Is It Fair To Troll Sima Taparia For All That Is Wrong With Bride And Groom Hunt In India?
Mumbai based match-maker Sima Taparia seems to have sparked a volley of memes and debates on social media, with her latest Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. Set around the practice of arranged marriages in India, where prospective brides and grooms are “set” with each other by matchmakers, parents, padosis and any person who can cater to the needs of desperate Indian parents seeking to marry off their eligible (or so they think) children, Indian Matchmaking offers an ornate take on a pragmatic practice diluted by regressive norms and expectations. At the centre of this great Indian arranged marriage circus is Tapadia, whose popularity has seen an immense rise in this past one week, although not in a good way. But is she the main “villain” in Indian Matchmaking?
Let us put this upfront, Indian Matchmaking is deeply problematic and so are the beliefs peddled by the matchmaker at the centre of this show. In 2020, it is horrifying to see parents talk about criteria of skin colour, “flexible” bahus, and calling a man “loser” for being unambitious. It is equally cringe-worthy to see astrologers, palm readers, etc. get a bigger say in who is an ideal match for a person, rather than the concerned people themselves. But then, Indian Matchmaking only holds up a mirror to practices and norms that are common in our country even in this day and age.
So then is it fair to criticise Sima for her regressive views, or for matching horoscopes, heights, etc to find “suitable” matches? For a woman who herself had an arranged marriage, isn’t it possible that she has internalised these regressive expectations that desi parents have, when out on a bride/groom hunt?
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The show exoticises a cultural practice that in reality is steeped in decades of misogyny, casteism, and gender inequality. There is a lack of self-awareness in the show. It refuses to have its own opinion on arranged marriage. Which also invariably points towards how it ends up advocating Taparia’s questionable views on caste and gender. #indianmatchmaking #seemataparia #arrangemarriages #indianculture #SheThePeople
We often see people as victims of patriarchy or benefactors of it, forgetting that the two kinds also act as carriers for these systemic beliefs. Sima is certainly not the only woman in this country who believes that the elders know what is best for their children. Or that a bride should be ideally fair and groom taller than his partner. Don’t we all know chachis, mamis and even moms who always advise their daughters to adjust, if they want a happy marriage? Who frown on women for being ambitious and have a certain clarity when it comes to what they want from life or an alliance?
These women are not villains, they don’t wish us ill, in fact they have ended up believing somehow that they know what is right for us. Perhaps from bitter personal experiences or those of other women around them, these women know what we need to do to survive and to make the best out of the limited opportunities that every woman has in this country, to lead a happy life.
Matchmakers like Taparia, or any woman who is lobbying to make a match happen still believes that the onus of adjustment still largely falls on girls. That any girl who wants a man to fit into her life is way over in her head. While asking someone to accommodate themselves in your life, is an unreasonable demand, be it from a bride or a groom, how many ambitious boys are criticised for such an approach? Or called out for being professionally ambitious and personally rigid?
I don’t see Sima Taparia as a villain. I merely feel that someone needs to sit her down and the likes of her and tell them in their face why their approach towards arranged matches is outdated and problematic. But I doubt that this would work in changing Taparia’s approach, as a professional matchmaker. Why? Because it is not she who has set these parameters, it is us.
It is Indian parents, bride, and grooms, who go to matchmakers with a checklist, seeking a fair bride, or an NRI software engineer groom, demanding that the bahu be flexible and the groom be ambitious. Taparia is just a businesswoman catering to the needs of her clients. So if we do want to change the Indian approach to matrimony, then it needs to start with us. Look within your families, every time a marriage is being “fixed” observe what are the parameters being set for prospective adarsh bahu or damad, and then ask out aloud, why does this criteria matter, and how does it guarantee a happy marriage. Starting a genuine conversation on the issue has better chances of yielding a positive change than social media outrage over a glammed up reality show.
The views expressed are the author’s own.