Let’s Discuss Caste and Colorism in ‘Indian Matchmaking’
My roommates in Rome, co-workers in Washington, D.C., and friends in New Delhi all have something to say about Netflix’s new reality series, which pulls back the curtain on a facet of arranged marriages in India and the South Asian diaspora, matchmaking. For the few who have managed to miss the show’s viral popularity, matchmaker “Sima Taparia from Mumbai” works to connect her clients across the world with suitable candidates for marriage. The key word here is suitable, which in the world of Indian Matchmaking means upper caste, light-skinned, Hindu, nondisabled, straight, thin, tall, educated, and employed.
The research on arranged marriage’s popularity over time is largely inconclusive, but as Taparia explains when stating, “there’s marriage and then there’s love marriage,” formal and informal matchmaking is still a common practice in South Asia and the diaspora. Though the show is hardly representative of every South Asian’s path to marriage (for one, Taparia’s services cost $2,000 to $5,400, far out of reach for most families), the types of discriminatory and exclusionary practices central to arranged marriages and matchmaking depicted in the show are as widespread as they seem.
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On its surface, the show is painfully relatable for many women, not just South Asians, for laying bare the double standards between men and women in relationships. Aparna Shewakramani, Matchmaking’s breakout star, was constantly described by Taparia as overly negative, unstable, and stubborn when she rejected suitors, but male leads who rejected hundreds of female matches were portrayed as selective and discerning. The women were constantly told by the matchmaker, their families, and religious advisors that they had to be “flexible” or “willing to adjust” if a potential husband wanted to move to a new country for his career or wanted his wife to radically change her habits and lifestyle after marriage, but the men were never expected to adapt. Another one…