Is Goan matchmaking anything like this?

If you think the loathsome elements of Indian matchmaking – the show and the reality – don’t apply in Goa, think again
Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.Photo: Gomantak Times

MAYA ROSE FERNANDES

“What? You haven’t watched Indian Matchmaking yet? It’s hilarious!” We ended up having a ladies’ night-in of ‘netflix and chill’ where, two episodes in, I began to realise why everyone was addicted to this show and couldn’t stop talking about it.

Over the course of a week, I continued to binge-watch the reality TV show in the manner of a passer-by, mesmerised by the sight of a particularly horrifying car crash. Only I was watching it happen in slow motion while fully aware of the outcome.

Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
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For those of you unaware of what I’m talking about, Indian Matchmaking is the reality television series that premiered on Netflix in July 2020, and released its third season in 2023.

It showcases the trials and tribulations of Sima Taparia, also known as Sima-aunty, a Mumbai-based matchmaker, who assists her clients of Indian origin to find potential matches with the goal of getting them an arranged marriage.

Each series runs 8 episodes and each episode is approximately forty minutes in length.

That’s 960 televised minutes, so far, of blatant casteism, colourism (fair skin only please), elitism, sexism and a few more ‘-isms’ that glorify and validate discriminatory practices, instead of challenging them.

Let’s face it, this is the state of arranged marriage in Goa, too – casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism being the tip of the iceberg of criteria that partners are looking for.

Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
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More relevant to suitable matches (and their match-makers!) if you’re a man are: has a house, an education and a job. Either way, this show is not a representation of modern Indian society at its best.

At its worst, it is stuck in the stagnancy of cultural, traditional and societal norms that modern India and its youth are quickly outgrowing.

Perhaps that’s the reason why, three seasons in, Sima-aunty still doesn’t have a single marriage that she can credit to the show. To be fair, her clients also seem to be clueless about what to look for in order to make a match that sticks.

When she asks them for their criteria in a potential partner, most of them are focused on looks and shared hobbies. The less shallow amongst them list kindness, humour and generosity among the qualities they’re looking for in a match.

But, no one states relationship-building skills, conflict-resolution abilities or the ability to communicate as core qualities they’re looking for in a partner.

Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
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The horrifying aspect is that Sima-aunty consistently tells everyone, whatever their list of criteria is, to lower their expectations because they won’t get everything. In fact, this becomes her mantra throughout the show.

It’s not that this isn’t true, but it does come with caveats: shouldn’t someone be advising these clients as to what it actually takes to have a long-term partner, including shared values, first, before asking them to tone it down?

I’ll give the series the benefit of the doubt and say that a lot of value has, perhaps, been lost to editing; the interactions that demonstrate that there is some quality conversation happening might have been edited out in return for higher show ratings.

Intrigued by the reasons for the zero-marriage-outcome, I went searching for responses to this criticism and found an interview where Sima-aunty says that the intention of the show was to show people what matchmaking was like in India.

Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
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My response to that is that if they truly wanted to do that, they should have shown a more balanced view by including interviews with a few of the traumatised men and women.

Years later, these men and women are suffering from the arranged marriages they agreed to at the hands of detached match-makers, and some of who are divorced, but nevertheless, still heart-broken and suffer from lack of companionship as a direct result of their arranged marriage.

We also see Sima-aunty talking to an astrologer, a face-reader and a tarot card reader to help her ascertain the future of potential matches. Like I said, outcome: Zero.

The closest Sima-aunty gets to getting something right is asking some of her clients to meet briefly with a psychologist to ascertain what might be some of the things holding them back from getting their desires met, if indeed getting married is among the list of their true desires, or just some residual societal programming running like a tickertape through them, clouding their intuition.

Casteism, colourism, elitism and sexism are just some of the criteria that crop up when it comes to arranged marriage, even in a place like Goa.
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Perhaps, instead of Sima-aunty telling people to lower their expectations, someone needs to put them through a 6-week workshop of relationship and communication building skills, helping them how to date in today’s modern world and discuss their emotional and psychological barriers to being in a relationship, with a professional.

It seems to be that that’s pretty much the crux of a show that presents an outmoded, unfit for purpose model to approach relationships in modern India.

And yes, I’m talking to you, Goan match-makers.

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