Indian Matchmaking - A bit of Cringe mixed with a bit of Real

By Jennifer Allen

So my husband pipes up the other day, “Hey there's this new Indian Matchmaker show on Netflix? You think the Saathee readers would watch it?" I had to pause for a moment and think since I figured it could show South Asian Matchmaking in a really outlandish way just for entertainment value. Also keep in mind that I, as a non-Desi personage, have only a small grasp of what goes on within the culture of arranged marriage to begin with. I went into this series with an open mind and a willingness to learn more about this side of Desi culture.

As a bit of background, Indian Matchmaking is a recent show to appear on Netflix to go along with their ever growing library of reality series. The eight episode first season follows various upper caste North Indians and Indian-Americans who are (obviously) looking for that perfect partner. Each episode displays the matchmaking process with the “help" of professional matchmaker Sima Taparia, AKA “Sima aunty". Basically she's like a walking Matrimonial ad but with a lot more sass.

Honestly I felt Taparia was extremely intimidating as she delves right in and gets down to business with each of these potential matches. She personally visits with each person for an interview to figure out their biodata and then follow up later. There's even a moment with one girl, Nadia, who gets stood up on a date and she calls Sima aunty to complain about it. Say what you will, but this woman is very dedicated to her work.

Unfortunately pretty much all the episodes include a lot of discussion about typical Indian stereotypes. You could almost make a drinking game out of how many times "fairness," “destiny," and “good family" are mentioned. There's also a lot of chat about finding “someone who is well-educated, successful, and someone who satisfies both mother and daughter." The fact that the entire cast are all upper class doesn't help much either. Each episode was like some odd blending of The Bachelor meets Crazy Rich Asians. All but one of these potential matches involved two people of Hindu faith as well.

I actually felt sorry for the aforementioned Nadia the entire time she was on. She's a Guyanese-American descendant of indentured workers and her apparent caste and upbringing are talked about to the point she may as well have a giant tattoo on her forehead that reads “FREAK". She mentions that her exclusion from being “Indian" is rooted through an Indian presence in Guyana during the 1850's. Let's also add on that she's Catholic and her father is very, very picky with a scene showing him rejecting a biodata pick from Southern India even though the man is also Catholic. Add on where she got stood up and I really wanted to just hug her. Honestly she's just too pure for this world and deserves better than a judgmental man who would write her off for not ordering the right drink on a date.

Some other highlights include Akshay mentioning that he wants his potential wife to be just like his mother, and said mother being extremely paranoid that her son is 25 and still single. There's Pradhyuman whose obviously only looking at each girl's picture and employment status on each biodata sheet as he doesn't even stop on one until he sees that she's a model. Oh did we mention he also has a closet bigger than that most women have? Finally it was good to see Aparna, who's a lawyer by the way, who refused to be marginalized by just her looks and made sure everyone knew it too.

I know that I'm looking at this show from the outside as I usually do when witnessing a part of South Asian culture, but I felt that this show just takes the matrimonial concept and makes a huge farce out of it. Indian Matchmaking almost makes The Bachelor feel tame in comparison with its complex world of marriage broker aunties, astrologer uncles all about genetic perfection, aggressively anxious parents, and passive aggressive peers who are just kinda there. Still... there is a bit of charm in its absurdness; as most reality shows are these days. Simply go in with an attitude that this “reality" is shown with extremely rose-tinted glasses covered with exuberant amounts of golden glitter and enjoy the ride.

Indian Matchmaking, Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

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Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer, Graphic Artist, Martial Arts Practitioner, and all around Pop Culture Geek.