The Indian Matchmaking

*** Spoiler alert for the Netflix show “Indian Matchmaking” ***

Being an Indian, born and brought up in India, I had to talk about the cringe-fest called Indian matchmaking on Netflix. This is not the type of show I ever watch and so I kept ignoring the pop ups on the streaming channel till the internet was flooded with related memes. That definitely piqued my interest.

2 minutes into it, and I felt amusement, shock, disbelief and anger. So many emotions?! No wonder the show is getting all that attention. And rightly so. It’s depiction of our society when it comes to marriage and women, is unfortunately quite close to comfort.

While I didn’t have to face most of the trauma shown on the show, I did have to hear a lot such comments from “well meaning” adults.

The fat shaming, the casteism, colorism, racism, regionalism, sexism is as rampant in that show as in our real society. While, I wouldn’t say that that’s all there is to India, I won’t discount it as being an exaggerated fictional depiction either. We have progressive, real, supportive and respecting men and women. But they make the tiniest little percentage of us. We are a minority. We tend to hang out with the ones that we can relate and agree to atleast the core principles, and if you believe everybody believes in equality, then you have surrounded yourself with the right ones and are oblivious to the reality out there.

On each of my solo international trip, I am asked by the locals and the other travellers to explain our concept of “arranged marriages”. I am not against arranged marriages by the way. I would never do it or had to do it, but they seem to work. There are scores of success stories around us. I have my own ideas about why they have worked, but I am not going to dwell in that now. But, for example on my last holiday, when I said we call the other type of marriages “love marriage”, everyone burst out laughing. They were like, if not for love what would you marry for? And this show, shows a bit of that. A full time house-help to manage your homely affairs, a legitimate baby making system and apparently business deals.
I have lost people I cared about because they and their beautiful spirit were crushed by this oppressive and suffocating system. The idea of a “daughter in law” turned them into a slave and they chose to leave this world than live in such humiliation.

We come from a culture where most parents dictate even the subject we choose to study in our high school, so why do we find it so shocking that they decide who should we spend our whole lives with? It’s a bigger decision isn’t it? After all, marriage is not about love, companionship or a bond that is meant to be for life (mostly). It is all about who fits in right with our family’s idea of our partner and to make pure blood babies. (eye roll)

Some of the dialogues and scenes are imprinted in my brain and will probably follow me to my grave. Here are some of my favourites 😛

The standard that kept popping up every episode. Marriage is about compromise and adjustment. Ermmm. Any relationship that you would like to nurture has to have some kind of compromise and adjustment! Hell, I got to compromise and adjust with my dog even most days! And we are talking about thinking, ambitious egoistic humans! You have to give in sometimes and let go the others, to keep peace. Any good relationship is based on the concept of 70-30. Sometimes you do the 70% of lifting and sometimes the other does. But in no terms you have to let go of the person you are!

Talking about the first person that comes up – Aparna, one of the “observation” (eye roll) matchmaker makes is, “She is too educated and knows what she wants. It’s difficult to get a match for girls like these.” Wow! Wow! And wow! Of course it’s hard! You don’t want someone who knows what she wants in life, you want a meek mouse who does your bidding.

With Nadia, she comments how “Indian families” will not prefer a girl who doesn’t have roots in India. Just because this family had immigrated out of India generations ago. At the same time, with Nadia I had a smile worthy, relatable moment. When she is howling and crying about the boy flaking on her, she confesses she is on her periods and hates the emotional roller-coaster it brings. I am with you girl!

Pradhyuman. OMG! This was a lesson in how self obsessed some people are. He was so oblivious to the ways of the world that he needed to go to a life coach to learn that women too care about physical attraction! “That, women want to be accepted the way they are.” No, we don’t. We just like men who have pictures of themselves as their doorknobs. Awww. How attractive! You are freaking kidding me right?!

Vyasar was a breath of fresh air. What an endearing man! I was completely rooting for him.

Ankita was one of the most relatable woman on the show. Urban, working hard, looking for a partner that would treat her and her dreams as his equal. Seema (going to use her un-jazzed spelling. Check out “A suitable girl” on Netflix) goes on saying she needs to adjust and compromise and decides she can never get her a match. Her clients are from “traditional” families and would not like girls like “these”. Then comes Geeta, another matchmaker and for the the first few minutes you feel this is someone who isn’t steeped in the regressive patriarchal ideas as the other. But then, she sits across Ankita and tells her as a woman it’s her “duty” to put her husband first and everything else in her life takes a backseat. Your heart breaks for Ankita and wants to break Geeta’s face.

Rupal. This one got tears in my eyes. A divorcee and a single mother. Seema tells her that her options are limited. People don’t want divorcees and specially stay away from women who have a child. You watch as Rupal literally shrivels down and asks how should she behave when she meets a prospective match. Parenting isn’t a joke. Even as a pair it’s a struggle and being a single parent is no easy feat. This woman has brought up her daughter and has made a life for herself and you just crushed her whole sense of self by saying she isn’t wanted or desired. Shame on you!

I will go back to Ankita, because what happened to her and what was told to Rupal shows the double standard of our society. Ankita is sent on a date with a guy which goes well. She comes to know later that he was divorced. She doesn’t mind him being that, but she is rightly upset that this information wasn’t shared with her first. When she brings this up, she is told it wasn’t too important a detail initially. The information would have been shared later. So. It’s life altering experience for Rupal but not a big deal for the men??

Now, coming to the best of them. Akshay. My oh my! I was flabbergasted, I was livid and I was glad (for that family) that I couldn’t reach through the TV and slap their faces off their heads! This boy says going to Boston for his undergrad was such a huge change in his life because he had to do all that we never have to do in India. I thought he meant having to do part time jobs to pay for your tuition or stay or general expenses. No! He meant making his bed! He is 25, his brother has a talk with him saying “the clock is ticking” and he needs to get married immediately. After all, the responsible elder brother had done it at the perfect and jawaan age of 23. Waah. Slow clap for you darling!

Meanwhile Akshay is the mama’s boy personified. The shyest maiden of all the lands! Doesn’t ever know what to say. Awkward every second of that show. What kind of girl do you want? Whatever mom wants. Faaaaack!

Akshay’s mother was the evil and manipulating mother in law of all Bollywood movies in one. She keeps talking about her high blood pressure because her 25 year old son isn’t getting married. She blackmails him at the breakfast table that his elder brother can’t have a kid because they are waiting for him to get married first. When asked the relation of these too obviously unconnected events, she says that they want to have fun at his wedding and will wait till after it to conceive a baby. TMI?!

She has a storage full of Sarees with real silver, emeralds and diamonds for the future daughter in law. Jewellery that could save a small starving nation and apparently it was just 10% of the whole gift. She attends kitty parties where women talk about their permanent lipstick, eyebrow treatments, kids and the disappointments. She proudly tell how her older daughter in law followed every instruction that was given to her from day one. She proclaims, “This is my house and my rules. If you live here you have to follow it.” She says every boy looks for a wife that is like his mother. Ermmmm. Anyone else find that extremely disturbing?

I am sure there are millions of guys like Akshay who say they don’t want a working woman because after all, he wants a wife who would be like his mother. If she goes to work, who will take care of the kids? What the fuckity fuck?! But, there are also men and women who are not like these freak shows. I know! I don’t want to be calling names. I know it’s their conditioning and experiences that has made them the way they are. But, that doesn’t excuse them from treating another human to be less in any way.

So. You are what you are. If you want to change, do it for yourself. Do it to be a better person and to have a better life. Not because you have to fit into a specific template to be desirable. You don’t have to have kids if you don’t want to! You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to! And when you do, it should be because you want a partner, and not because your society dictates it. I hope you know that. ❤

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