Vyasar Ganesan admits that he didn’t quite know what he was getting into when he auditioned for “Indian Matchmaking,” the hit Netflix docuseries that had viewers around the world debating modern-day love and arranged marriage last summer.
“How could any of us have known? It was a whirlwind for sure,” Ganesan told NBC Asian America. “I mean, it's hard having a camera with you when you're on a first date — and then it's hard when that first date takes place in your living room surrounded by family members, obviously.”
But as Ganesan opened up about what he wanted in a partner to matchmaker Sima Taparia, he quickly became a fan favorite, with many hoping that the Texas-based guidance counselor would find lasting love.
Among those who became invested in his journey were the parents of the teens at the Austin, Texas-area high school where he teaches. “There's a group of mothers at my school who are very invested in my love life, and that has definitely changed things for me professionally,” Ganesan said with a laugh. He said that since the pandemic began and he started meeting his students over video conferencing, many parents now pop in to say hello and ask how dating is going. “Kids get embarrassed by adults very easily, so seeing their faces when that happens has been really funny,” he said.
While Ganesan did not end up with any of the matches he was introduced to on the show, Ganesan says he discovered quite a bit about love, relationships and his own expectations while undergoing the matchmaking process. Ahead of Valentine’s Day on Sunday, NBC Asian America called Ganesan to talk about looking for romance during a pandemic, the art of Zoom dating and his advice for singles out there.
NBC Asian America: Let’s start at the very beginning. What motivated you to try out for “Indian Matchmaking” in the first place?
Vyasar Ganesan: I was in a work meeting back in 2018. I got a text message from a friend that said something like, “Hey, something, something, South Asian singles…” I really wasn’t paying attention, so at first I thought it was spam. So I flipped my phone over and ignored it.
And then when I got out of the meeting, I had six more messages for people all over the world to do the same thing. This time I see the Netflix logo and the show title and I think, ‘Oh, this is a more legit thing. All these people are messaging me. Fine, fine, I'll do it.’
At the time I had just gone through a really rough breakup, so I was thinking, ‘You know what, I’m going to try new things. Some people dye their hair after a breakup, some people get a cat, I'm trying out for a reality TV show.’
NBC Asian America: A lot of viewers were also struck by your story because of your family history and your decision to open up about your father’s criminal record. While your father’s actions have nothing to do with you, were you nervous about putting that all out there?
Ganesan: You're right in that it had nothing to do with me, but at the same time so much of this whole process of matchmaking and meeting people was realizing that people's perception about what me and my family history with my father's incarceration and my parents’ divorce impacted my suitability as a potential match for someone. It became a very heated and interesting discussion point on the show because it shouldn’t have made a difference.
While everyone in my family recognizes that it doesn't make a difference [about who I am as a person], there were also people my family knows who said, ‘Oh my god, we didn't know anything about this,’ after the show came out. It clearly did change things for them.
It's a tricky space to navigate at the end of the day. But this story is part of my history and lived experience and I needed to lay claim to that. I didn't want someone else to see me on the show and then start digging up the court cases — which are available as part of the public record — and make hay out of it. I wanted to lay claim to those stories before somebody else did.
NBC Asian America: Has being on the show changed the way you look at relationships?
Ganesan: Definitely. I told myself before I started the show that if I find the love of my life because of a Netflix docudrama where an older woman runs my life and picks who I am going to date, it’s not going to be the weirdest thing that's happened to me, and that still holds true.
I'm really grateful to the people I went out with. The way I see it now is that I got a chance to try something new. I think the biggest thing to remember is that while not every single Indian person has to use a matchmaker, the whole point of this process is to celebrate your ability to choose, to celebrate your preference and to celebrate the ability to say yes or no.
NBC Asian America: How has being single during the pandemic been like for you?
Ganesan: For the first couple of months, I was focused on myself and heath and wellness. I ordered my very first pair of sweatpants and joggers on Amazon and I like that I just settled into a more sedentary, laissez faire lifestyle. I was monitoring my weight, my blood pressure, and that fear that we were settling into this for the long haul.
Just going on dates during the pandemic gets tricky because everything has to be over Zoom. That’s a challenge in itself, just trying to navigate and figure that out. Questions like, ‘OK, which room in the house is the most comfortable if we're going to sit here for a while? Am I comfortable doing this in my office, like, what do I wear? It was just a weird, weird time.
NBC Asian America: Are you seeing anyone now?
Ganesan: Yes, me and my girlfriend right now started talking over Zoom at first. Those were our very first real dates and conversations.
NBC Asian America: How did you two first meet? Were you set up through the matchmaking process?
Ganesan: Long story short, her cousin saw the show, and they began talking about it and afterward her cousin reached out on my now girlfriend's behalf. She basically wrote, ‘Hey, I know sliding into people's DMs isn't really cool, but I'm doing it anyway.’
I immediately thought, ‘OK, well, it takes a lot of guts and courage to do that’ and I began talking to my now girlfriend. Then, you know, one thing led to another and it just sort of quickly spiraled from there. We now have a Zoom date every Sunday and Wednesday. It's great.
NBC Asian America: Throughout the show, you seemed to have a very clear idea of what your values were and what you were looking for in a partner. What’s your advice for readers looking for love this Valentine’s Day, particularly those who might be bouncing back after a breakup?
Ganesan: Be gentle with yourself. I would start in the lightest, easiest way possible. For some people that might mean group dates with mutual friends. For others, it might mean a very low stakes encounter or situation where, instead of dinner, it's like an activity, like a hike or a trip to a farmers market. But also, when you're nervous, it means you're about to learn something, so being nervous ends up being a good thing.
I would also say that if you're not ready to date, you're not going to have a good time, and you’re not going to be ready to be with another person. Yes, Valentine's Day sucks when you're single, but that's not an excuse to go out and look for a relationship. Work hard to fix things with yourself first.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.