbroken.
I don’t think the length of your relationships (or your parent’s relationship) dictates your value as a potential match and after watching this I feel this needs to be said to anyone who needs to hear it.
I am a believer that people come and go, you learn things and you move on, but I have definitely been that person who took pride in the length of my relationships (we’ve reached three years, look at us we’ve made it!) and I’ve clung onto shitty ones for far too long in order to not feel like a failure. I’ve even done this unconsciously even when I thought I didn’t give a shit about what society thought of me when really, I did.
It didn’t last forever and that is OK.
6. ‘I don’t want two degrees I want three. Nothing less than three degrees’ – Jotika (Aparna’s mum)
There’s nothing like an immigrant parent blindly pushing you to achieve academic success.
Like most humans, the scenes with Aparna and her mum are full of contradictions. One-minute Jotika is saying she wants her child to be happy, and she doesn’t want anyone ‘to crush my daughter’s spirit’ but next minute she says, ‘don’t make me look bad…in our community’ and setting ridiculous standards in school/college – ‘I don’t ever want to see a B on a report card’. Lol I wish she saw my report card haha!
As a ‘creative’ (ew I know) human, I kind of lost it when Jotika calls Aparna’s date (who is a podcast host and a writer) a ‘loser’ in comparison to her ‘successful’ lawyer daughter (who doesn’t actually like her job) because it reminds me how some Asian parents still only see value in some professions over others – even if their kids are miserable, as long as they have that fancy title that is all that matters, right?
I personally think it is brave to follow your dreams so if you want to be a nail technician, be a nail technician boo xoxo
7. ‘I spent 20 years living in one country and I gave it all up like that’ – Geeta
Denimwear brand co-founder Ankita won’t suit any of Sima’s traditional clients, so she sends Ankita to see Geeta (a supposedly more modern matchmaker) who works in Delhi.
When Ankita makes it clear that she wants her and her partner to be equal in a relationship, (that is absolutely ridiculous, the audacity JK) Geeta completely dismisses her and tells her that it’s a woman’s ‘duty’ to give ‘more’ and that everything else including your hopes, dreams and aspirations – but NOT your partner, will take a backseat!
Me: So, everything I have worked for, in my entire life will no longer matter when I am matched up?
That is how I imagine mine and Geeta’s fictional conversation to go.
8. ‘The girl has to be a bit flexible’ – Preeti (Akshay’s mum)
By flexible she means the girl should live exactly how Preeti wants her to live. And that’s all I’m gonna say on that.
It’s time for a bit of a curveball, yes Indian Matchmaking was an absolute cringe-fest and I think it takes women back about 500 years however there are some things I appreciated about the show.
I’m just gonna say it. Nadia is PENG and nobody deserves her beautiful soul. On the show she talks about her background and the difficulty she has with matching Indian men.
‘My family’s from Guyana and our ancestry is from India… Although we have the Indian heritage, we have found that we’re not necessarily accepted as Indians’.
Indian Matchmaking explores the obsession our people have with being matched to someone who is pretty much identical to us – even today. Rupam’s father dismisses a biodata (a summary of a match, kind of like a CV for dating) purely because the man’s ex-wife was not Indian, and he even gets mad when Sima tries to state that both Rupam and the match are similar in the fact they are both divorcees. He gets angry at his daughter being compared to someone who married a non-Indian, as if there is a scale of badness of which Rupam is ‘less bad’ (she was married to a Sikh before).
The show proves that acceptance is something we need to work on.
The series also highlights the pressures both men and women face to get married.
It is refreshing to see young men open up and talk about their feelings, I rate the honestly when Pradhyuman said, ‘I feel anxious about the whole thing, it’s not an easy process. There are days that I feel like shit’. Similarly, schoolteacher Vyasar shows nothing but courage when talking about his family’s past and is very real when he discusses how he feels others will judge him.
One understated hero of the series is Vyasar’s student – I really enjoyed this exchange…
STUDENT: ‘He (Vyasar) is not married because I was talking about him going to see Endgame and he said he was gonna go see it alone’.
STUDENT: ‘No we do not aw at that. That is self-empowerment going to see a movie alone. I am proud of him for doing that’.
HELL YES! You go kid!
Finally, Ankita showed us that she is an independent BAD B when she had this convo with her parents:
Ankita’s mum: ‘I just want someone who can take care… and can look after you well’.
Ankita: ‘Look after me? I can look after myself’.