While arranged marriages are prominent in multiple cultures around the world, Indian Matchmaking is rooted in the South Asian version of matchmaking. In the show, Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia helps young Indians find their life partner based on a list of preferences they provide her with. True to tradition, the families of the participants are extremely involved in the process and often have their own list of prerequisites. If you think the process is similar to creating a Ship account, you’d be surprised to know just how detailed the actual matchmaking is.
If there’s one thing Aparna Shewakramani got by participating in Netflix’s newest reality show, Indian Matchmaking, it was the worst date of her life. While Nadia was many fans’ instant favorite, Aparna has amassed a following of her own since the show premiered globally on July 16th. Aparna sat down with Betches and answered all our pressing questions about the show and much more. While season 1 of Indian Matchmaking ended on a couple of cliffhangers, we quickly learned that none of the couples are still dating. And although Aparna had a number of great dates with Jay, she told Betches that they are just friends at the moment.
“I Signed Up For A Docuseries, I Ended Up Being Portrayed On A Reality Show!”
When asked about how she ended up on the show, Aparna remembers finding out about it on Facebook while she was flying home from LA, and her flight was delayed. A friend of hers had posted a call for South Asians looking for a spouse, and Aparna applied without putting much thought into it. When she was later selected and agreed to be on the show, she still didn’t know what she was getting herself into.
Aparna told Betches that initially the producers intended to make a docuseries on the subject, but somehow it ended up being a reality show. “There’s a big difference between a docuseries and reality show,” said Aparna, “I signed up for a docuseries, I ended up being portrayed on a reality show. Reality shows skew reality a lot more. They take everything out of context. They sensationalize. And perhaps they did that with all of us.”
The Perils Of Reality Television
As someone who doesn’t watch any television whatsoever, Aparna was shocked and confused to learn that people take reality television as truth. She was surprised to learn that so many people were watching the show, but the initial reaction was quite negative. “As more thoughtful viewers have tuned in, as the press has started speaking about it, people have been peeling back the layers of the show and not just binging it for entertainment, but for all those nuances. The whole conversation has changed”, said Aparna. She is referring to the conversation around casteism and colorism that has been sparked by the show. Most of the participants (and their parents) have been criticized for being discriminatory on the show, and this has initiated an important dialogue that has potential to bring about actual change.
But apart from this unexpected outcome, Aparna is quite unhappy with Netflix’s approach to reality television. “They made us into very neat archetypes that evoked emotions in people. Everyone from Rupam, to me, to Vyasar, to Akshay, we all were crafted very cleverly,” shared Aparna. She went on to explain that some of her dates were 10 hours long, but what we saw on screen was a 30-second rendition.
A lot of people online claim to “know” Aparna, but she insists that they know a version of her—the version Netflix chose to portray. She believes that the editors of the show have the power to make it seem like a good date or a bad date based on how they edit the footage.
Let’s Talk About Srini
Aparna’s first date on the show, with podcaster and author Srini, was definitely one of the highlights, and she told Betches that it was the worst date she has ever been on. Unlike other contestants, the matchmaker did not give Aparna a list to choose from. Instead, she picked a suitor for her and insisted she give him a shot. Both Aparna and her mother were unhappy with Srini, and the date did not end well. Viewers criticized Aparna for rejecting Srini because he didn’t make enough money. Aparna told Betches this is far from the truth and that Netflix cut down large portions of their date.
“Our issue with Srini has nothing to do with his career choice. I have my own travel business on the side and it is a baby. So if someone leaves corporate America to do something creative, then I would be their biggest fan!” Aparna went on to elaborate that she felt hurt and upset by some of the things he said. None of this made it into the show, leaving Aparna skeptical of Sima’s matchmaking abilities and Netflix’s intentions.
The Aparna We Didn’t See On The Show
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“They cut down my friendliness and my warmth that I naturally have with all my friends. I feel like I am quite an empathetic person, but that’s not a good story I guess,” shared Aparna. Apart from that, Aparna has gained a lot of respect for being vocal and unapologetic about her needs. The matchmaker, Sima, often criticized Aparna for these qualities, while at the same time encouraging the male participants who behaved similarly. “Why did Sima like certain other women over me and not like Ankita or I? People come with these notions of what a woman is supposed to sound like or look like to them.” She explained, ““I’m referring specifically to how we are taught at a very young age to smile and be sweet and giggle,” said Aparna. “And I just want to say no. I don’t want to play that game.”
Aparna admits that she has played that game in her 20s and is not about that anymore. “I got dressed for dates thinking, ‘what would all men want me to wear? What would all men like me to do right now?’ I wish I could shake Aparna from her 20s and tell her you don’t have to be likeable to all men. You need to be likeable for the right man for you. Stay authentic and true to yourself.”
Even though Aparna did not walk away from the experience with a husband (or a boyfriend) she is glad to have made so many friends along the way. She speaks to Shekhar every day—they’re best friends and are planning to visit each other soon. Similarly, Dilip and Jay are her very good friends. Except Srini, Aparna had amazing things to say about the men she met. She said, “They were so respectful of me, they are my cheerleaders and my champions and I feel very lucky that I walked away from this experience with them.”
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Images: Courtesy of Netflix; aparnashewakramani / Instagram
Arranged marriages are still happening in 2020, and while Indian-American families are loosening the reins on arranged marriages and allowing their children to find a partner on their own, matchmaking is very much still a thing. Is traditional matchmaking better than Tinder, Bumble and Hinge? Netflix has set out to find out on their new unscripted series, Indian Matchmaking. The show revolves around a well-known matchmaker from Mumbai, Sima Taparia, who helps millennials of South Asian descent find love.
By the end of episode one, we instantly became obsessed with Nadia Jagessar. She’s a New Jersey native and runs her own business, Euphoria Events, planning weddings including some with up to 750 guests. Her charismatic, bubbly personality and openness (she talks about having her period during one of her confessionals) had viewers rooting for her.
Betches sat down with Nadia to discuss everything Indian Matchmaking, how it played out with her final match Shekar, and what she’s taken away from the show.
Although Arranged Marriages Are Still A Thing In Her Culture, Nadia Has Never Been Forced Into One
In the first episode, matchmaker Sima Taparia from Mumbai explains that an arranged marriage in India is simply called marriage, and then when it’s not arranged it’s called a love marriage. Nadia says she has never received pressure from her parents to get married or find a partner who is Indian—they’re open to everyone.
Nadia tells Betches, “Matchmaking and arranged marriages are very much still a thing for Indian-American people. You still have the extreme where you don’t have any say. majority of the community is moving away from that and giving their kids an option now. My mom and I are very close, so if she brought someone to me and said ‘I think this person is a good person, I know their family,’ I would definitely consider it. She hasn’t done it before, but who knows if she will now. She wants what’s best for me so I’ll give it a try and trust her instincts.”
Nadia Has Always Felt Alienated From The Indian Community For Being From Guyana
A hard scene to watch was learning that within her Indian community, it’s been a lifelong struggle for Nadia to feel fully accepted. While her heritage is Indian, her family roots are in Guyana (in South America) and she’s born and raised in New Jersey. “Growing up, I did Bharatnatyam and folk styles of dance. In college, I was on the Raas and Garba Team (aka Rutgers RAGA), and after college I joined a professional Bollywood dance company called AATMA Performing Arts and they do Bollywood fusion. A lot of my friends are Indian, but there’s always been this weird disconnect between me and them. I was doing all of these things to keep me connected to my roots, but I never was fully on their level. Making a face, people ask me why I don’t speak Hindi,” she explains.
For many Indian men, even the Indian-American ones, being from Guyana is an immediate deal breaker when it comes to finding a mate. Nadia says, “My background has always been an issue, especially when it came to dating. He’d say ‘I need a “guju girl”’ (a girl whose family is from the state of Gujrat in India). She could be a terrible person, but just because she’s guju it makes her better than me? People don’t take the time to learn about Guyana and our culture to see that there are so many similarities, and that was the struggle I’ve had my whole life.”
There Was A Third Match Date For Nadia That Netflix Cut Out Of The Final Episodes
With an unannounced departure from the show after episode 4, we wish we got to see more of Nadia in the later episodes instead of bringing new people in. Not seeing any of the final edits of the show until it was available to the world, there were some details that didn’t make the final cut.
Nadia tells Betches, “I actually had a fourth match, and they unfortunately cut that out. He was my third match, before Shekar. That one didn’t really go anywhere. I had more of a friend vibe and not so much romantic . Also I shot a really nice scene with my brother but that was cut out completely…he was bummed. Otherwise Netflix really captured good touch points of everything else. I feel like they covered my life pretty fully.”
Nadia Did Not Live Happily Ever After With Shekar (And Hasn’t Spoken To Vinay)
“Shekar and I aren’t together anymore. We continued dating a month or so after the show, but unfortunately it ended right after that. I actually really liked him—but he ended it. I secretly think he got back together with his ex-girlfriend but I cannot confirm nor deny that, it’s just what I think,” Nadia says.
Throughout the filming of the show, Nadia didn’t feel any pressure from Sima, Netflix, her family, or anyone else to stay with one of her matches. She chose to hang out with her matches like Vinay and Shekar on her own time after filming.
Nadia tells Betches, “I haven’t done matchmaking before this experience, but it’s not magic and you can’t just give Sima your wishes where she pulls a husband out of a hat. I understood why she gave me the matches she did, but the chemistry just wasn’t there to carry through in most cases. I also don’t know if my matches were as serious as I was about the process.”
She Left The Show Still Single And More Confident Than Ever
Nadia says jokingly, “I have not gone back to matchmaking since the show, and COVID has done none of us any favors in the dating realm.” We watched Vinay stand Nadia up not once, but twice. Whatever his excuse was it seemed super shady and something that we all can relate to. While she didn’t find love on the show, Nadia did find confidence that she didn’t know she had, refusing to settle.
“With Vinay, it was really important for me to stand up for myself because honestly two times getting stood up is a red flag. My time is just as important as yours and it’s not fair to me, so I stood up for myself and hope that people watching the show will stand up for themselves too in similar situations. I wouldn’t call myself a doormat, but I’ve always been like ‘oh it’s ok you messed up 400 times and broke my heart 400 times that’s okay’. But that’s not okay. I became more confident in my decisions and making sure that people respect me and being strong enough to say ‘no, what you did was wrong and you shouldn’t treat me like that. I’m not gonna take that from you,’” Nadia says.
While we’re unsure if there will be a Season 2, it most likely will have a completely new cast except for Sima. Fans of the show have been tagging Mindy Kaling on social media to cast Nadia for season 2 of Mindy’s Netflix hit Never Have I Ever—and we’re here for it!
Nadia concludes, “Although none of the matches on the show were successful, it shouldn’t be a sign that matchmaking is a failure. This process is hard. Finding love is not easy.” She adds, “It’s okay to be emotional when you have your period!”
Overall, she says, “I’m grateful for this opportunity and to represent Guyana on such a huge platform.”
Images: Courtesy Of Netflix (2)