The Netflix hit "Indian Matchmaking" has stirred up conversations about issues like parental preference in marriage, cultural progress, casteism — and ghosting.
Sima Taparia, the star of the eight-part Netflix docuseries, talked with NBC Asian America about some of the commentary and criticism of the show, which gives viewers a look into the day job of "Mumbai’s top matchmaker." She offers some analysis and behind-the-scenes info on matching who she believes are compatible South Asian singles with each other as audiences witness the process.
Taparia answered questions via email from Mumbai, discussing why none of the matches worked out, her own arranged marriage and how business is booming despite the coronavirus pandemic.
NBC Asian America: What are the advantages of matchmaking over dating?
Sima Taparia: They are not separate things. Matchmaking is just a tool to help people find a life partner. In India, the process also often involves parents.
Has the show generated new interest in matchmaking with more people wanting to do it? How’s business during the pandemic?
Business is booming! With or without pandemic, people are still searching for life partners and I'm working hard for my clients. Weddings may be delayed, but matchmaking is as busy as ever.
How did you start as a matchmaker and is there a sort of “training” involved? What’s changed about matchmaking since you had your arranged marriage?
Since childhood I was fond of socializing and meeting new people. I had an unique ability to remember faces and names, so I always knew which families had a son or daughter who was of marriageable age. I was doing matchmaking as a hobby, then my family suggested to me to do this as a profession. So much has changed since I was married -- back then, the boys and girls had very little choice. We just did what parents told us. Now, the young people are so educated and have their own ideas, so I work more directly with them than with their parents.
So none of the couples ended up staying together — why do you think that was the case for this group of people? Did you continue to work on matches for any of them after the show stopped filming?
Matchmaking is a tough job! My role is to find matches according to my clients' criteria. After that it is up to them, and to destiny. I keep working for all my clients until they are happily married.
How do you manage the expectations and decision-making of really involved mothers and fathers? How much should families get to weigh in?
Indians are very family-oriented and families on both sides play a big role in the married couple's life, so I think it's good when parents are involved. But when parents expectations are different from their children, I ask them to talk and resolve so I can work effectively for them. Ultimately, it's up to the boy or girl who they will marry, so parents have to understand their children.
People found it honest to see Nadia’s struggle in finding a match who could see beyond her Guyanese background. How much does ethnic background factor in do you think and how much should it?
For some people it matters a lot, and for others it doesn't matter at all. I try to guide parents to focus on things that are important for the day to day happiness of the children: finding a life partner with similar family values, good nature, matching wavelength, etc.
We saw the instance of Vinay ghosting. Even though he has presented a different side of the story, do you see this more often these days? I think it’s an experience which many viewers around the world can relate to these days.
I think if someone is not very serious about marriage it becomes clear quickly. I try to advise my clients to be clear if they don't want to move forward with a match, but once the couple has started talking directly, there's not too much I can do.
Ankita decided that she found her career more fulfilling than a relationship and a lot of viewers found that really powerful. Is this more common of a path you’ve seen increasingly?
Yes, definitely. Young women are so educated and independent these days that it's ok if they delay their marriage. But eventually most people want to find a good life partner so whenever they are ready, I am there!
How did families in America who you work with react to relying on more traditional methods of reading matches, such as astrology and face-reading?
Parents are mostly familiar with astrology and such things, but in America youngsters don't usually do it. Everybody I suggested to try was very interested!
We saw a powerful arc with Rupam, a single, divorced mother, struggle with the stigma of being a single mother. Viewers were glad to see her find love through a dating app. Do you think this stigma is changing at all?
Many families in India still have a stigma against divorce, but it is slowly changing. I think Rupam was a beautiful, smart girl and I'm glad she found what she was looking for.
Are you surprised to see the diaspora still take interest in marrying folks from their family's pre-diaspora home regions? Do you see success in pairings with people who grew up in different countries?
In the US and abroad, there is not so much an issue of marrying outside of your community. Some clients have a slight preference of someone from similar background, but other things are much bigger priorities, like wavelength and education.
Can we expect another season with you and a new cast of potential matches?
That is an excellent question for Netflix! I am happy to be part of this first season and hope there will be more to come. Thank you!