Indian Matchmaking

By Razib Khan 57 Comments


The Juggernaut has the usual predictable take. Racist, classist, colorist, heterosexist, etc.

Myself, I don’t take these shows as illustrations of how the world should be, but how it is. Anthropology.

When I was younger I was very opposed to an arranged marriage. My parents had an arranged marriage, and I found it to be regressive and backward. Now that I’m older, and married with 3 children, I have more moderate views. Many of my friends have not settled down, and they are not happy about it. Finding a partner can be hard. The dating scene can be Darwinian and brutal. It’s not really that edifying.

I don’t come with any answers. Rather, I think we should give people more grace whatever path they take.

The Western romantic vision of a nuclear family where the parents are an island in the world is the path I took. But I’m far less self-righteous about it than I used to be. If there are negative things about arranged marriages, and there are, we should focus on those things, rather than the whole institution. In some ways, dating apps are now becoming the new matchmakers in any case.

7+

57 Replies to “Indian Matchmaking”

  1. Yea I kind of feel the same way.

    The arranged marriages I know of aren’t really draconian. In practice, they basically ensure ‘on paper compatibility’, then they go on a few dates, and then decide whether they want to get married.

    Dating apps are similar in a sense. But they filter based on 4 curated pics and a quick description, instead of a full biodata.

    There is a decent possibility of casual sex and no direct short term expectation of marriage on a Tinder date. The opposite is true for an Indian arranged marriage date.

    Can’t say if one way is necessarily better than the other.

    1. How easy/difficult is it for an American brown person to find someone of any ethnicity compared to others? How much does attractiveness, class, income, race, personality play a part in it?

      1. i don’t think it’s as hard as some people say if you were born or raised here. i’m speaking from personal experience. i’ve been with the same person for 18 years but i dated before and it wasn’t too stressful.

      2. Most of my brown friends from med school found (and are engaged/married to at this point) nice ladies of all races.

        I did know one hardcore brown incel type (please don’t be reading this)…that actually got his life together and now has dated several women.

        I think the bigger issue is with East Asians, the men tend to suffer in dating, and the women are exogamous to an alarming degree. The stats (ACS, Pew) back me up, but just go to an upscale West Coast venue, and it’s utterly packed with Asian women/White dude couples.

      3. I think there’s two sides to it.

        On the one hand, if you look at dating app stats South Asians are not very desirable.

        On the other hand, I think the dating culture is pretty easygoing. Have some confidence and personality and many people will give you a first date. Where it goes from there… that’s on you.

        1. “Your race will tend to limit your appeal compared to a white guy with a similar biodata. Accent would amplify or mitigate that somewhat. ”

          Amplify or mitigate? Indian accent can do both?

    2. There is a decent possibility of casual sex and no direct short term expectation of marriage on a Tinder date

      Asking as a guy in his 40s who knows little to nothing about the lives of younger Indians, even those in their 20s: are such casual hookups common in India these days? Are parents aware and turn a blind eye? (For context, I grew up in a small town in the 80s)

      1. “are such casual hookups common in India these days?”

        Casual dating is fairly common among yuppies and college students in larger cities. Casual sex, not so much yet but it’s still more than I had thought. It’s growing pretty rapidly among folks younger than me, though.

        “Are parents aware and turn a blind eye?”

        Most parents are not aware as far as I know. People who grew up Bangalore, SoBo etc generally have liberal parents who are more aware.

        Even so, none of my friends married women they had met via dating apps. Almost equally split among high school sweethearts, college friends/colleagues/mutual acquaintances, and arranged marriage.

        1. A bit unrelated:

          I have sometimes ‘dated’ older women – mid to late 30s. And it’s pretty insane to learn how rampant infidelity is in that cohort.

          Had met a Tamil lady who used to date a Punjabi colleague. The Punjabi guy wouldn’t marry her because she was dark. So she ended up getting arranged married. Few years after this they resume their affair even though both had gotten married by this point. They are both divorced now but casually dating here and there.

          From what other such people have told me, workplace infidelity at places like IBM, Wipro etc that have thousands of employees is more common than one expects.

          It seems to me that there’s a growing section of population that’s failing to grapple with changing social mores in metropolitan India.

        2. “Casual sex, not so much yet but it’s still more than I had thought. It’s growing pretty rapidly among folks younger than me, though.”

          +1

          “And it’s pretty insane to learn how rampant infidelity is in that cohort.”

          Infidelity among-st IT company people in Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai is through the roof.

      2. Numinous, as someone in your age cohort, but with younger friends and colleagues who are still dating, my observation is that the scene has changed rapidly in the last 7-10 years. I’ve dated in the US and India, but when I would visit india in my 20’s people thought I was nuts trying to chat with strangers. Its not that people weren’t dating back then, but there needed to be common social links, and social inhibitions only really dropped in private settings. I think things in metro india have changed now, such that people care less about public perceptions, and what i consider a corollary, they are open to connecting with a stranger. At this point, the scene has taken off in tier-2 cities and amongst my fairly parochial family I’ve seen inter-gender friendships becoming quite common, which often escalate into romantic ones.
        As you might expect, tinder and other apps have accelerated the scene greatly and while matching for hookups isnt as automatic as it would be in the US, it will happen. These are observations from my circle…i’m married and met my wife dating here btw.

      3. A good new study

        https://www.livemint.com/news/india/is-india-on-the-cusp-of-a-gender-revolution-11595230536214.html

        “Across five domains that restrict women’s mobility – marriage, parenting, professional space, friendship, and politics – the first signs of a challenge to the status quo are now visible. While the reach of this dataset may be limited to those with an internet connection, the prevalence of these attitudes even in smaller towns suggests that this is not merely a big-city phenomenon. The online survey covered 10,005 respondents across 184 towns and cities.

        Our analysis suggests, firstly, a striking similarity in the nature of responses between the two genders on questions relating to marriage and parenthood. An equal percentage of men and women reported their aversion to getting married in the future. Women in higher income groups were much more likely to be averse to the idea of marriage than men. Women, more than men, wanted to get married later in life. Women were also more likely to prefer love marriages, and marriages outside their caste, religion and income level, compared to men.”

        1. “While the reach of this dataset may be limited to those with an internet connection, the prevalence of these attitudes even in smaller towns suggests that this is not merely a big-city phenomenon. ”

          How does one square this with the decreasing female workforce participation in the top 5 %ile of the population?

          1. I was reading somewhere that unlike the old times where there was in-laws pressure for women to drop out of the jobs, the new work space are so hectic that Indian women have to essentially choose b/w family and children and their jobs. Also unlike like old times where working spouse was more in case of need due to financial issues, currently that’s not the case anymore

            Also the rise of women participation and competition is leading to serious push back by men, leading to women stepping back in many cases.

          2. “Also unlike like old times where working spouse was more in case of need due to financial issues, currently that’s not the case anymore”

            One would think it’s the opposite considering the rising living costs in Indian cities and no extended family to buffer with social capital. Also, lifestyle changes that encourage more consumption.

            In any case, I think there is a strong cultural reason as well that people are unwilling to bring up.

          3. What’s the cultural reason u think? In my view India has only grown less conservative socially over the decades

          4. “What’s the cultural reason u think? In my view India has only grown less conservative socially over the decades”

            Large sections of Indian society don’t like to work for the sake of work, unlike NW Europeans and their Protestant spirit.

            The fact that the country has become less conservative and yet women who can still choose not to work should tell you that it’s deeper rooted.

            (Although, it’s not that these women don’t work at all. Most dip in and out of the workforce. So basically not pursue a sustained career.)

  2. The following article blames romanticism rather than the Darwinian nature of dating, and attributes various problems to cultural currents that were set in motion since 1750 or so:

    https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-romanticism-ruined-love/

    Which makes me wonder if India and a handful of middle eastern and other countries are the only ones that deviate from the normal (I really don’t know how various countries fare), or if the western approach too is a deviation that arose from the forces that made the wests WEIRD.

  3. I binge watched it. It is in the so bad that it is good category. The matchmaking aunty is a Marwari Maheshwari who spealizes in Maheshwari and Agrawal upper class matches. I can see her type of alliance making generally work in that milieu. The middle and lower middle class Indian American clients that are also part of the show seem to be force-fitted to make the show cross national – I am willing to bet a 100 bucks that the aunty doesn’t usually have clients like those and that these folks were picked by the producers and shoehorned to make the show more interesting.

    The former category of clients would be among the last people to come on a show like this – I am amazed even at the Indian American ones that decided to come on the show especially since none of them seemed to have acting ambitions. They only had a sum total of three Indian candidates – two from her Maheshwari community and rich, and one upper middle class girl from Delhi (who again I don’t see as being her client normally). Also read somewhere that the producers contacted 500+ of the matchmaking auntie’s clients and could only get a couple to agree to be on the show.

    The show is entertaining but is really not useful to understand how these upper class alliances in conservative communities work..This is a made for entertainment show that the matchmaker agreed to do as the payoff can be big (Netflix) and to perhaps get a bit more publicity. Although on the last point I can totally see many of her potential clients actually being a bit wary of hiring her now – after all discretion in matchmaking is important for Indians (of all classes – no one wants their laundry washed in public, or their rejections/quirks to be known broadly)..The financial rewards of being part of a Netflix show must have outweighed this concern for the matchmaker

    On a related note, these upper class matchmakers actually work well for certain class of people. A relative of mine had their son married into a similar caste/background (but not the same caste) family in Delhi (they are based in Mumbai) through a matchmaker and it has worked really well for everyone including the couple. This is a match that would not have happened otherwise as the caste and city networks otherwise didn’t intersect..This way they were both able to branch out and make an alliance in similarly ultra rich families.

    1. This series actually felt so real to me. The matchmaker happens to be my cousin (LOL!). And I’ve heard through the vine she’s totally the real deal, especially among Maheshwaris, and Indian Americans… Finally gave in and watched it, and could not tear my eyes away at the truths depicted here, the cringe moments, and the distinct feeling that I maybe knew some of these people, but just couldn’t put my finger on where I knew them from.

  4. “But I’m far less self-righteous about it than I used to be”

    This is my motto on everything.

  5. Arranged marriage is better as the spouses are more likely to be more loyal to each other. AFAIK arranged marriage is usually not forced.

  6. i didn’t mean the marriages were forced. i mean the conceit of the show was forced. a lot of the indians seemed pretty uncomfortable being filmed. the americans, idk what they were doing on the show

  7. I think arranged marriage (broadly defined) is the way to go, though sometimes you run into the problem of thin markets and flakes. Well, that’s also (and moreso) true for dating tbh.

    When I talk to young people, I can’t find anyone who says “wow I’m so happy to be single and be on the market.” Instead, you have people who act like dating is tantamount to going to the Western Front.

    Shows like “Sex and the City” were before my time. I don’t know how Razib’s generation received them. But I don’t know anyone who would want to watch such a show. It seems cringeworthy and-dare I say it-Boomer in its sensibility. We have now realized that the Sexual Revolution sold us a lie.

    1. “We have now realized that the Sexual Revolution sold us a lie.”

      I am not sure about this, if anything I see a trend towards further breakdown in marriage and monogamy as a cultural norm.

      One girl I dated briefly last year was fairly forward and told me she was reading ‘sex at dawn’ on the first date and that she was not looking for anything serious.

      Nothing wrong with that from my POV, but I don’t really see any sort of backlash against the sexual revolution. Even though I do agree many people seem unhappy with the current state of dating.

      My experiences may not normative, but I think we all sort of have our own bubbles.

  8. so one of the guys, Pradhyuman Maloo, is a pretty boy who doesn’t want to settle down. he has rejected 150 women.

    i googled his name and the first suggestion was “Pradhyuman Maloo gay”

    1. Haha that is quite the assumption. Although Razib, I will say, I don’t blame the guy. Most Brown women aren’t exactly beautiful, even in India. We have more options here in America, owing to a more liberal dating culture, a greater diversity of Caucasians from all over the world, and gender ratios being more balanced.

      I’m glad this country is as diverse as it is. In India, arranged marriage is the only way to get attractive women, as “dating” doesn’t really work in those exclusive biradri communities where women are more or less in purdah. Even other “high-status” families of middle-caste backgrounds in the NW are quite orthodox about marriage and relationships.

      I’m very happy that you’ve found the love of your life. I’ve dated several Euro women, but always wanted someone of Hindu Jatt background to connect with on a deeper level. I’ve a snowball’s chance in hell of finding any Hindu Jatts in America, so I’ve decided to just stick to East Slavic and Iranic women that look like Jatts, just without the Hindu background. Always liked brunette women with those exotic eyes, Blondes are cute too, but not my type. I’m currently dating a svelte Georgian. I just hope my Natalya doesnt turn into a Babushka too soon.

      1. Most Brown women aren’t exactly beautiful, even in India.

        you kind of sound like an asshole you know? i mean, i got my tastes. but i try and make them my own tastes, not the objective rules of the universe.

        In India, arranged marriage is the only way to get attractive women, as “dating” doesn’t really work in those exclusive biradri communities where women are more or less in purdah.

        do you have experience dating in India? from what i can tell India changes so fast in urban areas that our stereotypes are wrong.

        1. I’m sorry, I should’ve prefaced my sentence with a qualifier. They aren’t beautiful to me, but they are certainly beautiful to many others.

          As far as dating in India goes, I have no personal experience in the matter. But I am aware of the social dynamics with regards to dating, at least in the NW biradri communities/the NW in general. Its safe to say that “dating” as it exists in America is pretty much non-existent in these circles. Sad, but true.

          1. APthk, you do realize that jatt hindu girls are a dime a dozen on the dating scene in dehli? If you like that phenotype you will come across pahadi /garhwali (even lighter skinned than jaats!) types as well. None of these ethnicities are rare or scarcely encountered, unless you consider MTV roadies to be a rarefied milieu.

        2. Most Brown women aren’t exactly beautiful, even in India.

          you kind of sound like an asshole you know? i mean, i got my tastes. but i try and make them my own tastes, not the objective rules of the universe.

          I did wonder how this quote would be received in BP, which is far more welcoming of politically incorrect comments than liberal spaces. Even now I am curious to know how many folks here find it unacceptable.

          I personally didn’t get angry with the quote, because people and particularly feminists routinely throw about much worse stuff about Indian men and their character, though more often than not in subtler ways; and partly also because I subscribe to enough biological determinism that judging men for their “confidence” or “game” or “intelligence” or whatever is not to my moral view that different from judging women as beautiful. In fact, to me, the quote is has a cathartic and hence ultimately calming effect.

          1. I agree frog. Indian men have been castigated for all kinds of trivial reasons by none other than Indian women themselves. It is truly a fascinating thing to witness. Particularly when women of other communities, say Arabs for instance, don’t criticize their men anywhere near as much, despite being treated like property in many cases.

            It’s O.K though, the “Indian” label doesn’t mean much, especially to us Americans. Just ignore the negativity.

          2. i’m not going to tolerate dozen paragraph shit-storms. it’s not interesting to most people here.

            but yeah, we are ppl of grace here at BP…

          3. Sure, I won’t dwell on this topic any more, much less start a dozen paragraph shitstorm, though I will end with telling @Apthk that I am roughly of Razib’s generation, so too old to be bothered much by that sort of negativity any more, though not old enough as to not savour some politically incorrect statements 🙂

    2. Very interesting in light of your next post
      “Twitter and the rise and fall of information republics”
      “– social media, which facilitates gossip”

      Also from the standpoint that Steve seemed to think that Google had broken the “google gaydar”
      https://twitter.com/steve_sailer/status/1256464314346516481

      https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2020/07/20/twitter-and-the-rise-and-fall-of-information-republics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=twitter-and-the-rise-and-fall-of-information-republics

  9. I have almost similar views. I have also undergone a marriage which can be called Arranged with least possible family intervention.
    A more serious Dating with position of wanting to get married in foresable future aided by Internet and social matchmaking. If you take away the family pressure i feel this procedure is very helpful for society on the whole

  10. We have a joke on marriages:

    Arranged marriage: 10 people come together & push you into a well

    Love marriage: you jump into the well on your own, without anyone pushing you

  11. With regards to the previous discussion about the phenotypes of “Brahmin” vs “non-Brahmin” Tamils, here are my thoughts: There is a vast difference between Tamil Brahmins and non-Brahmin Tamils in appearance, especially when they truly are who they claim to be.

    To give you an example, here is a Tamil Brahmin, Hrishikesh Hari: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2013/06/02/fashion/weddings/02FORDjpg/02FORDjpg-superJumbo.jpg

    He is married to the daughter of Alfred Ford, AKA Ambarisha Das, the heir to the Ford Motor Company’s family fortune. Alfred converted to Gauda Vaishnavism back in the 70s under the influence of Prabhupada, and is currently supervising the construction of the largest Hindu temple in the world in Mayapur, West Bengal. I suppose you could say his daughter was destined to marry a South Indian Brahmin.

    As you can see from his picture, Hrishikesh looks very different from, say, Aziz or most other Tamils, who look like this: https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2018/12/07/USAT/4c3a5f17-82bf-4669-a51e-8a6789f2ffc6-Aziz_Ansari.jpg?width=1320&height=998&fit=crop&format=pjpg&auto=webp

    Hrishikesh passes as a middle caste in the NW, say a Tarkhan or a Bania. Aziz doesn’t pass in the NW outside of Dalits and other similar groups.

    Another example, Dr. Siva Sivaram, whose son Varun, is a Rhodes Scholar. The family is South Indian Brahmin by caste, and the father looks similar to many SI Brahmins I’ve come across: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLU6KTgdONI

    In contrast, here is a non-Brahmin Tamilian that looks more similar to the vast majority of people in Tamil Nadu: https://i.imgur.com/Vrsp4yf.jpg

    As you can see, the differences between Dr. Sivaram and Hrishikesh Hari, who are both Brahmins, and the Tamilian above, who is not a Brahmin, are absolutely enormous. Its a continental difference in phenotype and genotype. This also translates to real-life differences in how one is treated. For example, the non-Brahmin Tamil above was subject to prejudice when he visited China, as he outlines in this post: https://www.reddit.com/r/travel/comments/2fx5lk/this_summer_i_studied_abroad_in_china_as_a_dark/

    In contrast, people like Hrishikesh Hari and Dr. Sivaram have little to no issues fitting into American (and other societies) because their race is not an impediment to their integration and assimilation, at least in the eyes of others who hold certain prejudices. Unfortunate, but its the status quo. Only time will tell how things change in the future.

  12. I can’t tell if Apthk is for real or trolling half of the time.

    The show is generally entertaining TV which one shouldn’t read their baggage into. Predictably outrage-monkeys of Twitter did that anyway.

    I think they could have explored the Indian caste angle more. They sort of hinted at it (because the bio data flashes had caste clearly specified) but didn’t go into detail.

    The religion angle was interesting, where even the Guyanese Indian family rejected the Mallu Catholic without saying it in as many words, and the Sikh lady was open to Hindus (so long as they’re Punjabis).

    The Americans were clearly fillers for the show that couldn’t find enough Indians in India to agree to be on it. Interesting in their own right nonetheless.

  13. I see the Indian system of arranged marriages as a form of social security. Every individual has a right to reproductive and sexual benefits but not every individual is able to survive in the mating process due to inherent personality and attractiveness defects that are inherited from birth.

    The whole concept is formally rooted in the pursuit of trivarga – artha, dharma and kama. Just like a parent materially and spiritually provides for their offspring, a headstart in mating is also a just and essential bequeath.

    There will come a day when many of the Euro states will start legislating sexual and familial health as a right for adolescents. Jai Hind!!!

  14. I think the producers set out to make a show about Indian arranged marriages (as in those of people living in India) but ended up getting literally zero interest from families and individuals. Ended up settling down for Pradhyuman (probably there to promote himself/his business), Ankita (probably there to get some publicity for her denim wear startup) and Akshay (whose family is probably genuinely looking although the Mom is so over the top that she seems like a caricature ..And the roka which seemed to have hardly any attendees gets canceled the day after…i smell a setup here)..They had to expand to the US to include clients that would never ever be part of the auntie’s list..What is a Marwari upper class aunty doing trying to match a South Indian school teacher with a criminal-past dad, in Austin? or and Indo-Guyanese girl in NJ? The whole point of her service is her network among the upper class..basically she is doing what family networks would have done before, but don’t anymore as folks are much busier and no one wants to take the blame if things don’t work out (even during the process)..Plus upper class folks have limited matches among their peers in their immediate geographic circles so need to rely on someone to connect all the various city and country networks (but still within their caste or group of castes)

    Makes zero sense..Americans will lap it up for not knowing any better, and Indians will for the entertainment for the representation..
    All of this also underscores how conservative India still is..

  15. I have to say that many British Indians and American Indians watch this show for the comic value.

    There is an element of cringe, but we often find it hilarious that we get to see “those Indians” that our parents stereotyped, especially the Nouveau Riche, who all seem to have the same home decor and fashion sense.

    Also, the number of “Anjalis” is providing plenty of high quality entertainment.

      1. It’s a Desi American slang term from the late 90s and early 2000s. It’s a stereotype of an Indian girl who typically

        A) Dresses in a very “Abercrombie and Fitch” style and is into “white” brands
        B) Very good at playing the good Indian girl in front of her parent and aunties
        C) Hair dyed or highlighted and wears colour contact lenses to “look white”
        D) Tried to overdo acting like a stereotypical sorority girl, but doesn’t fit amongst them
        E) Spoiled by her parents (buy her a Mercedes or BMW) and very materialistic
        F) Very into “drama” amongst other Indian Americans, especially with dating
        G) Learned her Indian culture from Bollywood, and thought Bollywood dance routines happen in real life (Anjalis, as they got married, would actually have dance routines at their weddings)

        It may not even be accurate, but you would hear of them, or someone would be identified as an “Anjali” if someone thought they fit into that mould.

        1. Is the name Anjali (rather than say, Tina) because of Karan Johar movies?

          Also y do S-Indians call N-Indians Amith?

          1. No idea really. I don’t watch many Indian films, but my friends used to call them Anjalis, and I know them as Anjalis.

            I suppose its just a stereotypical name-sound that sticks, like the way Tamilians think all Gujju girls are named, silky, pimple, dimple, kajal, sejal and the men are all Ronak.

  16. its interesting that while ‘love marriages’ are becoming more common in India, an attempt is being made to normalise arranged marriages in the West, pundits and astrologers and all. If it catches on among the new generation of US-desis, it might even spread to the wider society in the west. I personally think that would be a good thing as a ‘fall-back’ option, since as other commenters have noted arranged marriages ensure that even the more romantically challenged folks end up getting a chance to mate.

    It was fun and bingeable, but what was shitty is that despite all the talk of ‘choice, mental compatibility, compromise’ and other random pop-lit phrases thrown about by the participants in India, all the choices conformed to the conventional notions of attractiveness (tall, fair skin, etc). Booo

    Also, am I the only one who’d like a spin-off made on the Houston girl’s life? Definitely a strong and entertaining character a la Larry David in CYE

    1. How seriously do people in India actually take astrologers in arraigned marriage situations ?

      I thought it is often a way to politely say “no”, while helping the other party save face…

      “It’s not you, the stars are just not aligned according to my astrologer”

      And then can do some extra rituals to be “safe” if the Astrology is actually negative and they really like the person.

      So marriage is still possible, so for eg. Aishwarya Rai ritually married a tree because she was a “Manglik”

  17. The responses on twitter from the ‘woke’ crowd are good for laughs.

    Here’s one

    “Wow Indian matchmaking is really a cesspool of casteism, colourism, sexism, classism,’

  18. I haven’t seen the show. The commentators here are saying that it seems forced but I think we should get a female perspective.

    I was talking to a female friend of mine who has been unsuccessfully going through this process for the last couple of years. She related hard with the stuff depicted in the show.

    She told me some horror stories of her own that I found quite appalling.

    (And she’s a decent looking ambitious Bangalore-bred woman!)

  19. { So marriage is still possible, so for eg. Aishwarya Rai ritually married a tree because she was a “Manglik” }
    Wow i hadn’t heard of that-

    Yes, the whole arranged marriage game can be very humiliating for both the sexes. But a lot of change and upgrade is taking place in the whole scene.
    In my cases like mine – its almost a case of using the network to go on dates with ppl you wouldnt mind spending the life with – based on their bio.
    If things work out ppl get married – if not they keep looking. This is very true in the Urban Metro center like Pune-Mumbai-BLore

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