Ruchika Tulshyan was 22 years old when her mother began searching for her future husband. Eleven years later, her experiences with her arranged marriage led her to skepticism with the Netflix reality show “Indian Matchmaking,” with a cast of characters seeking to satisfy a cultural expectation that they put a ring on her.
And she has mixed feelings: happy to see her experiences represented, but forced to reflect on some difficult truths about the way women are objectified within the system.
“Actually, I found the show to be something that really resonated with my experience,” said Tulshyan, 33. “Unfortunately, it reinforces some of the very negative parts of India today. I was disappointed, of course, there is colorism, there is casteism, there is a lot of emphasis on traditional beauty. “
“Indian Matchmaking” centers on Sima Taparia, a professional matchmaker from Mumbai, who travels the world helping young Indians find their ideal match. The show introduces us to a cast of Native American men and women, including a determined Houston attorney, a Mumbai-obsessed jewelry designer, and an outgoing New Jersey dancer.
As a 22-year-old girl who had already finished graduate school and was on her way to a successful career, Tulshyan was shocked to hear that her mother had listed her name and photograph on an Indian matchmaking website without her consent. Not only had she found a man whom she considered appropriate, but she had already started talking to her parents about an engagement.
“Out of respect for my parents, I said, ‘Okay, well, if you really want me to have a conversation with this person, I will,’ and I did,” he said. “Fast forward, we end up getting married.”
For Tulshyan, who is a Singaporean of Indian descent, what Westerners know as “arranged marriage” was considered the norm. She is a feminist, and says she acknowledges the mysoginist and heteronormative story behind the practice, but she also always knew it was the path she would end up going on.
“She was definitely very hurt, very angry,” she said upon learning of his marriage profile. “At the same time, maybe there was a part of me that resigned itself to this. I practically knew that this would be the way it was for me. “
Tulshyan has been married for almost nine years and now lives with her husband and 4-year-old son in Seattle. She doesn’t regret her decision to get married, but acknowledges the troublesome and awkward elements that came with the process of meeting potential suitors.
The Netflix show is an unfiltered representation of the archaic structures that still surround marriages in India and for Indian families living in the United States. for slim women with lighter skin color. One mother even commented at the beginning of the program that she would not accept any woman under the age of 5.3 for her child. Also casually overlooked by the matchmaker are families’ expectations that their child will be paired with someone from a high caste. Although discrimination based on this Hindu social hierarchy is now illegal, its influence is still widespread in daily life in India. It is a system that, along with colonialism, has been used to prioritize lighter skinned people.
Those who watched the show were quick to call this.
“Anyway, yes, I saw it #indianmatchmaking. All I can say is that it at least conveys how casteism, classism, colorism and son preference are still alive and kicking in case someone thinks otherwise.” a viewer tweeted.
Tulshyan says that she, like many women in the process of being groomed, was subject to similar misogynistic pressures.
“I’m 5’9” and I was a size 8, so I thought ‘oh my gosh, you’re so big. It will be very difficult for you to find someone, ‘”he said.
For these same reasons, a viral thread on Twitter of someone who was forced into an arranged marriage system has gained popularity in light of the show. Nikita Doval described extremely misogynistic and traumatic meetings with prospective boyfriends and their families, including those where the prospective groom’s mother openly asked such things as “Are you a virgin?”
“He almost always did not speak enough, was not fair enough or was not demure enough or, despite the titles of the liberal arts institutes that were the best in the country and in the world, not ‘professionally qualified’ enough “Doval said.
Tulshyan also questions the way some of the women on the show are portrayed. Aparna, a Houston attorney who is portrayed as too demanding, difficult, and uncompromising, has become a popular villain among viewers for her man-after-man rejection.
“The feedback I got, especially from my aunts in Singapore, and even talking to some of my friends in India, was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so terrible, it’s a B-word or whatever.'” she said.