I just had to.
Dear Metro-Residing, Modern “Woke” Indians,
“I know yaar. That Sima Aunty and that show is so regressive”, “I cannot imagine what kind of family Akshay is from”, “What is all this talk about flexibility? Ugh, arranged marriages are so passe.”
For the uninitiated, “Indian Matchmaking” follows Sima Taparia, a “traditional” matchmaker who thrives on people’s insecurities of not fitting in for a living. The show largely follows modern Indian diaspora from both India and the US. The participants of the show are often Ivy graduates—unlucky but ready for love, looking at “culture and tradition” to do its magic.
Sounds vaguely familiar right?
But really, how many angry posts have you retweeted/written about Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking”? Probably plenty. Over the last 2 weeks, the internet has been flooded with so many articles and pieces of artwork, detailing why exactly this system is problematic.
But if it is, why aren’t you stopping your inner Sima aunty?
The judgemental side of you; the swipe rights on Tinder only if you see a certain educational qualification. The approval of your friends only if they have a certain presence on Instagram (foreign vacations with friends, cute aesthetic pictures, no politics only poppin’ photos). The keeping your dating app’s location radius to 3km because “if the radius extends to Malad and all I won’t be able to introduce them to my friends.”
Gasp. Didn’t see that coming. It’s almost like I’m calling you out.
But please, allow me to introduce my own follies as well—I’m not above this kind of behaviour at all. I’ve done all of these things, and I’m sure I’ve done more unknowingly. Hell, I’ve written an article talking about Akshay and his mom’s relationship as well. But upon reflecting a little bit, I’ve realised one thing— this show is serving its exact purpose.
Indian Matchmaking was meant to be controversial because the job of a matchmaker is. The job profile caters to what society wants. Indian weddings are often great importance because they’re about introducing another like-minded family into a similarly fashioned social structure. The multitude of things that a matchmaker must match is a reminder of how intolerant we are to change. It just goes to show that we, as a society, are so dependent on samaajik approval, that we will do anything to ensure that the marriage is, at the very least, appropriate. To lose family honour is akin to social suicide.
Yes, it is the 21st Century. Us metro-living, educated, upper-middle-class “woke people” think we don’t subscribe to such silly notions such as “marrying to appease our elders.” But invariably, by having “things we don’t want to compromise on” on our dating apps, we’re subscribing to the same sort of “requirements” that we make fun of Akshay’s family for.
Here’s an example from the show:
The Alleged “Monopoly” of Looks: It is Not Just a Male Problem
We must discuss this furore that’s taking place for Akshay and his mom.
Look, even I’ve written my own angry post. I’m not exempt from this. But we’ve got to stop treating this innate “checklist ticking off” like its a thing that only the men do. Why the furore? It’s because more often than not, while male needs are catered for, the desires of the woman are not. If a girl sees 5-6 boys during a matchmaking process, she’s considered to be “stubborn” or “fussy”. But if a guy sees 60-70 girls and has yet to find someone, he is “unsure”. The show largely shows men from very well-to-do families demanding women that are “slim trim tall and fair”.
But hold on, there’s more. While I don’t discount those women who are sidelined for superficial markers, this is not to say that the toxicity of physical characteristics is solely a privilege that men manipulate. While the show largely shows men with very surface-level demands, there’s no dearth of women asking for “tall, professional men.” There’s a general sense of placing the onus of providing for the family on the man, as is the norm. Any man that fails to do so, may not be as suitable for a match.
What does each one of these things symbolise, in a way?
- Height could be for confidence, professional prospects/success, because a tall man commands a room (and other such lies).
- “Not too dark”, because we have an ingrained sense of colourism that makes us think that anything darker than a wheatish complexion is inferior quality.
- “Strong Family Values” is for someone that isn’t a wanderer. A man who has settled down, respectful towards his elders, as well as the patriarchal customs that oppress him. A man who can shoulder the burden of becoming the support to both the older generation (parents and in-laws), as well as the kids. The existence of children is implicit here.
It’s fair to say then, the responsibility of propagating such unrealistic expectations for their future partner falls on either gender. If we blame the “choosy” men being adamant about something, the brides with the upper hand are no better.
What Can We Take Away?
The show is a hit because it highlights our deepest biases with a flashlight. These aren’t stories we, the so-called ‘woke’ Indians can disassociate as easily from. The Akshay’s, Pradyumna’s and Aparna’s walk amongst you and me—the privileged millennial/Gen Z’s of today. They are educated, financially secure young people, and their biases are blasted over the internet for you and me to critique.
But when will we address our own?
There’s a phrase you would hear on aeroplanes before they took off, “...always put your own seatbelt on first before assisting others under your care.” If we take this and put it into the context of our “outrage” towards Indian Matchmaking, maybe we would all be making a tangible difference in our society. Let’s have these conversations in our houses, at our workplaces and gyms.
But until then, let’s march on, riding the trending wave will be exciting. I know it!