Aparna Shewakramani is here with her debut book, She’s Unlikeable (HarperCollins Publishers India), which mostly is about clearing the air amidst throat-cut editing by Netflix, which changes a persona of someone vs. their actual self in real life. This is mostly done to make a reality show interesting for its audience. But that’s not it, the book sheds light on what happened to Aparna’s life after the trolls started serving their threats and even going as far as stalking her right outside her house!
Aparna was one of the South Asian participants featured in a popular reality show produced by Netflix called “Indian Matchmaking”, which aired during the summer of 2020. The show featured upper class Indians searching for their life partners with an aim to get married eventually. There were nine participants in the show, out of which six were main participants. Not all lived in Northern parts of India, but were from the United States of America. Aparna was one of the few from the States who was actively searching for a South Asian life partner and hence had to meet the now infamous matchmaker, Sima Taparia.
The matchmaker that Netflix hired for their show had the sole job description of listening to the requirements of the participants and matching them with their prospects. However, the controversial statements made by Sima Taparia took over the internet. Mostly memes were circulated which lightened the seriousness of a great problem which went unaddressed-internalized misogyny.
Aparna writes in her book about one such incident: where Sima went as far as telling her brother-in-law about how he should tell Aparna to be less powerful with her opinions. And after her mother hears about this conversation, she gets fired up and confronts the director of the show. But then the director tried to calm her down without telling Sima anything, who was sitting quietly in an audible distance.
Indian Matchmaking had a polarised fan-base for Aparna, more than half who disliked her and the other small part(mostly women) who came out in support of her.
The year was 2020 and feminism had already reached the world, yet men and women refused to support a woman who knew what she wanted. The directorial team of Netflix failed to do a good job of portraying a strong and independent woman in a light that she deserved. Until you are smiling and not showing your strong opinions, you have the potential to get married was basically what the show suggested. The moment you know what you want and have a strong mind to stick with that “you’re unlikeable”.
This book is mostly a narrative correction of how Aparna really is vs. how she was perceived, which made her lose credibility in the society. It talks about her stories of growing up as a migrant citizen and eventually being successful in a foreign country, facing fears and refusing to give up, countless dates and yet a romantically dead life, disappointments as a single woman but happiness of having a supportive squad of women friends and loved ones. Her life is all that and other modern urban women stories.
Aparna’s narrative ended with-
“And to everyone who ever hated, despised, or detested me due to my portrayal on a television show. Thank you. You are the very reason I continue to speak up for ambitious, driven women who want love but aren’t willing to settle for anything less than the partner they believe they deserve. You are the reason I live my truth every single day.”
Definitely a must-read, if you believe in not settling for less.
Sairindhri Sengupta weaves magic with words and proves the pen to be mightier than sword. She is the author of ‘The Bitch Of Varanasi’ which is a beautifully woven narrative strongly demystifying the contemporary illusions and exposing to the realities of mindset that people continue to saddle with. You can follow her on Instagram.