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The Perfect Match: COVID-19 and Netflix's 'Indian Matchmaking'
The stars are absolutely aligned for Covid-19 and Indian Matchmaking.
Nirvani Pillay
PR Manager & Lecturer
South Africa
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COVID-19 and Indian Matchmaking – the perfect companions for lockdown

As COVID-19 set in and lockdown is well underway in South Africa I have been relatively quiet on the writing side to take care of my mental well-being. Like so many people around the globe this global shutdown has us going through a rollercoaster of emotions from grateful to have a job, food and shelter to serious existential crises where we try to find deep meaning to the purpose of our lives. Weighing heavily on a lot of my single friends is the loneliness element. Nearly every unattached person I have spoken with over the past three months has struggled with spontaneous crying from triggers that make no sense whatsoever, to not having the will to get out of bed and binge eating anything from speckled eggs usually sold around Easter and baking cakes only to polish them off in a day.

The ultimate in escapism and trending in SA, as it is globally, is the very controversial Indian Matchmaking by Netflix. Sima Aunty memes have been flowing all around the world and here in South Africa too. Everyone loves to hate Aparna and just for the sake of political correctness, South Africa also does not like her because she is too ‘touristy’ (she is free to contextualise that as she chooses). I found it quite ironic that despite her North Indian criteria, of the many dates Aparna went on that she only enjoyed Tamil boy Shekar who happened to decline on a future with her. I am sure Aparna is going to need some therapy after seeing all the social media flow about her. We do feel some sympathy for her. I have been crushing on Shekar for a week now just because he is so pleasant and polite.

The show favourite is Nadia. My friends and I personally identified with her especially because of her heritage. South African Indians and Guyanese share a very similar history. The British system of Indenture, which coincidentally recognises 160 years for South Africa this year, means that our cultural trajectory and that of Guyana is quite similar. Also similar are the stereotypes. There are four racial classification systems in South Africa: white for Caucasian, black for African, coloured for mixed race ethnicity and Indian for ancestry but it has nothing to do with geography. As I have mentioned before many South Africans of Indian origin have never even been to India. We are Indian on paper, but not Indian, but Indian and Tamil and it is complicated. So my network of single women really identified with Nadia’s struggles. Diaspora struggles are very real and marriage pressure is equally discouraging.

Indian Matchmaking hit a nerve for many but for my friends and I we found it grotesquely entertaining. Conversations I have had ranged from ‘I need a Sima Aunty in my life’ to ‘Thank God I’m Single’ and ‘Colourism and Caste is horrible in India but it is also present in South Africa’.

Then, one of my friends raised that only the dark skinned people in South Africa on social media are finding this whole narrative amusing – of course anyone who falls outside of the ‘slim-trim-tall-fair’ criteria is going to rebel. The show is cringe-worthy. It is also inspiring many to be rebellious which I think is a great direction to take considering that the world of dating is just a cesspool. Some of my friends are also a bit bi-polar on the subject matter and the new catch-quote is: If anyone asks me why I am single my answer would be - Ultimately my efforts are meaningless if the stars are not aligned.

Twitter is quite literally on fire about this show. Rejoy Joseph tweeted: After watching Indian Matchmaking, I had a divorce. It was between me & my desire to get married.

Every day this week I have woken up to feeds from woke Indians around the globe who are hating on the stereotypes, similarities and cringing. Yet, more and more people are binge watching and increasingly conflicted. I even scheduled a few WhatsApp call sessions to discuss the show and psychoanalyse the characters.

If anything, Indian Matchmaking has started a conversation about dating criteria, marriage, divorce and stereotypes. It has challenged freethinkers like my South African society to filter ourselves out of the social drama that comes with being un-fair, un-thin, un-tall and over-marriage age. Let us face it, South Indian and Tamil looks are glossed over by Sima Aunty and our jaadi/jati is all off course. Caste and apartheid – same difference.  

South Africa is rooting for Nadia to find love. And my network is also in search of our own Sima Aunty because online dating is seriously unserious especially during a lockdown when it is impossible to go on an actual date. The show must go on though so many the stars will realign in 2021.

About South Africa and COVID-19

I would personally like to extend my condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones and to acknowledge the great soldiers such as Dr Perisamy Govender who at 90 years old is on the frontline of Covid here in SA: https://www.facebook.com/Nabz.Shaikh/videos/10223015368074737. So many lives have been lost and affected during this global tragedy. South Africa’s economy has been severely impacted by closure of industries such as tourism, which is the industry I work in. People show that they are tired of the present and afraid for the future.

As this is Aadi Masam and the time to worship DurgaDevi, Aadi ParaShakti I urge my Tamil and Hindu community in South Africa and abroad to meditate and remember where prayers to the Divine Mother come from and why they are needed. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.

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Nirvani Pillay
PR Manager & Lecturer | Freelancer
South Africa
I am a fourth generation South African with Tamil heritage. I work as a PR manager for ...
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