Heard the ruckus for the new Netflix reality TV show “Indian Matchmaking,” but not sure if you want to watch it? Don’t fret the details, I won’t spoil anything, but I’ll help you navigate whether or not this is a show for you.
If you come from a Desi family like me, you grew up hearing about how the numerous relationships in your family were based upon an arranged marriage. While it is not as commonly practiced today, arranged marriages are super common within Southeast Asian households, as well as most Central Asian countries and the Middle East. That’s why when I saw the commotion around Netflix having a show focused on the South Asian community, I couldn’t wait to see this rishta aunty work her magic in what I understood as a nuanced modern take. While the show is based between both India and the United States, the relationships are inherently driven by regressive ideals of colorism, classism and gender stereotypes.
Sima Aunty, the rishta queen of Mumbai, pulls biodata to form the most compatible pairs, in which contains information about the single men and women seeking to get paired based on age, height, education, career and more. Needless to say, the show is extremely toxic but insightful on a harsh reality for many within Desi culture.
A fun game Sima Aunty subconsciously plays is find-the-backhanded-compliment. If the man or woman does not fit the idealistic norm of being rich, fair, petite or beautiful enough, don’t worry! This rishta aunty might say their personality makes up for what’s lacking. And if the lad or laddie has the “better rated” for looks, education and stability, they’ll get the upper hand in Sima Aunty finding them more suitable matches. If you're the bottom end of the pair — and to make her job easier — she’ll recommend how you’ll have to compromise on personal desires in a future spouse in order to make the marriage work.
Depending on the focus, be it the man or woman, the narrative changes but the superficiality is maintained. For all the girl bosses — independent and running their lives — Aunty suggests it will be harder to match them because they have a mind of their own and the financial mobility to do so, inconveniencing Sima’s search. Similarly, if a client was previously divorced or is not the ideal body weight, you’ve gotta give Sima more time because you're burdening her with undersible characteristics.
Meanwhile, the men on the show are in an entirely other ballgame. While you get the occasional sweet laddu padhus who will charm the audience with their wholesome charisma, Sima prefers they have stable careers and six-figure jobs. The best part about being a male on her show is the richer you are the more choices you get. These men get hundreds of biodatas to choose from because objectifying women is so much fun! And who’s to blame them? They, or rather the parents, have to make sure their son’s wife is beautiful and fair enough for their offspring because we all know it's the male that carries the brain in the household — so that is already guaranteed.
Overall, if you’re looking for a show to make you feel better about yourself, this is the show for you! Let this show bring out your own insecurities. The best part is if you have immigrant families from similar backgrounds, they can reminisce, reliving extreme trauma from their own past, but this time with the whole family! As a female South-Asian American, I feel like this show is a mockery of cultural Desi traditions and households, only to be the laughing stock of the Western world. But hey, by all means Netflix—at least it sells!
Izza Ahmed-Ghani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.