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10 Questions We Had After Watching ‘Indian Matchmaking’

Indian Matchmaking
Yash Ruparelia

The latest Netflix obsession is “Indian Matchmaking,” centering on Sima Taparia, a Mumbai woman who helps Indian singles find potential spouses, with plenty of input from their extended families.

The internet is abuzz over the show’s subjects including opinionated Houston attorney Aparna, lovable Austin nerd Vyasar and Mumbai businessman Akshay, who wants to find a wife just like his mom.

But personalities aside, the reality series is a fascinating glimpse into the Indian cultural traditions surrounding finding a mate and planning a wedding. Viewers who aren’t familiar with the customs might wonder, “Why don’t they just try Tinder?” or “Why do they bring in an astrologer?”

Here are some of the questions that might come up for those who are new to Indian culture.

Why does the matchmaker keep mentioning that potential matches are fair-skinned? Is that acceptable?

Until recently, a face cream called Fair and Lovely (now Glow and Lovely) was marketed in India to lighten skin, by Hindi film actors, including Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who has since apologized for taking on the job. While many object to the term, it is a shameful fact that preference is traditionally given to those with lighter skin.

Why do the candidates bring their parents along for the first meeting it seems so unusual to many Americans/Westerners?

As matchmaker Sima Taparia says in an early episode, marriages are made between families. Hence, parents and siblings will join the first meeting. They also act as chaperones and help break the ice between those meeting for the first time.

Why do parents want the siblings to get married in order of age?

Siblings don’t necessarily need to be married in order of age for instance if there is a brother and a sister who is younger, the sister is the one whom parents would like to get married off first. But there is a nice symmetry to siblings getting married by age, isn’t there?

What is that amazing restaurant in Udaipur where Askhay and his parents meet with Radhika, and can anyone eat there?

Taj Lake Palace Hotel is, as the name implies, a former palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur that the maharana’s family converted to a hotel. It was also featured in the 1983 James Bond film “Octopussy.” If you pay, you can eat here.

Do a lot of Indians live in Guyana? Why is Nadia looking for someone else from Guyana, which borders Brazil?

There is an Indian diaspora with people from South Asia all over the world from Africa (Kenya, South Africa, Uganda) to Australia, Europe and North and South America. Many left in the early 20th century either to escape British rule or to work on British plantations.

How do families typically find their matchmakers? At what point does someone like Sima come into the situation?

Matchmakers come from all sides, though friends or relatives can also introduce couples. This author introduced her brother to a good friend 30-plus years ago and they got married. Others leave horoscopes or biodata at some temples where the priests connect like-minded families. Professional matchmakers work different echelons of society.

How much importance is put on finding someone of the same religion and/or ethnic group?

India is a vast country and people speak different languages and follow different religions. Even among those following the same religion the practices differ from region to region. For strangers, it helps to have some commonality in religion and regions so they speak the same language, or eat the same kind of food.

What is biodata and does everyone have a horoscope?

A biodata is a resume that covers basic details such as height, weight, skin tone and caste (social class), as well as family name and, among Hindus, lineage. Yes, everyone has a horoscope that is cast when they are born. It includes birth date and time. These are used to check compatibility between the prospective couples and their families.

Why does the matchmaker keep introducing herself as Sima from Mumbai?
That is branding.

Why are kids so tolerant of parents wanting them to get married?
As in many Asian cultures, Indians give a lot of deference to their parents. So they accept the meddling that those in Western countries might not abide.