On ‘Indian Matchmaking,’ Sima Aunty knows best. Or does she?

Considering the representation of South Asian culture in Netflix’s ‘Indian Matchmaking’

New series centers on relationships and marriages.

Following its premiere on Netflix several weeks ago, Indian Matchmaking has remained a topic of conversation in and surrounding the South Asian community. 

The unscripted show follows Mumbai-based matchmaker, Sima Taparia, also known as Sima Aunty, as she helps her clients who are looking for love. 

I had no intention of watching the show until all my friends and cousins told me I needed to binge it as soon as possible. They warned me I was about to be hooked, and within the first five minutes, I realized they were right. 

Sima Aunty’s view on marriage is practical—she uses the word “suitable” to describe partners to her clients. However, as the show progresses, viewers get a glimpse into the way many South Asian households discuss love and marriage. From biodatas which have a plethora of information about a potential match—including their height, career, and what they’re looking for in a partner—to visits with astrologers, there’s so much that precedes an actual date between two people who are set up by Sima Aunty. 

Indian Matchmaking shows viewers a side of arranged marriages and Brown culture that contrasts the stereotype that all South Asians are forced into marriages by their traditional parents, a trope that often leads to unjustified pity towards South Asian women. 

It’s important to recognize there are many people who’d rather allow their parents or a matchmaker with years of experience such as Sima Aunty to set them up with somebody.

While it’s inevitable that personalities and situations have been exaggerated for television—come on, there’s no such thing as honest ‘reality TV’ anymore—the show serves to shed a light on Indian culture beyond arranged marriages. Indian Matchmaking captures how the Brown community speaks about people, particularly young adult women, who are at the age when they’re expected to be married. 

For example, upon meeting and getting to know Aparna, one of Sima Aunty’s clients, Sima Aunty talks about how stubborn and picky Aparna is when it comes to choosing a partner. At one point, Sima Aunty implies that Aparna will never be able to find a match if she can’t compromise her standards and values. 

What I heard from that exchange was “settle.” On paper, compromise sounds like the practical and normal thing to do, but when it comes to South Asian culture, ‘compromise’ is just a disguise for ‘settle for less and just do what’s expected of you.’

Don’t get me wrong: I agree that Aparna was often negative, blunt, and pretentious. But the fact of the matter is, South Asian women are always criticized the moment they disagree with the majority of our culture and tradition. I couldn’t relate to Aparna’s thoughts on marriage, career, and family, but what I could relate to was how she was put down because her thoughts didn’t align with traditional values.

There has been lots of discussion in the South Asian community about how Indian Matchmaking fails to show full representation amongst different sub-cultures within Indian culture. There are also moments in the show that emphasize discriminatory and anti-Black practices within Indian communities, revealing casteism and colourism; describing people as fair-skinned or being from an upper class just scratches the surface of these harmful rhetorics.

As someone who’s watched Indian Matchmaking, I don’t think it’s completely fair to expect an eight-episode Netflix series to break down generations of Indian culture and matrimony. And I don’t think it’s right to pretend some of the stereotypes depicted in the show aren’t true, or to pretend discrimination within our community doesn’t exist. 

The series unveils a great deal of truth when it comes to South Asian communities and their standpoints on marriage. However, I think it’s always important to remain critical. Instead of watching the show mindlessly and talking about how it skims the surface of South Asian culture, let’s dive deeper and have conversations about those problematic and cringey moments, from the racist and sexist comments to the way we villainize Aparna for not wanting to settle. 

We should always be asking ourselves how the media we consume can do a better job because while TV is meant to entertain us, it plays a much greater role in our lives by being a major influence on our ideas, perspectives, and thoughts. Indian Matchmaking might be binge-worthy and addictive, but it’s also the starting place for some important conversations.

 

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