“Marriage is two things: adjustment and compromise,” says Sima Taparia, or as she’s popularly known, Simi Aunty. She’s the protagonist of one of Netflix’s latest — and most watched globally — reality series, Indian Matchmaking, and is a sought-after matchmaker in India who constantly travels between her motherland and the United States, fixing single men and women of Indian descent into matrimonial successes. And if she fails, it’s only for now.

It would be an understatement to say that the series has inspired a strong reaction among all South Asian desis across the world — irrespective of whether they are Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi or even Nepal.

Some are finding some of the characters absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know why, they’re pretty standard for any desi family. Others are outraged at the blatant display of classism, colourism, casteism and sexism by the matchmakers and her clients. Again, I don’t know why, that’s pretty standard desi behaviour. Yes, while we should speak out against it and demand change, it’s not surprising.

Then there are those that are so triggered by the series, they have been sharing their own experiences of having to do the rishta walk. Of subjecting themselves to the pressures and judgement of their own family members as well as strangers, of being reduced to measuring themselves against a checklist of desirable qualities, and of facing constant rejection of their persons.

Netflix’s reality TV series Indian Matchmaking is an easy watch but also holds up a much-needed mirror to desi society, culture and traditions

There are poignant moments in Indian Matchmaking that reveal some of those same exact feelings in its characters as well — a few episodes into the series, in flickers, you see their ‘front’ disappear to reveal crushing vulnerability and suffering. You see them on the outside as having ‘high standards’ and rejecting of others but, deep down inside, they wonder if they are even worthy of love themselves? And for other characters, as they get older and are still single, of feeling left behind: is it over for them? Will they ever be loved?

There are characters that anyone from a more ‘traditional’ culture would be able to relate to: the nagging mother who’s obsessed with her son being married off. There’s the babied, socially awkward son who wants to see his mother in his wife. There’s the immigrant parent who set the bar so high for her children growing up, that they can never seem to find the ‘perfect’ match. There’s the independent woman who’s fought many battles to assert her right to life on her own terms and who’s afraid of losing her hard-won freedom by making a matrimonial commitment.

Connecting all of them, reading them within seconds, working with them and helping them grow is the matchmaker, Simi Aunty. She is a product of her environment and she’s doing what she thinks is in the best interest of her clients. And she uses every resource at her disposal to do her job. This includes facts and information about her clients as well as the mystical — she consults with numerologists, face readers and astrologists… any the help she can get is welcome. She is also not above rolling her eyes at some of the more ridiculous demands of her clients — sometimes even in their presence!

It is also interesting to see how some of the characters evolve over the series. The ones who seemed never to make up their mind are sent to life coaches, to figure themselves out. Even for those without a trip to a life coach, just the experience of meeting with potential matches often opens them up and they discover more about who they are and what they really want.

Indian Matchmaking is an easy watch. It’s entertaining enough to keep you watching but for desi audiences it might not present anything new or revealing. What is does do is hold up a much-needed mirror to desi society, culture and traditions. There’s a reason why it doesn’t try to have a conversation around the blatant colourism, classism and sexism in the series — as the audience, that’s for us to do.

All the series is doing is showing us who we are — albeit packaged beautifully. And it has most of us triggered.

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 26th, 2020