Community of Single People (CoSP) is a great resource on all things singlehood-related, but the Netflix series, Indian Matchmaking is the first experience I’ve had with watching a show based on the group’s recommendation. I also heard Peter McGraw do an insightful podcast and when he and his friend, Roopali Malhorta (who used a matchmaker), discussed it.
In McGraw’s words, the show barely touches on the idea that being single is a valid lifestyle choice, but I guess it has to appeal to their viewership, the majority of whom will want to see these hopefuls couple up. He and Malhorta also discuss the idea that many of the characters might actually be better off single.
This is where I want to discuss. I watched the series over eight days (one episode per day), and I took notes as I watched. The show revolves around Sima Taparia, whose profession is that of a matchmaker. An Indian woman, she helps people find partners, and she has a booming business because marriage is highly prized in Indian culture. The series tells several stories of Indians trying to find their partners. I’ll be giving a brief evaluation of each client/character.
I felt some empathy and sympathy for Nadya, not a single-at-heart person. An event planner from New Jersey, she truly wants to find a partner. I don’t know if that pressure comes from her family, if she’s internalized that pressure, a combination of those things, or if she may actually be better off with a partner. In Roopali’s words, “dating can be fun,” which I agree with if you don’t have expectations. Sadly, in most cultures, dating is supposed to “lead somewhere.” And her in words, Indian culture isn’t like that; you’re looking for a “potential life partner,” which is a part of all cultures, I think. I’d love to teach her about internalized singlism. Vanay, her dating partner, flaked on her twice, and yet, she’s still willing to date him. The last shot of her arc has them walking off together (spoiler alert: they’re not together anymore, surprise surprise).
Aparna’s a strong woman, an attorney from Houston. She appears to be very picky (a characteristic Sima uses to describe her), one of those people that, on a dating site, might write a laundry list of demands from her partner (those scared me off back when I did those sites). But she might actually be a single-at-heart. She’s successful and self-assured; if she ever got exposed to CoSP, a light bulb might go off in her head, and she might make a good singles activist.
I wanted to yell at Pradhyuman, “Dude, get some new friends!” At first glance, he might come across as your stereotypical “bachelor.” He dresses well, he likes fancy cocktails, and he has very high standards for physical appearance. I’m drawing on McGraw and Roopali’s analysis, but he’s the type of person that would do well in an urban environment, where a lot of people date just to “date” and don’t necessarily want to settle down. Yet, he keeps getting pressure from his friends and family to get married. The wife of one of his friends says, “I wish he’d get married because he’s always pulling my husband away on some kind of boys trip.” She can’t spend a minute without him? That sounds like some co-dependent, needy behavior right there!
The dynamic of Akshay’s family can be summed up in the following line from his mother: “He has all these gifts. Now we just have to find him a girl because marriage is important.” For the most part, it seems like Mom makes all of the decisions for him. In fact, her blood pressure is off the charts because of her concern for Akshay’s well-being and love life. I say, let that bird fly and enjoy your life! Of course, I am coming at that from a Western perspective because marriage is valued quite differently in Indian culture than it is in American culture, so I’m going to try to stay humble.
Anyway, I had some issues with him. He said something to the effect of, “If she’s busy with work, who’s gonna take care of the kids?” Ummm, you? So much for staying humble, I suppose. He’s the type that, if he does marry, will probably need someone’s who willing to play the role of a surrogate mother. He also doesn’t like cats, which is just not cool.
Vayasar’s the kind of guy I would’ve loved to have had as my college counselor. Funny, charismatic, and yet, he feels incomplete without a partner. When the creators interviewed his students, someone mentioned Vayasar had seen Endgame solo, to which some students went, “Awwww.” One young man spoke up and said, “Don’t awwww! That’s some self-empowerment!” That’s a smart kid right there. He has some dark family history, and dating encouraged him to open up to another person about it, which I can actually get on board with. Sometimes, when we meet the right people, they can inspire us out of more comfort zone. And they don’t necessarily have to be romantic partners. Sadly, the show wasn’t very clear on where that exchange went, but we found out later on that it didn’t “go anywhere.”
Ankita was my favorite. She’s a true single-at-heart. She got angry with a matchmaker who said, “Women take a backseat in marriage.” But, in her words, she wanted to try anyway. Her character arc did end with her realizing she doesn’t need a man, and she talked to a friend about living in a house with friends like the show Friends. Her friend was very supportive. Despite what appears to be a matrimaniacal stance on the part of the show’s creators, I’m glad they included one storyline that ended in happy singlehood. On the one hand, this seems like tokenism; on the other, I’m glad they somewhat recognize singlehood as a valid lifestyle choice.
Overall, the show gave me a good insight into marriage and Indian culture (for example, the differentiation between “arranged marriage” and “love marriage”). It has been criticized heavily for encouraging outdated views on marriage, which I get.
I was happy to see that, despite the creators’ need to end with the “happily ever after” trope, none of the couples stayed together after the show (this includes Akshay’s broken engagement). Despite this, I won’t be tuning in for Season 2.
My name is Craig. I'm an educator, writer, and unapologetic singleton. When not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy hiking, running, watching movies, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and playing with my cat/son, Chester.