Indian Matchmaking – the show that has Twitter India all abuzz. Self-styled matchmaker Sima jetsets between Mumbai, Delhi and various parts of the US to match up Indians of various backgrounds (though all from a certain economic background) in unholy desi matrimony. The family-approved biodata, the faux pas questions, the awkward first meetings, the dealbreaker-or-not pondering, all topped with a generous dose of casteism, racism, body shaming and patriarchy because it wouldn’t be the Big Indian Wedding without these. So many thoughts.
But I want to focus on one particular person only, the one that seems like a unanimous favorite. Opinionated Aparna (with pushy/protective mom Jotika) has her detractors. A lot of people could relate to Nadia but I found her kind of bland and generic in her preferences. Do I even bother with the men when they’re the likes of Akshay’s mom (since she is his whole, entire personality)? Or the every SoBo/suburban Gujjuboi I’ve ever known, epitomised in Pradyuman? Claps all the way around for Vyasar, he of the jolly, teddybearlike personality and the one who saves this show from being a roundup of Indian men’s worst faults.
At first glance, I can see Vyasar as not being the cream of the ‘good catch’ crop. He doesn’t have an impressive career, chiseled features, fair skin or symbols of great wealth. You’d think someone like Ambitious Aparna would reject him right out but I actually think if you could get past her overbearing mother, these two might actually work. Or maybe that’s just because Aparna reminds me of myself in my 20s – in a tearing hurry and under so much pressure. It took nearly a decade before that sharp smile cracked to start to uncover who I really was.
And I liked Vyasar from the get-go. Student counseller, respected & beloved by the young people he works with? Loves comics, paints figurines? Check, check, check. There’s so much we could talk about. Then comes the kicker and here’s your spoiler alert if you haven’t already seen the series and plan to.
Vyasar has a really dark past featuring a criminally violent father. Should he bring this up or not – a question they leave with the viewers. Alongside we see other singles facing the issue of withheld personal information. It’s easy to respect Vyasar for wanting to be honest and just as easy to say, “Don’t punish him for his father’s actions.” But hold on a minute. When did we conclude that to say no is a punishment? A woman’s affection is not something that’s accorded to the most deserving and taken away if found wanting. Honesty is not to be bartered for brownie points; it’s a hygiene factor.
I’m starting to wonder how much of the popularity wave for Vyasar is a sympathy gesture. Sympathy is not a good foundation for a relationship because it’s contingent on one party being in distress. What happens when they feel better? The sympathy giver feels like they’re not needed anymore. They either lose interest or will subconsciously or otherwise attempt to keep the other person distressed. Hello, abuse.
I have been thinking about what my decision would be if I were part of this group (because many of them are relatable and I think I even saw one of them on a dating app). Vyasar would be the only one I’d even consider. But after learning about this, I would probably want to step back.
I’ve learnt the hard way that love does not conquer all. And it is naive to believe that our pasts do not impact us in big ways. Men, in my experience, do not recover from trauma as well as women do. Perhaps its because they are allowed no room to identify and take charge of their own feelings.
In addition, women, especially romantic partners are held responsible for the problems that men bring into the relationship even from before. I was informed by a boyfriend that I’d have to ‘solve’ the problems of his family, which included a runaway cousin now separated from her husband and estranged from her parents, a mother playing politics with her siblings with said cousin as a pawn, a father withdrawing from his marriage into his own career, sundry other meddlesome relatives and friends. I was all of 23, an only child from a nuclear family. What did I know of these things? I was deemed unfit for the supreme honour of bearing the burdens of that dysfunctional family.
It’s true that Vyasar appears to have a less co-dependent relationship with his family than Pradyuman or Akshay. But even in the far chance that it were possible to have a relationship just with the Indian man only and not his whole goddamn family, what would it be like? I’ve been there as well. The woke dude, promising ‘brutal honesty’, preaching feminism, loving comics even. It resulted in my getting thrown across the room twice, having my nose almost broken, his family accusing me of causing trouble, his mother wanting to use our wedding as a cleanup PR effort for herself, wanting my family to pay for a 5 city circus. Apologies? No. I’ve been called toxic for this by the same woke man and his brigade of pseudo-woke people. And his daddy issues did not include prison or murder threats.
Indian fatherhood ranges from the Instagram/Facebook-ready pictures on Father’s Day to outright abusive but they’re all uniformly absent parents. The majority of the work of parenting falls to the women and there’s just no open for the offspring when the mother happens to be weak, manipulative or toxic herself. It may explain why the norm for Indian men is to be cardboard caricatures of one value at best and failing miserably even at that. Boys learn how to be men from their fathers/father figures and Indian fatherhood is not even a real thing. Daddy issues abound, only in India, it’s men who experience these. It is also a reason why I wouldn’t even consider a Delhi man. Even if he’s really nice, the culture that brings him up in the absence of one parent, is openly violent and misogynist. You cannot escape that no matter how loudly you decry it. What has been normalised for you as a child, becomes a foundation of who you are.
I think it’s a rare Indian man who has the ability to be a functioning, independent adult. It would go into the realm of fantasy to expect him to be these things while carrying around baggage of this kind. So, Vyasar? Sorry dude, you seem like the one spot of humanity in the putrid mess that is still a reasonably accurate depiction of Indian matrimony. But that’s not enough and it’s not an unfair punishment to say so.