Holding up a mirror to society: 'Indian Matchmaking' gets mixed reviews

Many condemn the reality of arranged marraiges as portrayed the Netflix series, Indian matchmaking
Netflix show Indian Matchmaking
Netflix show Indian Matchmaking

The recently released Netflix show Indian Matchmaking, continues to receive brickbats for its casteist, sexist among other problematic remarks, especially from the matchmaker, Sima Aunty. In the show’s defense, Smriti Mundhra, the director of the highly talked series, told Scroll.in, that the show is the reality of how most of the general public thinks.

Her quote goes, “…To remove those references from the show would be to sanitise this process, rather than be honest about it. And plenty of participants in the series defy or refuse to conform to these standards, which I think is a powerful statement about how young people in India and the diaspora are changing in terms of what we should value when it comes to marriage.” But what do eligible or recently married Indians think about the arranged marriage route as depicted in the show.

According to Rohini* (name changed), a Delhi-based resident, people actually need to understand what marriage is. “It can’t possibly be ‘just something everybody does’ and ‘do it at the right time’. I don’t want to waste my time going out to meet somebody and decide in one meeting whether I would like to spend the rest of my life with him. I wish I don’t have to explain this to my family every month.” She doesn’t favour being visited by a formal rishta via a typical Sima aunty. “There is no need to spend money as there’s one matchmaking aunty in every house.

But, because I am not compromising, I feel my relation with my family is going sour,” says Rohini. Sayantan Ghosh, who works as a policy research fellow at the Delhi Legislative Assembly, says that ample time should be given to both people brought together by a matchmaker. “Most importantly, the families should not interfere in this matter. I think that the Netflix show is highly regressive. I do not need a matchmaker to build my future.

The whole idea of the show and Sima aunty repeatedly brings out the old patriarchal idea of the flexibility of a woman.” Ghosh wants his partner to be his best friend. “In my life, I have learned most of the important lessons from women, therefore I think that this burden of ‘flexibility’ etc., should not be imposed on women. More importantly, equality and freedom should be respected for both the persons. We should come out of this idea that women should compromise and adjust for marriages. I think marriage is an understanding for a common goal and both people should be equally responsible for the relationship,” he says.

Sunaina Chandran Joshi from Mumbai says, “The ideas and the ideals Sima Aunty claims to uphold to find the right person are deeprooted in every household however modern they claim to be. In one of the episodes a lady claims her son will be happy to marry someone like her (his own mother). How creepy is that? If the set up is of a joint family the bride, sooner or later, is expected to fall in line by adjusting and compromising. The life of everyone else stays the same. That’s the sad truth,” while adding, “A man will continue to act like a kid with his mom around, even after marriage. In a nuclear set up where there can be a possibility of actual partnership is generally seen as ghar thodna and not naya ghar basana by older women.

All this is because the safety net of joint families has been in India for the older women. And they don’t think twice before meddling in their kids’ lives.” Jigyasa Bhatia, 33, thinks that online matrimonial websites are a good platform to meet people because she found her fiancé on this site. “It is however a time-taking process, and took me more than four years to find my partner. I have also come across people like Sima aunty who charge an exorbitant amount of money for match-making services but I found them too expensive and cliched to pursue.” On these sites, she has found both good and bad guys, and their families who had weird expectations from her.

Their judgements about her looks, job, or lifestyle bothered her. “In one case, one guy was financially weaker than my family and I was asked to adjust. But when the guy’s mom tried to ask me questions like my spending habits, cooking skills, etc., I decided to say no. I didn’t like the mother’s nature and I regretted letting the guy go because we got along really well. But then I met Himanshu Mehta, my fiancé, and we get along really well.” Mehta, now engaged to Bhatia, says no experience was good or bad, but each taught her something that helped her go forward, and ultimately finding someone special. Speaking from his experience, Mehta concludes, “I felt letting go of a potential match is a lot better than losing my self esteem and self worth. Flexibility and compromise, which I was doing a lot before meeting Bhatia, seem like a black hole wherein you keep on losing your individuality. Any relationship built on compromises can’t last for long.”

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The New Indian Express