“In India, marriages are breaking like biscuits” — Sima Auntie
Watching Indian Matchmaking has been an interesting exercise in horror, amusement and pity for the adults who appear on this show. With characters like Shekar, Vyaser, Nadia, Ankita and Rupam we genuninely felt that at least one of these characters related directly to our life experiences. For me, I’ve been closely tied with Nadia’s situation coupled with Aparna’s ambition for who she finds as an ideal fit for her.
When it came to Rupam’s story, it certainly caught my attention more because she is of a Sikh-Punjabi background and a single mom looking for love. That is certainly not a story we hear commonly and watching her episode was both an amazing experience but also a rushed one. We didn’t really see her on dates with people that were matched for her and the topic of “being a good Punjabi” came up when Rupam’s dad was grilling Sima about the matches she had picked out for Rupam. Some information about Rupam:
- She came to America when she was just three years old. She’s been in the US since 1985.
- Her parents insisted that she speak Punjabi in the house.
- A common experience where if she spoke in English, her dad would tell her to talk in Punjabi.
- Rupam is 36 years old.
- She met her Sikh husband at religious camp.
- She said she felt like a failure because she was divorced but that her breaking point was her husband cheating on her (which makes sense because he violated a boundary).
- Was married at too young of an age to actually become mature and know what she wanted in a relationship.
- She feels stigmatized by her community for being a single mother and has a daughter of her own.
- She notes that divorce isn’t very common in the Sikh community and that the divine purpose of marriage really is behind a lot of couples staying married.
- She wants to be a role model for her child but also she wants to have a stable family.
- She seeks a Sikh man with a common background so that the transition is easy for her and her daughter.
- Some of the qualities she seeks is a working professional, someone who is caring, affectionate, absolutely trustworthy, good person, and of the Sikh faith.
- It’s unclear what the situation with Rupam’s parents look like since we see them in separate locations. But her dad is there at the meeting when Sima shows her some matches.
When Sima Auntie initially meets with Rupam, these are some of the comments she makes when it comes to her own beliefs about divorced women:
“You a divorcée with with a child”
“ your options are very less”
“If anyone comes to me with a child I don’t take those matches because it is very hard to match them” — Sima Auntie
I simply loved Rupam’s story because of the very non-traditional approaches she’s taking to finding love (like being on Bumble, her sister is in an interracial relationship and her father is doing the cooking), so it is a unique experience, very distinct from the one we see on camera with the other couples. Rupam’s father is very much involved and engaged in the process like Nadia’s mom Namita was. Which was nice to see because matchmaking is a very daunting process so having parents there certainly takes the edge of the experience.
We don’t know who Rupam ends up with, but one thing is for sure, this story was too rushed. Rupam does note that she likes to focus on one person at a time. Which is interesting.
Admittedly when Rupam’s father does pry a little bit too much into the past of one of the matches that Sima presents, he does cross a line into territory that most of wouldn’t want to venture into. But some of the questions asked about
- When it came to seeing the biodata of one man, Rupam’s father asks, “was he every employed,” “he’s never worked with anyone else?”
- How long was he married to the first wife?
- Why did the marriage end?
- Another question her father asks is if the ex-wife was American or Indian.
After this, Sima and Amarjit (Rupam’s father) have a tense back and forth exchange about the cultural differences of the partner that was married to the guy that was shown to Rupam. What really rubs me the wrong way is even if it was well-intentioned the incessant prying of Mr. Singh into the man which borders on inappropriate boundaries but also the fact that Rupam tries to say that her father is being a “bad Punjabi” as though she needed to prove something to viewers.
In an interview with Screen Rant, it turns out we don’t know a lot of things:
Rupam Kaur was introduced on Indian Matchmaking as a divorced single mother who according to Taparia had very slim chances of getting remarried. “Your options are very less,” said Taparia to Rupam, who eventually ended up finding a man from the dating app Bumble instead. In a recent interview with Zarna Garg, Rupam has revealed a lot of shocking things about Indian Matchmaking. Dr. Rupam is a physician which strangely wasn’t a part of the reality dating show. She spoke about being in a happy relationship with the gentleman she met on Bumble, who also happens to be a Sikh like her. She shared her journey about going through “lots of different stages of interviewing” for the Netflix show and also confessed to disagreeing about Taparia’s views on divorced women wanting to remarry.
Screen Rant further notes that:
But Rupam’s revelation about how much she paid Taparia on Indian Matchmaking comes as the real surprise. During the Instagram LIVE, when a fan asked Rupam how much the matchmaker charges, she said, “I don’t know what she charges as it was covered by Netflix.” The doctor conveyed her gratitude to the team by saying, “Thanks Netflix,” before clarifying “I don’t know what she charges at all.”
Considering Rupam didn’t find a match though Taparia, it would make sense for the Indian Matchmaking star to have not charged her any fees for her services. But also keeping in mind that the participants auditioned to be on the Netflix show while not being actual clients of Taparia, them not paying any fees also seems valid. As Indian Matchmaking fans continue doing the guesswork regarding Taparia’s fees, they can be rest assured that there’s certainly been a hike in her usual amount post her breakout stardom.
In an Instagram live with Zina Garg, Rupam talks about her experience.
This show was really interesting to watch and it has become very buzz worthy on Netflix.
An interesting connection I did have to make though is how much Sikh women are represented in dating shows and just how much we stand up for ourselves to understand what we want. Another Sikh woman on television who really broke the mold was Gurki Basra on Dating Around. Her episode was explosive. I won’t reveal the details of what happened to her so you can go watch her show but suffice to say, Gurki was one person I was dying to know more about and I wanted to know her view on what was happening on Indian Matchmaking and how much she connected with the characters/what she thought about what went down on the show and whether it was a true reflection of the process of finding someone to marry in the South Asian context.
As a divorcée in New York City, she had written off love because of how complicated it was for her. In her own words she writes:
I do not typically spend time watching reality TV, which might surprise some considering I was once on a reality show. My goal in appearing on Netflix’s Dating Around in 2019 was to provide brown girls with a picture of a happily divorced Punjabi woman in her thirties — I didn’t realize what I still symbolized for many viewers until multiple texts and DMs from friends and strangers alike poured in, asking me what I thought of one of Netflix’s newest reality series: Indian Matchmaking. The premise is exactly what it sounds like: A renowned matchmaker from Mumbai, Sima Taparia (or Sima “Aunty” as her clients call her out of respect), taps into her client base to help Indian singles, in both India and the United States, find life partners.
I was particularly interested in knowing her perspective since she did something similar to Rupam. She also writes:
“Although Indian Matchmaking emphasizes the difference between so-called love marriages and arranged marriages, they’re not actually that disparate as they are practiced today. Love marriages are those in which a couple meets organically, arranged marriages include concerted efforts from both families and friends (or a matchmaker) to find appropriate marital partners. Arranged marriages are not much different then swiping on Tinder or asking to be set up by your friends. The biggest difference is probably that, while you wouldn’t pay your friends to set you up with someone, you do pay a matchmaker. According to someone familiar with Indian matchmaking, matchmakers like Sima are typically compensated between two to five percent of the wedding costs, which can be as much as $20,000 to $50,000 per match. Although it benefits a matchmaker’s future business to ensure there is a successful match, they still have a strong monetary incentive to ensure a match occurs, whether the couple is compatible or not.”
I had a love marriage, but experienced a lot of pressure from my family to marry while still dating because my partner was a great match on paper: same religion, tall, from the same area in India, etc. Although we seemed perfect together, the marriage didn’t last. But also, how would they have known things weren’t ideal? After all, I hadn’t communicated my doubts about the relationship to my family while still dating my now ex-husband, so they assumed I was happy. Not that this makes my divorce my fault. I believe that every relationship has its own merits, and you can learn from failure as much as from success — a belief that resulted in being belittled by one of my dates on the first season of Dating Around. A clip of that bad blind date went viral with 6.1 million views, and I was lucky to almost only receive messages of support, except from a few Indian men who felt the need to tell me I was disrespecting traditional Indian values by being happy post-divorce and going on dates with American men. These men want me to be ashamed of my happiness, and I am absolutely not.
I also know it’s possible to be happy in an arranged marriage. While my love marriage ended in divorce after five years, I have cousins from both India and the U.S. that have wonderful, thriving arranged marriages. They met through their parents when they felt ready to marry, and a lot of consideration was given to how well their families would blend together. Many of them are professionals who were too busy to date, so they tapped into their family’s network to successfully find life partners. And it worked.
The show does feature couples who were also already married and Basra goes on to note that:
Given my own experience and ethnic background, I wanted to love the show and be supportive, but to me the series fell flat and overly simplified and stereotyped what it means to be Indian. Although the couples Sima fixes up are not forced to marry, the end goal of matchmaking is that, after a few dates, the people involved will commit to an eventual engagement or Roka. After having a Roka, the couple can plan their nuptials on their own timeline and get to know each other more. A Roka took place in the last episode of the show by the only couple that chose to move forward together with the marriage process. Now that the show is out, however, it has emerged that the couple is no longer engaged. The Roka may have been staged specifically for the show.
The more I watched, the more it became obvious that I was not only watching a show that only featured a very narrow segment of the Indian population, but one that was disenfranchising women. These are all issues that women (Indian or not) are dealing with, but continuing to highlight how people are living within these confines isn’t helping. Where are the solutions? How are these women empowering themselves? Why do we even have to have these confines? Where are the women breaking the paradigms of our outdated world and creating their own norms? How are people going to learn that they have other options if they don’t see examples of women that are thriving outside of these confines?
To me, the only good part of the show was the montage of already married couples speaking about one another and their experience with arranged marriages. Like many of my fellow desi friends, my parents had an arranged marriage and met on their wedding day. Amongst other things, the explosion between Justin and me on Dating Around was related to his judgment of my parents’ relationship.
However, after years of dating and recently going through another relationship where we realized that, despite a deep connection, the relationship was not going to work long-term, I believe there is a lot of value in understanding how arranged couples have been able to “make it work.” Seeing the beauty in successful relationships from Indian matchmaking would have been immensely more valuable than seeing the misogyny associated with characterizing the women as “too picky” when they could not find a personality match even though their dates had the right height, skin tone, and caste.
Another part of this Refinery piece that I really loved was this part:
I wish Indian Matchmaking had shown more of the cast members on their actual dates as opposed to focusing on why they were still single. That would have given the audience more insights as to the real reasons there were no matches found on the show. That, along with the couple interviews, is the show’s real secret sauce. Or better yet, bring in a certified relationship therapist instead to bring to light how you can make a relationship work if there is a connection despite having different interests or being from different castes. Well-made or not, I anticipate that, due to it capturing the viewership from one of the largest populations in the world, the show will be renewed for a second season (Refinery29 has reached out for comment).
When mulling over the potential for a second season, Gurki isn’t too enthused. She writes that:
I, however, will not be watching season 2 unless they provide their viewership with real answers on how to break out of a misogynistic, oppressive dating system. Continuing to give visibility to these outdated systems without providing real solutions is not helping impressionable young women or their families. I look forward to Netflix elevating my community and releasing a second season that can make an impact by focusing on women’s empowerment instead of the old-world concept of Indian matchmaking
What did you think about the show? Tag Kaur Republic and share your views!