I have always been fascinated with other people’s cultures. I want to understand why they make the decisions they do, the way they live, the food, religion, choice of clothing and what different colours mean.
I have been somewhat obsessed with Asia, especially China, Singapore and India.
And this time I found the perfect show that will make me explore even more about the culture and psyche of India, especially when it comes to love – “Indian Matchmaking”.
“Indian Matchmaking,” is the Netflix show that we all can’t stop watching. It’s centred on Sima Taparia, a Mumbai-based woman who has a matchmaking business. She helps Indian singles from around the world find potential spouses. Sometimes with great success and other times no success. I enjoyed watching it mainly because it will make me understand another culture. Well, at least a part of it.
But it did leave me with a lot of questions, which I tried to get answers to.
Why are parents so involved?
One of the things that bothered me was the relationship that Aparna Shewakramani had with her mom, Jotika.
It struck me as very odd that her whole life has been centred around placating her mom and making sure that she manages to fulfil the dreams that Jotika had for her.
She got her three degrees, is a lawyer and is pretty much a successful 34 year old. But the mother clearly didn’t realise that in this pursuit of excellence, her daughter is gravely unhappy. And she hates the job she has.
This manifests when she goes on a date with Shekar Jayaraman and she is bewildered that he loves his job. Shekar owns a law firm in Chicago and appears like a nice guy. Aparna also didn’t like her date with author and podcaster, Srinivas Rao. Jotika proceeds to call him a loser after the failed date, which I found to be rather weird, not to mention, toxic.
And then there’s Akshay Jakhete, a 25 year old who is looking for someone “exactly like his mother. it’s so bad that he even lets her do the bulk work of choosing the right partner for him. I felt like there were absolutely no boundaries.
I get that marriages are made between families, as Sima insists on almost every episode, but the way the parents are so extra in inserting their opinions on the love lives of their children, left me a bit uncomfortable.
Reading the reactions of Indian people and those of South Asian descent, I realised that this was normal for them. Their parents had a ‘right’ to speak up about their preferences and what kind of person they wanted to join their family and if you didn’t fit in, then there was little chance of you making it. Sjoe!
Is the bio data THAT important?
You know how we all have a checklist of what we want in a partner? Well, the bio data on Indian Matchmaking is that, times 1000. Bio data is basically a CV of a potential suitor, which lists everything about them.
From height and weight, to the colour of their skin, religion, their social class and lineage. It also lists the date of birth and time of birth, which helps when it comes to checking the horoscopes to see if the stars align and if the relationship will work or not.
Now that was the most fascinating thing and to be honest, was very shallow to me at first. I know that India and most parts of Asia have the caste system and care about social standing, even more than if a person is happy or not (thanks to reading Crazy Rich Asians). But I didn’t realise that having the right biodata is so important to a potential match.
And Sima made sure to explain that arranged marriage is often used to help families preserve their wealth, so you need someone of your social and economic class for the marriage to have a chance of success.
Do Indians look down on Indians from other countries?
So “Crazy Rich Asians” taught me how Singaporeans and Hong Kongers look down on the Chinese from Mainland China. Kevin Kwan writes about how no matter how wealthy you are, but if you don’t come from the right families in Singapore and Hong Kong, then your money means nothing and you will be a pariah in their social circles.
I got that vibe from “Indian Matchmaking”, where wedding planner Nadia Jagessar was specifically hoping to get matched up with someone from Guyana, which is a small country in South America. She had tried dating men of Indian descent, but she always had some form of rejection when they found out she’s actually Guyanese-American and therefore didn’t fit into what they would like in a partner.
But it turns out that it’s not really xenophobic, but rather a case of people being comfortable with what they know. Many Indians left the country to go work in British plantations in different parts of the world.
South Africa is home to many people of Indian descent and so is Kenya, Australia, the UK and South Africa. I have gathered that it’s all about the different life experiences and people also being wary of rocking the boat.
Look at Akshay for example – he wants someone to stay at home and look after his children and help his mother run their home. I don’t think that someone who has lived in another country their whole life would want that – unless they are okay with being a housewife?
India is a large country with people who speak different languages, have different dialects and mannerisms and traditions, depending on where they are in the country. I found it fascinating that even people who follow the same religion have different practices depending on their region.
So it helps potential love matches have a chance when they speak the same language, are from a similar background and have many things in common. It makes things easier.
Indian Matchmaking is currently streaming on Netflix