This past week, my 37-year-old-client K insisted I watch the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. The matchmaker in the show, Sima Taparia has been the topic of much discourse since the show was first released in 2020, as have her clients.
Now, with the second season just out, K was telling me she identified with one of the new participants, Shital. The 38-year-old-sales professional is articulate, into fitness and is clear about what she wants. When it comes to these qualities, I can see the similarity between Shital and my client.
But K also tells me that the show rightly highlights the pain points of single Indians across the globe. It is a disheartening process, she said, and she could see that reflected even in the show. She brought up a few issues from the show that she identifies with and sees happening around her.
The first example is of the question that Taparia asks them routinely — what type of a girl/boy are you looking for? She asks only to put the answers in an infographic and proceeds to tell all of them that they will not get everything they are looking for. Then she tells them to “compromise”. Like most participants of the show, K, also wonders why there is a need to compromise when who they spend the rest of their lives with is the most important decision of their life.
Next, K felt that at the end of the day, for all couples in the matchmaking process, finding a partner essentially boiled down to looks. This was especially highlighted in the case of Vinesh (the investment banker) from Miami. The first girl he met, Mosum (a finance professional), seemed like a pleasant person and there was an ease in their interactions that even his family experienced. Yet, Vinesh was more excited about Meena, who was good-looking and “hot”. Even though it seemed Meena (a nurse) had already rejected him as soon as their date started. She was always looking around the restaurant, her body language was disengaged which had signalled that things had already gone south. Vinesh, though, seemed to have not picked on any of that. Unfortunately, says K, personality, education, wealth or value system all seem to be trumped by looks.
The other pain that got highlighted was how the singles or their parents, reached out to astrologers. K and most of her single friends have been through this. It gives them hope momentarily, yet it does not really help eventually. What you end up doing is really on you. As an example, she states the incident where Aparna (a lawyer), seems to be connecting well with Daman (a real estate professional from L.A.). This happens after her session with her astrologer Sophie, who encourages Aparna by telling her that her stars are aligned to find love. Aparna seems to like Daman a lot, yet she does not even connect with Daman when she visits LA. Daman on the other hand makes the effort to visit Aparna. Once in New York and then again in Huston. In Houston, he learns Aparna was in LA for a week and did not reach out to him. This then leads him to reconsider their connection.
K is also questioning if she should drop the idea of an arranged marriage and matchmaking entirely as an option in her search to find a partner. The two ‘successful’ couples from Indian Matchmaking — Pradhyuman (a businessman) and Ashima (an actress), and Shital and Niraj (a doctor) — aren’t actually thanks to Sima ‘aunty’, but had met through friends.
After spending most of my coaching time with singles helping them through their journey of finding a partner, I know that all of K’s concerns are valid.
For starters, I wish the matchmaker would not ask them what type of partner they’re seeking. There is a better way of establishing these criteria, and leading vulnerable singles down a path where they can only articulate tangibles like looks, interests, education, and profession is not the way to go. It is obvious that one can’t get everything they want in one person. But, in my experience of running a real-life dating platform, I think it’s better to let the client talk about themselves first: their interests, likes and dislikes. This can also help establish the profile of the match that can be presented to the client. Most singles are very vocal about any specific asks such as preferences for a pet lover, a non-smoker, vegetarian, or someone from a specific geography, and they mention that on their own.
As far as K’s concern about it being all about looks, unless you meet someone serendipitously and fall in love, looks will always be the first stimulus and there is no getting away from that: be it on a dating app, or a matrimony site, or through a matchmaker, or an arranged marriage introduction set up by family. I’ve suggested to many of my clients to cut themselves some slack here, even though this comes across as a superficial criterion. But it is the truth, because what else can you base your first decision on? At this point, either the photograph of the person or how they look when you first meet is the only tangible aspect of the individual. The authenticity or genuineness of their bio can only be established once you get to know the person more.
One can never know how they will meet their partner. So, I always encourage singles to not be dismissive of any options that exist. Matchmaking, introductions by family and friends, matrimony apps, dating apps, interest-based events or fitness-based activities are all great avenues where you are likely to meet people that have the potential to be your partner.
The one recommendation I have is that regardless of who you meet, and through whom — friends or family — don’t immediately ask yourself if you can marry this person right after (or during) the first meeting.
The only answer you should expect from the first few meetings or dates should be to this question: Do I want to meet this person again?
This has helped most of my clients as it eases off the pressure to arrive at the big decision that you absolutely cannot make in a hurry. Getting to know someone takes time and the right answer to the question “Can I marry this person?” will only emerge slowly.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org