A new Netflix series, Indian Matchmaking, has generated a massive sensation in India, but many refuse to agree, whether it’s regressive and cringe-worthy or truthful and practical, writes Geeta Pandey of the BBC in Delhi. The eight-part docuseries features elite Indian matchmaker Sima Taparia as she attempts to find appropriate matches in India and the United States for her wealthy clients.
She’s seen jet-setting around Delhi, Mumbai and other American cities in the show, meeting prospective brides and grooms to find out what they’re looking for in a partner in life. Indian Matchmaking has been speeding to the top of the charts for Netflix in India since its release nearly two weeks ago. This also grew into a major social trend. Hundreds of videos and comments have been posted on social media: some claim they love it, some say they hate it, some say they “hate-watch it,” but almost everyone seems to watch it.
The misogyny, casteism and colourism on show in your face have caused a great deal of indignation but have also inspired others to introspect. Ms Taparia, who is in her 50s and her customers like a smart “aunty,” takes us through living rooms that mimic posh hotel lobbies and custom-made closets packed with thousands of shoes and hundreds of clothing pieces.
This, though, is mainly with her Indian-American clients-where men and women in their 30s tried Tinder, Bumble as well as other dating apps and would like to give conventional matchmaking a chance to see if it helps them find love.
When we pass through the series, it becomes clear that it is much more than pure instruction. It’s the parents, mainly young men’s mothers, who are in charge, insisting on a “healthy family” “complete and equal bride,” and their own caste. Instead, Ms Taparia leaves from her folder to take out a “biodata” that would suit well. Arranged marriages are commonplace in India and while cases of couples marrying for love are growing, particularly in urban areas, 90 per cent of all marriages are still arranged in the country.
Matchmaking has historically been the work of family members, friends and aunties in the neighbourhood. Parents also trawl through newspaper matrimonial columns to find a match that matches their babies. Hundreds of licensed matchmakers have entered the search over the years, including hundreds of matrimonial websites.
The Historical Approach
But what shock many here is that wealthy, successful, independent Indian-Americans indeed willing to try “historical approaches”.
Also, rely on the wisdom of someone like “Sima aunty” to find a match for them. Most of them even come with long preference lists. It includes caste preferences and religious ones.
In the show, Ms Taparia describes marriage as a family duty. Also, insisting that “parents know their children best and must guide them.”
She consults astrologers and even a face reader. This is on whether a match will be auspicious or not. She calls on her clients-often single women-” stubborn, “asking them to” compromise. Or be flexible “or” adapt “if they want to find a partner. She often speaks extensively on their looks, including one instance in which she identifies a woman as “not photogenic.”
Memes on the Series
So no wonder critics have called her out on social media to encourage sexism and memes. Also, comments about “Sima aunty” and her “picky” clients have been posted. Some have also criticized the series for glossing about how many women have been forever scarred. It is by the cycle of arranged marriages. One woman on Twitter explains how she feels as if chattel parades. It is before prospective grooms and the show brought back painful memories.
On the series, one Indian mother tells Ms Taparia she got lots of proposals for her son. But refuses them all because either the girl is “not well-educate” or because of her “height.”
And a wealthy man searching for a wife reveals he reject, 150 women. The series does not challenge these stereotypes. But what it does is hold up a mirror-a troubling reminder of sexism. Also, misogyny, casteism and colourism, as others point out. And, as writer Devaiah Bopanna points out in an Instagram post, the true value lies there.