Netflix has been on a roll with releasing shows as we all are staying home and social distancing. One of the recent releases is a reality TV show called “Indian Matchmaking,” which follows Sima Taparia from Mumbai, who helps people find their match!
A quick background
The title of the show is quite descriptive and to the point. Sima is basically that marriage wali aunty (If you’re South Asian, you know exactly what that means). The show follows men and women in the United States and India trying to find their potential life partner. I am not sure if this can be classified as arranged marriages or not, but the show portrays these meetings as an arranged marriage.
During the first few meetings, Sima takes time to figure out what the person expects and gets to know their nature. Some are quite jolly compared to others on the show! We also get talking heads of the individuals alone and see how they think about what is happening and how they feel. These short glimpses allow us to understand the person to a certain extent, and some are more liked than others. Like any good show, we have protagonists and antagonists, and certain characters are much more likable than others!
Like any good matchmaker, Sima asks what expectations they have. This is where the show becomes a bit problematic.
Some of the bachelors and bachelorettes had regular expectations such as outgoing, career-oriented, and wants children. However, others are focused on caste, skin fairness, and their willingness to compromise.
Sima is not to blame entirely; she alone is not perpetuating these notions. While the show focuses on her being the matchmaker, one must remember that society also allows for these thoughts to be perpetuated.
There was a time when marriages were arranged in order to maintain caste and promote social class. Thus, these ideas are difficult to dismantle. While the show can seem problematic, it highlights a reality that has yet to be changed in South Asia.
It’s important to note that Sima got married at a time where men and women silently (for the most part) followed what their parents said. Women were told to adjust, and men were told that if the woman they married did not fit all his ideals, she would change and adjust herself to meet these expectations.
Things are a bit different these days. Women and men both have the power to say no to a proposal, and these proposals do not take a few hours to form but happen over numerous meetings in order to ensure that both parties feel ready to take the next step in their lives. These meetings have allowed for arranged marriages to not only be more consensual but also ensure that both families have enough time to get to know each other.
While every single bachelor and bachelorette on the show were interesting in their own right, I will be focusing on Pradhyum, Akshay, and Ankita because they shed a lot of insight on how men get away with much more than women in India.
Many have made memes regarding Pradhyum and Akshay. However, am I the only one who felt that these two just did not want to get married? Pradhyum clearly still wants to explore life as a bachelor, and Akshay obviously does not feel ready to be married to someone, nor is he mature enough to think for himself.
In terms of the bachelors and bachelorettes from the States, while some of their wants were a bit odd, their experience did not feel as patriarchal compared to the Indian bachelors and bachelorettes. The oddest part was hearing what Sima had to say about Aparna being difficult and how she felt that she was an impossible person… The same behaviour that Aparna was scrutinized for, the men got a pass for. These subtle differences made the show a bit uncomfortable for me.
These were my thoughts regarding Pradhyum, Akshay and Ankita! I am still hoping to see a second season and hoping for more bachelors and bachelorettes who know what they want and do not just blindly follow their parents.
Pradhyum: The unwilling bachelor
Pradhyum came off as a bit vain and self-centered and extremely entitled. I was very confused that he kept saying he wants to be married, but did not even take the time to meet anyone. He kept saying that he needs to feel a deep connection. But how do you feel such a connection through a photo? Also, the show brought up how Pradhyum rejected 150 proposals, but this was later cleared up that he’s only seen approximately 150 photos of women that he did not have a connection with…
Pradhyum got an interesting edit through the eyes of Sima… While he really came off as the most unwilling and difficult bachelor, it seemed that this was ok because he was a man… Given his life and career, Sima needed to find someone who would really take Pradhyum’s breath away because that’s the only way… Was anyone else tempted to tell Pradhyum to just grow up? That he also needs to fit his own standards and that being a man is not the determining factor in you being able to demand the world?
However, Pradhyum did not get under my skin the way Akshay and his family did.
I also felt bad that many had built their own theories about Pradhyum’s sexuality. While it would have been great to see a bisexual person navigating arranged marriage and all its quirks, I felt bad that people made judgments about him, given that he holds himself a certain way. The way one decides to portray themselves does not relate to their sexuality. People should not pass judgment passed on glimpses that a TV show portrays.
Akshay: The confused mama’s boy
Akshay came off as a child who did not know how to think for himself. His mother had every single manipulation tactic on lock. From talking about Akshay’s impending marriage to how her blood pressure is directly correlated to her son’s bachelorhood, this woman screams toxic from MILES away.
Akshay wanted someone who was just like his mom. I guess to a certain extent, this makes sense because he just wants someone to take care of him. You cannot convince me he wants a life partner that will walk through life with him. There is also a certain dependency that Akshay has on his mom, and neither has truly built an independent relationship from one another. On the one hand, his mother wants him to be married as soon as possible, and on the other hand, she states he’s still a baby.
At one point, Akshay’s mom states that her older son actually told him to “tweak” some things about his wife. These tweaks were not related to his wife learning his favorite meal; it was about how she dressed and held herself. Forget Build-a-Bear, this family believes in Build-a-Bahu (Build-a-Daughter in law). Of course, once you get married, certain things change – like your schedules! Changing how a person behaves and dresses is just not normal. It’s unfair to that woman given that this family claims that in order to be apart of their family, one has to change themselves and mold themselves to their standards. They completely disregarded this woman’s identity for their own benefit.
Also, did anyone not understand the whole logic of Akshay having to be married before his elder brother had children? Family planning is not to be dictated, but should happen when the couple feels ready to take on that journey!
Moreover, his mom states that she realized that men look for their moms in their future wives. This family was filled with jokes relating to the Oedipus Complex throughout the series.
Akshay and his family highlighted how strong patriarchy still is and that many men simply feel they deserve it all because they are men. It also showed that the notion that once a South Asian women gets married, she must adapt into her in-laws families and become part of them in order to be accepted. Their family highlights that women must comply to their rules just because they married their sons…
Ankita: the one who knows what she wants
Ankita was a breath of fresh air after both these men. Her clear thoughts regarding equality and understanding were refreshing! Ankita and her sister founded a denim clothing line, and she was not getting to let a relationship curve her ambition! I do feel that she did not get treated in a fair manner. Sima did not mention either Pradhyum or Akshay’s look when it came to finding them potential matches. Nonetheless, it did become a point of contention when it came to Ankita.
It does hint that women are only going to get potential matches if they look like supermodels. Ankita is a gorgeous girl who has an amazing understanding of what she wants.
Sima should have focused on how Ankita is one of the bachelorettes who knows what she wants. Others simply said that they were looking at women or men because their parents believe it is the right time for them to settle down.
Ankita had an extremely healthy relationship with her parents! She spoke about her needs in a partner that were not about what she expects of them alone, but want she needs in order to feel secure in a relationship!
Of course we all expect our partners to be kind and caring, but Ankita emphasized how she strongly needed equality and understanding in her relationship. I was so glad that she was not afraid to compromise on her core needs just because she is not a man.
Why was the way Ankita looked even brought up? What did this add to her finding a spouse? Why did Sima not scrutinize the men in the same way? Anyway, if falling in love only has to do with looking at a couple of photos, everyone on tinder is madly in love with those they swipe right on!
Double standards like these are often overlooked in South Asian society when it comes to marriages.
Indian Matchmaking: this was not a match for me
Overall, Indian Matchmaking accurately describes how men are held to a completely different standard when it comes to finding a potential life partner through this route and that women need to compromise to find someone. Moreover, the show provides insight into how caste, colorist, and beauty standards are still a driving factor in arranged marriages.
Arranged marriages have changed over the years, but this show highlights the issues that are still present in these arrangements. I have seen amazing relationships come from arranged marriages and have heard of people trying this method to find someone. It is a process, and it is not black and white. Arranged marriages involve families from the beginning, and usually, the parents know each other quite well before their kids do! These marriages are a union of shared values and common personalities where both parents feel that this union will be successful! In the time of my grandparents, these marriages used to happen in the blink of an eye, and this has changed over the years!
I find that Indian Matchmaking highlights how some parts of society have yet to move with the times and this holds back strong women, like Ankita, in finding a life partner through traditional matchmakers.