- Amira Hassan
What Indian Matchmaking Didn't Show: Vinay's Story
During the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix captivated viewers by airing Indian Matchmaking which showcases the matchmaking process prevalent in desi culture—especially in India. The reality series featured a renowned matchmaker, Sima Taparia, who guides many of her clients in India and the U.S. as they’re ready to embark on a potentially major milestone in their lives…marriage [or shaadi/biye/nikkah depending on where you’re from].
Like any other reality series, this show does not shy away from drama especially when it comes to figuring out compatibility among cast members. After all…if the stars don’t align, then that’s a sign that the compatibility isn’t divine. Since the airing of this show, many cast members' lives have changed in surprising ways. From going on book tours to signing on to become a model to forming lifelong connections, several cast members treat this show as an unexpected blessing and are ready to see what season 2 of Indian Matchmaking has in store. However, not everyone can share the same opinion so…
In this article, we’re gonna explore Vinay’s journey into Indian Matchmaking, life after being on reality TV, and the perception of South Asian diasporic culture from a brown boy’s perspective. We’re gonna dive deep into what exactly happened as the show progressed and unlock some secrets on how the show portrayed some of the cast members.
Everyone has their own unique story regarding how they approached the desi dating world. How did you come across “Indian Matchmaking” and why did you go on this show? Did you believe that this would genuinely work, or was it more for just being part of this experience?
The simplest way I can answer this is with the words “why not?” At the time when I heard about the show, it was just an Instagram ad a friend forwarded to me and said, “Hey Vin why don’t you do this?” When l was checking out the ad, I saw that they asked for single desi professionals looking to be matched up. At that time, there was no mention of Netflix. As a single man who is open to meeting people in any way, I thought why not? I saw the application that asked 5 simple general questions and required a photo. 5 minutes later I was at my work scanner and sent it back without any thoughts or hesitation.
I generally have no expectations and think everything in life is a learning experience. I had hoped it would or could work and wow wouldn’t that be a great story for our future kids! At the end of the day, I just thought it was another outlet to meet someone who could potentially be my wife. No expectations were on my end just thought “Why not!”
As viewers were watching the show, they immediately took to the vibe you had with Nadia pretty much right off the bat. What made you want to continue spending some time with her?
What you guys saw in episode 2 was very pure and real. Aside from the casting picking the location and tab and the multiple cameras, it was as genuine as a first date as I ever had. I instantly clicked with her and was enamored by how much we had in common: our love for FRIENDS, hate for ketchup, and most importantly the ability to laugh made the date so fun and easy. I think that this was translated really well on screen. I was nervous as heck when I met her too. Ironically, I didn’t remove the bomber jacket she commented on because I was afraid, I was sweating from too many nerves!
After that day, I knew there was a vibe and, on my end, I knew it was real and hoped it was on her end too. For that reason, I wanted to continue to date her. What I didn’t know was that she was the lead and had other dates, but I just thought that it’s best to be yourself and be true to yourself and that’s all you can hope for.
Not only did viewers see that instant connection, but they also noticed the build-up of tension, what do you think has caused this and what was the aftermath?
What many people don’t know is that we only filmed with the camera crew on that one date. That was the purest most genuine interaction on screen. What you did not see was what unfolded “behind the scenes” where we both had go pros to record our “own testimonials.”
I treated her as my girlfriend after our second date and disregarded any other guys she may have matched. I knew our connection was real and we actually dated for 2 months. During that time there were ups and downs. I definitely made mistakes and so did she. What was never shown was the night after her friend’s wedding she wanted me to meet her friends. It was late around 1 am and my family was visiting, and we had a family emergency. I texted saying I won’t be able to make it but didn’t disclose why (probably out of fear it could be used in filming and wanted to keep my family's private life well private).
I could tell she was hurt by this and lacked confidence in me. I tried my best to show her it was very true and real and my feelings for her had not wavered. We had after all been dating for 2 months at this point. When spending time with someone I think I have a genuine connection with, I try my best to be empathetic and put myself in their shoes to understand why they may be hurt by my actions. Seeing her upset because of how I acted was really tough to bear, so I wanted to make it up to her. I tried to show her with my actions and words what she meant and even sent her Nestle Buncha Crunch and a teddy bear (which was shown in the wrong context).
After that, I could tell our relationship hit a “rough patch.” Two weeks later, we were supposed to see a movie and I texted her in the AM that I was in the ER getting an IV for heat exhaustion (ironically this has happened to me multiple times). I wanted to let her know early and be transparent because I learned not to wait till the last minute like the time before. I will never reveal the hurtful texts I received back cause I am not trying to cyberbully bully nor do I think it’s anyone’s business. But after that day she was not pleased that I canceled, and even when I felt better hours before we were supposed to meet, I tried to make a plan with her again letting her know the IV worked and I was happy to see her. She noted she already made plans with another friend which I understood, and I asked if I could join them both and if not, when can we hang out. She was discontented and after that day never spoke to me again.
Sadly, the date to meet her friends at the dessert bar was news to me when I watched the show, and I was saddened it was taken to that level. It was then I realized how important empathy above anything is in a relationship.
Since the show aired, have there been instances where people are trying to set you up on dates?
Since the show aired, I dealt with a great deal of backlash. I can get why people disliked me based on what they saw, but I tried my best to push the narrative forward of the truth while also trying to show who I really was. It had a severe effect on my mental health, and I fell into a deep depression. Dating since then has been almost nonexistent and the few times a setup has occurred, most people had preconceived notions of me, and did not end well.
On the show, Sima Taparia was very vocal about her perceptions of the characteristics of the cast members—especially on their “undesirable traits.” One of the things she mentioned was how you weren’t “ready for marriage.” Could you speak about why she thought that was the case?
Funny story here, I only met Sima Aunty once over facetime. I found it appalling she had those notions for me and for others. Undesirable traits is a horrid thing to say about anyone and what can be good for one may not be for another. She didn’t know me and based it only on what was told to her so I can’t be too angry—but I can say I was hurt when she said people had undesirable traits (as if that exists) and I was not ready for marriage. She didn’t really know me and it's unfair to pass judgment on a globally recognized platform about someone you don’t know.
Do you think there is something you could have done better as a candidate taking part in the matchmaking process?
I think about this often. I was often warned by close friends not to do the show because they can portray you any way they want. I just thought to be a good person and act in a dignified manner and nothing can go wrong. Well, I was clearly wrong! I think in any relationship, though, you can always look back and learn. I should have been clearer to Nadia that night after her friend’s wedding and I own that. As a candidate, I wish I knew more about what the show was, and I would have advocated more to speak against colorism, classism, and overall push for a more diverse dating experience including LGBTQ+ candidates.
Ever since the show aired on Netflix, have you noticed any differences in the way people converse with you or even approach you?
Yes. I have made some close friends through it, but I definitely notice chitter chatter of people at bars when they see me or remember I am the “ghoster.” People say lean into the villain, but I can’t lean into something I never did or be who I am not. I often wonder how genuine new people are to me and would they talk to or be my friend if I wasn’t Vinay from Indian Matchmaking. I wonder if I would be single still too if I wasn’t on it. People definitely treat me differently than before and to be honest I don’t know if it is good or bad or what to think. It is more I wonder what life would be if I wasn’t…
What are your thoughts pertaining to the portrayal of the desi matchmaking process in mainstream media? Do you think that the representation of South Asian people [at the time] impacted all that?
Absolutely not! I think they showed a small group of a billion-plus population. I think the series didn’t show different types of people, jobs, genders, or equality, and reflect on issues both with being children of the diaspora and residents of India. I also think the match-making process should focus more on what we said not what a piece of paper said. All I ever said was I want a good person and that’s actually what Nadia said too which is why we were drawn to each other, not cause of a biodata.
As we know, there’s almost always some level of bias that persists in the Desi marriage market—especially when it comes to gender roles pre-determined by cultural norms. As a brown man and a child of the diaspora, what do you believe are the expectations versus the realities of anyone who is at that stage in their lives?
I am so happy you brought this up. I can’t stand gender roles. It’s antiquated notions of what a man and woman should be and, in my mind, this should be flushed down the toilet. I think we often still fall into what a man should do, or how an Indian man should be, and I hate that. When I have children, I will push them to be whoever they/he/she wants and be proud of who or what they want in life. If people have expectations of what I should be or should do by this age as an Indian male, I say go eff it (excuse my language). No one should have to be something or someone just because it's accepted by our antiquated gender roles. I always say I know I was meant to be a dad, not sure if I was ever meant to find a soulmate and be married. I am happy to get to know others, but it's definitely hard to push my narrative. I just hope the future allows people to be proud of everyone’s differences and not just “accept people for differences” but rather love them more for it!
Season 1 of Indian Matchmaking displayed some conflicting realities one may face when seeking a life partner within the diaspora. There were some instances where discussions of characteristics were listed off as a “checklist” for seeking the perfect partner [with some traits including the color of skin, height, body weight, career aspirations, etc…]. Do you also see yourself benefitting from this system that is historically male-centric or do you perceive yourself to be a victim of this as well?
I probably already answered this above too as I tend to speak from my heart and go off on tangents, but as I said above I HATE CHECKLISTS. Literally, that was the one thing they asked me, and I said none of that is a concern to me. I find beauty in interactions with people not by reading a profile (which is probably why dating apps are hard for me too). Especially within the diaspora, as you said, it's very male-centric. I think at times I have benefited and at times I have been a victim of the checklist, but I know truly that if there is a checklist then I am not the right guy for you!
Finally, Netflix has revealed that Season 2 of Indian Matchmaking air come out near the end of this year. Do you think we will see some familiar faces? What changes are you hoping to see this season that the season you were part of didn’t account for?
As most people probably know, I was not too pleased with the way I was edited in season 1. Anyone who was misrepresented would agree so there is not much I do know. One thing I know for sure is that you might see some new and some familiar faces though. I do hope they take into account a lot of issues of race, color, gender equality, class, and sexuality issues they lacked in season 1. I believe that the goal is to expand and improve, and I hope season 2 shows some real growth as I know it can!