As Bangladeshis, we are familiar with the concept of arranged marriages and "ghotok" - a person who arranges marriages or initiates romantic relationships between two people in hopes of getting them married.
This concept prevails across South Asia and is definitely an easy way out for parents who are eager to find their sons and daughters a spouse; sometimes even nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. And to further capitalise on the wedding industry, alongside the "ghotok bhais" and "bons", Netflix has released another deshi show called "Indian Matchmaking".
Watch "Indian Matchmaking" trailer here
Produced by Smriti Mundhra, Indian Matchmaking follows the matchmaking exploits of the quinquagenarian and well-dressed Sima Taparia, also addressed as "Sima Aunty" by her clients, who is a Mumbai-based transnational matchmaker. She focuses her business on the seemingly rich, upper-caste Indians, and Indian-Americans.
The Netflix show has an ensemble of eight cringeworthy, yet, real, and relatable episodes. From what I have gathered from Indian Matchmaking, Taparia is that one insufferable and judgmental aunty who will berate you for being in your 20s and still unmarried every time your paths cross.
Her seven affluent clients, all in their mid 20s and 30s with family ties in both the US and India, are desperate to find partners through Taparia. For her clients, Taparia has one thing to ensure: they should be flexible and adjust to the other's lifestyle. But this is the difficult part - she says, to both sides of one potential match.
It would have been a shame if a "deshi" aunty does not emphasize traits such as "fair" and "tall" in an ideal spouse which she does abundantly. Taparia's arsenal also boasts fat stacks of biodata that lists a potential bride or groom's physical features such as height and weight along with a brief summary of their wealth and socil status. Caste and class here are of paramount importance.
Taparia's has a diversified client base, to put it lightly. One of her clients, Houston-based attorney - Aparna, wants a man for the sole purpose of having one. When she was asked if she wants her potential partner to be funny, she got confused and replied, "People care about sense of humour?" She is the same person who once broke up with a man for not knowing that Bolivia has salt flats. However, as the show unfurled, it was evident that every client is a different challenge.
Pradhyuman Maloo, the good-looking, well-dressed, and well-off Mumbai-based jeweler will not compromise on his future wife's looks and sense of style. He has a walk-in closet full of expensive shoes, clothing, and jewelry protected with a fingerprint scanner.
Another client on the opposite end of the spectrum, Akshay Jakhete, has his eyes pinned on only a certain type of women who share the same traits as his mother. "My mom is literally what I want to be looking at in a wife," Akshay said, describing his perfect woman.
A second matchmaker appears later in the series, who is sympathetic to her rather disadvantaged set of clients and refers to Taparia as a traditionalist. One of her clients, Ankita, has been told by her former suitors and relatives to "lose weight before looking for a husband". Nadia, another client, is seen as "less Indian" because her extended family migrated to Guyana 150 years ago.
If any of the clients rejected a relationship because of personal reasons, they were sent to a life coach. But for what?, you may ask. It is obviously because something is wrong with them for rejecting a partner they did not find interesting.
It was also embarrassing to watch Taparia pull out an astrologer from her personal contacts to ask the stars and moons why a date went wrong (as if a first, second or third date has never headed south). And if anyone can decipher what Taparia meant when she said that astrology is an insurance for a successful marriage, the heavens will be at your service.
While watching the show, many of my friends called it out for "promoting deshi stereotypes". I, however, beg to disagree because these stereotypes were never demoted to begin with.
The bigger picture is that Indian Matchmaking does not shy away from all the "big, fat deshi wedding" stereotypes, and instead, puts them on display for the Western audience to awe over and the deshi audience to find yet another "relatable" content. And while most of Taparia's clients find dates, a happy ending remains elusive.
Overall, despite being a cringe-fest with the underlying racist, casteist, and classist pigeonhole, Indian Matchmaking is a good insight into the matchmaking industry of the subcontinent and definitely a laugh-worthy watch during this quarantine.