“Hi, I’m Sima Taparia, from Mumbai.”
The woman who doesn’t need an introduction because everyone already knows who she is, but she introduces herself anyway.
It's time for an honest review of Netflix’s latest reality series, Indian Matchmaking.
While the series is filled with enough gossip and drama to satisfy all the chugli aunties out there, we can’t brush past how the show is built upon stereotypes and reductive and repressive narratives about Indian culture as a whole.
For those of you that have seen the show, you’re probably still trying to figure out how to feel about it, because there were so many moments in this series that were challenging to process.
Should I laugh, cry, cringe, or be concerned?
While I didn’t hate the show, I would certainly say I had a love-hate relationship with it, and I’ll tell you why.
This series is about Mumbai’s “#1 matchmaker, Sima Taparia, -- which we still aren’t sure if that’s a self-acclaimed title -- trying to find matches for her clients.
She’s basically a glorified vicholan -- your typical aunty sticking her nose in your personal life, trying to find you a match, whether you like it or not, but she actually gets paid to do it for a living.
Her clients are an interesting selection of people that come from wealthy, educated and well established families, that have resorted to hiring a matchmaker to help them find a "suitable" partner.
Arranged marriages have been the norm for Indian culture for centuries, where this tradition has been passed on and continues to happen today.
While arranged marriages are a very normal and common part of life in many immigrant cultures, and especially in India, Indian Matchmaking focuses on the flaws, and distorts the reality of the situation by exaggerating what should be small things into large deal-breakers.
It almost feels that the show is not meant for an Indian audience, but rather acts as a way in for white audiences that are intrigued with the practice.
The problem is that the show's depiction of arranged marriages is based upon a backwards hierarchic formula, and is facilitated by Sima Aunty.
What is Sima Aunty’s recipe for success, you ask? Fair, slim and trim, which is actually code for: colourist, casteist, and sexist.
While these troublesome concepts still exist within Indian culture, the show made it seem like all of India is stuck within a regressive culture where one's worth lies within their appearance, caste and net worth.
If you didn’t tick those boxes, you would have to “adjust and compromise” with the matches she gave, with women being forced to carry most of that burden.
One of the characters, Ankita. was portrayed as a woman that was far too progressive for Sima’s liking as a strong, independent woman who runs her own company.
Sima implies that Ankita is rebellious, and will not be a suitable match for the clients she has in her extensive database of 500 clients because of her independence and progressive values.
Another woman, Rupam, who is a single mother and divorcee was told by Sima aunty that her options were limited because of her situation: because she’s older, she has a child, and the fact that her previous marriage didn’t last -- which was somehow her fault.
Women are asked to compromise far more than men in the show. even when the demands of the men are unfair and unreasonable.
One character named Akshay said he wanted his future wife to be a stay at home mom so that he could work, regardless of her individual qualifications or aspirations, but only because he “is not like that, so who’s going to look after the kids?”
He wants a wife that does exactly what his mother does for him, without offering up very much in return.
Then there’s Arpana.
Her list of expectations of what she looks for in a partner are a bit bizarre. Did you know that Bolivia has salt flats? Because that was on her criteria list.
Still, the way Sima Aunty was describing her drove me up the wall.
Aparna wanted someone that was career-driven and shared the same ambition and passion as her, but to Sima Aunty, she was “fickle minded and fussy,” for rejecting all of the matches she had found for her.
At the same time, however, a male character named Pradhyuman rejects 150 bio-datas and rishta proposals just by looking at pictures, but that is considered okay because he needed more time to find his perfect match.
The double standards were ridiculous and troublesome, because to this day, women are criticized for the smallest of details and ridiculed for their “shortcomings.”
In the show and in real life, by narrowing someone down to things they can’t control, especially things that shouldn’t matter in the first place, Sima Aunty further marginalizes and limits people to a box with limited options, based on age-old standards that aren't even relevant anymore.
While the idea behind the show was great, because we got to see some of the issues those of “marriageable age” face when it comes to finding a life partner, the potential for this show (like every other show that puts a spotlight on minority groups) missed the mark.
Indian Matchmaking was reductive, and painted India and Indians with a narrow brush, showing us to be completely superstitious -- having a face readers, palm reader, astrologers, and pandits all on speed dial so that we can know the outcome of every solution, which is funny because none of the matches Sima made lasted for very long.
The show reflects certain ideals through a narrow lens which centers on parents having total control over their children, there being a “right age” to be married, people who are divorced or have tough family situations having limited options, and women having to be extremely flexible so that their husbands and in-laws are happy.
I don’t know if this series should have been called Indian Matchmaking, or “Sima takes you to school: compromise edition.”
Let us know what you thought about Indian Matchmaking.