TV Review: Indian Matchmaking
Indian matchmaker Sima Taparia is NOT here to fuck spiders.
Sima Taparia. Source: Netflix
For those who don't have the Netflix category 'Dating Shows With Heart That You Can Scroll Your Phone To But Still Kinda Low-Key Engage With' like me, Indian Matchmaking is the latest to our fav category. Over eight episodes, we follow one of India's head matchmakers, Sima Taparia, as she meets with prospective men, women and their families to find them a husband or wife.
So, first up: this was not what I thought. I admit, my view of 'Indian matchmaking' was that a sad girl meets a mean man she was promised to at birth and is forced to marry him the next day with no say in it at all. Whilst this can still be the case for many cultures around the world, this was not the experience in the program.
In this premiere season, each episode focuses on a few of the people looking for potential husbands or wives across both India and the United States. Essentially, Sima meets a person and their family. They give the criteria they want in a suitor, and she goes and finds them, with varying degrees of success. She's like the Buyer's Advocate of the dating world, and I dig it. So much time-saving, like a human Tinder. But when Indian tradition comes in, there's more to it than that. For one, some of the asks are so specific. Like, that a woman must be above 5"3 (guess I'm out), be "flexible" (read: do what the husband and his family want), and come from a "good" (read: rich/scandal-free) family. When searching, parents are also a huge part of the game, and the pressure put on children to marry is immense. Whilst here in Australia, you'd probably only introduce a partner to your parents once you're Facebook official (weeks, months maybe), with the Indian matchmaker, the potential suitor meets the family on or before the first date. It's like a job interview with your fam, and if they aren't into it, save the $100 you were gonna drop on that date and hit the road. Win-win.
In India, we meet individuals like Pradhyuman, a young male jewellery designer who is conventionally handsome, but has reached an age where his family has decided it is 'time' for him to settle down and marry - despite not even having a girlfriend. Generally, Sima explains to us that marriage in India is not just between the husband and wife, but between two families. The family, therefore, has a large part in finding a 'suitable' life partner. She generally meets with the family and client, asks what they are looking for, normally it's a list of 100 things like 'must love cooking, the gym, be spontaneous, funny, tall, educated, handsome, have a law degree, come from my city, buy me treasures' etc., and then tries to find a match. By recruiting Sima, they have given her their son's 'biodata' (basically a more detailed dating profile like RSVP) and she looks for other people in her network who match (all on paper, this is way old-school).
Sima can be good at letting her clients know when their expectations are high and attitudes need work - but then, sometimes her criticism can come across as rather eyebrow-raising, like when US Indian divorcee with a child Rupam was pretty much looked at like soiled goods, or when Ankita, a cool businesswoman who wasn't a size 6, was seen as not conventionally beautiful (note: Ankita is cool and cute and makes a great choice so obviously I want to hang out, immediately). Sometimes other experts are brought in to assist, such as life coaches, dating experts and astrologists. Whilst not particularly into astrology myself, it is a large part of the matchmaking world in India, and if the stars say it's your time, then it's as good as gold. I would froth blaming 10 years of singledom on Venus not being in my orbit.
It can be interesting to watch the sheer discrepancies - in wealth, attitudes between men and women, young and old, Indian and American, and the difference in attitude toward marriage, life goals and what people want in a partner. My heart broke a little after meeting Akshay, an Indian man whose mother is literally obsessed with him getting married - she tells us the wedding is planned for December, despite there being no bride - and what he looks for in a partner. Apparently he had dozens of 'proposals' (photos and dating profiles sent) and his family just couldn't comprehend that he wanted to meet the girl and see how he felt before marrying them. I know, what a weirdo. The woman he ultimately became 'engaged' to, when asked what she wanted in a partner just said gently, 'someone I can share my feelings with.' His mother seemed gobsmacked. Not jewels, not a law degree, not a man who is 6"2? Who is this radical hippie, get her out of my house immediately.
I am so thrilled to be here...Source: Netflix
The one client who I didn't feel much empathy for was Aparna, an Indian woman living in Texas who was pretty much one of the most serious, negative and self-important people I've seen try to date. She stated she didn't want anyone 'romantic' or 'funny' (?) and I couldn't understand what someone's personality was if they were neither of those things or what would be the point of having them around? (Rich counters this, obviously). That was the thing with some of these people -many seemed to be getting married because it is what was expected, not because it was what was desired. Whilst I couldn't see myself at brunch with Aparna, she had a nice apartment, good friends, a good job, loved travel - to me, she simply does not have the personality required to share it with someone, to compromise or ever let her guard down. Some people just don't have it. And that's actually fine. I think she'd be a lot happier if she just admitted it to herself and moved on - alone.
On the other side of the spectrum, we had people we fell in love with, like the crazy hottie Nadia who gets ghosted, and the funny and loveable college counsellor Vyasar who just wants to find love. You look at them and think, 'you're such a catch, why do you need a matchmaker?' but then, I found my partner on Tinder, so it's really the same in a way - hoping a third party will give us our heart's desire and find us a match.
Aparna, Vyasar and Nadia. Source: Trending Scroll
It's a really good way to break down preconceived notions about matchmaking, arranged marriage and Indian culture for people who don't know much about it (read: me), and also, you get to watch people on awkward dates and judge how it went from your couch, which is always fun.
The not so good
It's hard when growing up in a first world western country (woe is me) to completely understand the reasoning behind a lot of the harsh, judgmental criteria put on partners, and the expectations still put on women. It also can still baffle the mind that these people are still made to marry weeks after meeting, which can be hard to get your head around.
I enjoyed this much more than I thought. I got culture, dating, reality tv and a doco in one. Bring on Season 2.