Netflix’s popular series, Indian Matchmaking, has grabbed a lot of attention worldwide. It bagged an Emmy nomination too. While most Indians found matchmaker Sima Taparia to be annoying, sexist and saw her as someone who said rather controversial things, the rest of the world watched her with intrigue, to understand how Indians find their matches.
But, the disturbing elements pointed out by us Indians online doesn’t reflect the reality of India. Most high profile matchmakers have a lot of clients and a very good market demand. We may have made memes using Taparia’s one liners, but she and the likes of her are here to stay.
One of the easiest ways to access matchmaking for the average, middle class Indian is to head to a matrimonial site.
Matrimonial sites are a big hit among the urban population of the subcontinent. Over 90% of the total marriages in India are arranged in nature. Divorce rates are quite low due to the social stigma surrounding divorce.
It is unfortunate to note that 70% of these marriages involve some kind of mental or physical abuse or domestic violence. This makes the low divorce rates quite problematic. Indians who prefer arranged marriages are generally very strict when it comes to the criteria of caste and religion.
While 5.8% of total marriages in India are inter-caste, only 2.1% are inter religious in nature. These stats reflect not only on how our society thinks and functions, but is also telling of the marketing strategies of these matrimonial sites.
Their “you want, we deliver” policy needs to be investigated further.
The first thing that we come across on most of the famous matrimonial sites are complexion and “body type”. While people fill out the details of their own physical features, they are asked to choose the same for their prospective partners as well.
“Fair bride wanted” is an obviously harmful one.
The so-called body type category involves a range of categories to choose from, such as, slim, sporty, healthy, fit etc. One has the option to even fill out their height and weight. While looking for a partner on these sites, not only do you see their horoscope, pictures and biodata, but also their body type.
Next in line comes a special section for the entitled men of our patriarchal society, where they can tick boxes like “will share chores”, “will share cooking”, “can do laundry” etc. These chores are supposedly designated jobs for the women of the household alongside the obvious “will take care of spouse’s parents”, “will share expenses” and so on.
However, when it comes to women, the boxes to be ticked become weird criteria of things like “length of hair”, “wears western clothes” and so on.
The next, worst possible thing that comes up is the unavoidable question of one’s religion, caste, sub caste etc. You have to fill up your own details in the form as well as select them for your potential partner. Of course, you can be open minded and select “all”.
However, there is no option which allows you to not fill in these details.
It is equal parts appalling and disturbing to see how some people flaunt their castes more than their work details or anything else.
Obviously, the prejudice around horoscope matches plays a very crucial role in Indian matchmaking. One has to fill in the details of their birth. Moreover, one has to check boxes on maanglik dosh, kaal sarp yog and many such “obstacles”.
The matches the sites generate for you to choose from come from that pool, especially for those whose profiles are controlled by their parents. Typically, they want a man “with a house and car”, an “only child” and maybe an “NRI”.
When it comes to women, “fair” and “homely” brides are preferred.
In a little experiment carried out in this regard, on a matrimonial app, if your bio reads “homely”, you tend to get more matches than if you write “opinionated”. Most of these matches come from parents who handle their child’s profile.
It is interesting to note that in a recent survey, it was found that only 20% of India’s youth prefer matrimonial apps over dating apps, to look for a partner.
While we see protests against racism and articles related to it in the social media posts of Indian youth, somehow they don’t seem to find it odd when selecting a spouse based on their skin colour and caste.
A user, who successfully met their match through one such app that records a huge amount of traffic online, said, “I didn’t find it uncomfortable at any level. I found my match and was quite happy about it. In fact, if you see it this way, an ad in the newspaper, or someone bringing a rishta is almost the same. They ask for photos, ask for your caste and complexion too. It is no different online. If you have to find someone perfect, you have to put up with these and it is okay.”
To the contrary, one of the unhappy users said, “I found it rather uncomfortable giving details like my height, weight, build and complexion. It felt like I am advertising a product on OLX rather than trying to find a match. And then of course, there is the caste issue.”
Whatever the reason might be, even with these rather disturbing practices going on in the Indian wedding market, one inevitably finds people accepting it rather than countering it.
Does the matrimonial market simply reflect the core problems of the Indian society such as casteism and racism? Or, does it aggravate such wrong practices even further? This is the million dollar question for one to reflect upon.
While Netflix now announced a reality, dating show for Tinder users, it will be interesting to see how different or, if at all, less cringe that turns out to be.
It remains to be seen if the problematic bits about using dating apps in India comes out in a similar fashion, as was seen in Indian Matchmaking. The show had so many cringe-worthy moments and so much prejudice, we simply can’t “unsee” it anymore in the matchmaking process prevalent in our society.