Curiosity always kills the cat. Out of a mixture of intrigue and boredom, I began watching the Netflix series “Indian Matchmaking” just after it was released in 2020. The restlessness brought on by quarantine had gotten to me, and I had just about exhausted the Netflix catalog at this point. I finished the show in just a short couple of days, and I must admit, I was thoroughly entertained. This wasn’t because I was invested in the love affairs, the matches, or the “talent” of the matchmaker, Sima Taparia. Rather, I was enthralled by the way in which the show managed to expose the racism, colorism, gender discrimination, and homophobia rampant in Indian culture, totally unbeknownst to the characters on screen, most of whom were participants in the propagation and reproduction of these ideas. 

c/o Netflix

c/o Netflix

So, it was to my great dismay that I found myself in a meeting of Shakti, Wesleyan’s South Asian student affinity group, in which club leaders and members alike expressed their excitement at the opportunity to meet “Sima Aunty” herself, a prominently advertised speaker in this weekend’s upcoming Yale South Asian Youth Initiative conference. As many of my peers excitedly signed up to reserve space in cars to New Haven for the event featuring Taparia alongside Sal Khan, entrepreneur and founder of Khan Academy, and Anirudh Pisharody, the pinnacle of “Never Have I Ever” fame, I was left with a mix of confusion and disappointment; not only was an elite South Asian youth organization featuring an outwardly homophobic, misogynistic, and colorist celebrity as one of their main attractions, but my peers were elated to have the opportunity to meet her. 

Okay, let’s back up. For readers who have not had the opportunity to watch “Indian Matchmaking,” where have you been? Here’s a brief rundown: the show follows matchmaker Sima Taparia as she attempts to find future spouses for the single elite of India and the Indian diaspora. Taparia and her clients go on dates, consult with one another (as well as astrologists and spiritual teachers), hold council with their families, and eventually (sometimes) find love. Or at least, matrimony. 

Taparia, throughout this process, is seen providing commentary on her clients, their issues, and her hopes for them. Frequent attempts to make her clients more interested in “fair” matches, repeated attempts to get her female clients to “settle” for subpar husbands, and implied associations between skin tone and intellect are frequently expressed by Taparia. 

“Taparia advises her female clients to ‘adjust and compromise’ when it comes to choosing their life partner,” NPR reporter Sushmita Pathak wrote in an article about the show in 2020. “Taparia’s colleague tells another female client that she should be ready to uproot herself and move to another country, leaving behind career, family and friends, if her future husband asks her to do so.”

This emphasis on “compromise” is rarely seen in conversations with male clients; instead, Taparia emphasizes the desirability of “fairness” in their potential matches.

“Color is very important…60, 70% of the Indian population like fair skin,” Taparia said in a 2020 interview with TIME.

She also, of course, is never seen choosing to take on a Muslim or Christian person as her client, and rarely arranges any matches with suitors that do not practice Hindu or Jain spirituality.

Taparia’s short cameo on “The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” may have seen Taparia at her lowest. When a client remarked that she may prefer women over men, Taparia’s response was silence—and a large grimace. She then said she refused to take queer clients.

When I first began to process my dismay at Taparia’s inclusion in the Yale conference, I was emboldened to use this op-ed to call for her removal from the conference, or at the least, a statement from the South Asian Youth Initiative. However, I have since realised that these efforts are somewhat futile within the sea of bigotry that continues to blanket the spaces taken over by South Asians and the South Asian diaspora. Yes, a forum like the SAYI conference would be a phenomenal opportunity to hold discussions that are critical of caste prejudice, colorism, and homophobia within South Asian society. It is also perfect space to engage critically with our cultures and cultural practices, rather than entertain overgrown reality TV personalities like Taparia. But perhaps a plea to distant organizers that will probably never read my work may not be the real issue here. Taparia’s actual appearance at this conference is trivial, but everything surrounding it can be revelatory.

Embracing Taparia as a public figure worthy of a special audience at a conference like this one is illustrative of the reproduction of conservative Indian values in privileged diasporic South Asian Americans. The ability to listen to Taparia without rage demonstrates the ways in which the beliefs embedded in our culture and lineage trickle down to us. We as a community, as a generation of diasporic South Asians, place so much emphasis on separating our values from the “aunties” of the past and their ideas. Tacit acceptance of Taparia is, in some ways, acceptance of the values she carries with her. We may unconsciously be accepting of these ideas when they exist within the confines of whatever we deem “South Asian culture.” But our tendency to simply celebrate and never criticize our culture because we deem it sacred, unquestionable, and beautiful is the reason why bigotry flourishes within South Asian spaces so readily.

Beyond this, the ability to see Taparia as a funny matchmaker is a privilege. The ability to say, “It’s not that deep,” is a privilege. For queer, dark-skinned, non-Hindu, lower caste South Asians, even outside of South Asia, our biggest problem is not finding acceptance of our heritage in mainstream society, but finding acceptance for our marginalized identities within it. I have felt the most unsafe as a queer person in South Asian spaces; from boys at high school dance competitions using “gay” as an insult and allowing all of their punchlines to avalanche into queerness or some form of mutual homoerotic affection, to aunties and uncles scoffing at my makeup before I took the stage as a dancer, this world has not been a safe space for my queerness, or my peers’. TikToks extolling the acceptance of gay relationships and gender fluidity in Hinduism propagate every South Asian adolescent’s feed, alongside scathing criticism of the British for bringing patriarchy, homophobia, and hierarchy to India. Merely passing off blame while accepting these ideas in Indian society and allowing them to flourish because they are supposedly not the creations of “South Asians,” whatever that means, is acceptance and endorsement. By saying nothing, you do nothing to stop the transmission of values from one generation to the next; the river of hatred will flow until a dam is built that is strong enough to stop its rapids.

The choice to give Taparia a platform as large as a multi-institution conference at a prestigious university like Yale highlights this privilege. The choice to exclaim in excitement that one has the opportunity to meet Taparia shows this privilege, and the ability to see hateful rhetoric as entertaining, or even funny in a sad way sends a strong message to more marginalized South Asian contemporaries that their struggles are second to your entertainment, that their experiences are second to your glee, and that their constant feeling of otherness does not end with their generation, with my generation, or even with the lucky few that have the privilege of attending a school as selective as Wesleyan. This is bigger than Taparia; she is merely a representation of the bigotry that so many choose to ignore, tolerate, or play blame games with.

Taparia’s place in this conference is revealing, and it, along with the many small actions that accompany it, illustrate a set of privileges and prejudices that our generation is guilty of propagating. It is time to look beyond the ways in which white people have made fun of your lunch and look inwards at your own bigoted beliefs, or at least those held by your community. 


Akhil Joondeph can be reached at

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