It has been over two weeks since Indian Match-making has piqued our collective curiosity. There have been countless memes, articles and opinions afloat. And yes, you are in fact reading yet another article stemming from the same stream. But no, this article will not be about picking apart characters, bashing Sima aunty or commenting on the blatant colourism and casteism that the match-making system is built upon.
As a mental health practitioner, all I could think about while watching the show was the impact of these systems on the people involved. As a young woman who does not have lived experience of this, I reached out to a dear friend who has. She took the emotional labour to speak about the impact of this process on her mental health with the intention to be heard and to draw attention to the mental health consequences of this system. Below is an abbreviated version of the very moving interview that I had with her. For those who painstakingly watched the show, I invite you to hear this story too.
Can you tell us a little bit about how this process has impacted your mental health?
“I grew up in a small town where the idea of marriage is not because someone is ready but because it’s something that is expected of you. I didn’t have the exposure to even think “You have another option”. While I was in the process, I started discovering that the idea of having a couple of phone calls and deciding to marry this person was not sitting well with me. I kept talking to people thinking that when I found the right person it was going to be fine.
I think in the whole process of getting rejected and rejecting others, things started taking a different turn. When my parents asked why I didn’t like someone, I didn’t have any particular reason and that was seen as a bad thing – having a choice was seen as a bad thing. Being asked – “why are you so high maintenance, how can you not like anybody” affected the way I was seeing myself. Is there something wrong with me, am I being picky? It became a battle in my head and my parents asked me to speak to a therapist. Then the idea that something is wrong with me was becoming more evident.
There was a lot of pressure, self-doubt and questioning. Throughout the process, I was made to look like the bad person who is making everyone wait. My parents go through it too. They get told what a shame it is that I am not married yet. When everyone is looking down on you, there is constant self-doubt – “Am I not doing the right thing by choosing myself?”. There is a part of me that says “it’s your life and you decide” but when everyone else (especially family) is looking down on you, it feels like a constant low that I’m letting everyone down. It’s a constant inner battle, it has taken a huge toll on my mental health.
I think I’m doing very well for myself but the whole idea of being settled and doing well comes with a man attached and that too a stranger. They’re ready to put their trust in a stranger to look after me but they don’t trust me when I tell them I am happy, I am doing well for myself. To know that your own parents do not care anymore what wakes you up from bed is extremely depressing to me. It doesn’t matter that you have a great job and that you are happy and independent. All they see is that I am not married and it makes me question myself “am I not enough?”.
We’ve seen in the show that there is a disparity between the way Sima aunty labels the men as “unsure” and the women as “stubborn” and “picky” in the process of selecting a life partner. Have you experienced any micro-aggressions like this in your process? What are some of the messages that young women are given about who they should be if they must be marriable?
There is a lot of body-shaming since I’ve put on weight and have premature greying. There are microaggressions in everything. Even if I’m playing with my dog, I get asked “Why are you playing with your dog? Why are you not married?”. I feel like if I were a 30 year old man, the questions would be different. I would be asked “What are you doing with your life?” as opposed to “Why are you not married?”. There is so much discrimination.
Women are told they have to be good-looking and not have any opinions. Because then you are too “difficult”. The less opinionated you are the “easier” you are the more “manageable” you are.
Lastly, what did you think of the series and what would you like to say to the many many Sima aunties in your life?
“The series really showed everything that is wrong with society from classism, casteism & colourism to the mentality of people when it comes to marriage. You’d think the young elite of India would have more education and exposure but it was also so disappointing. I’ve used matrimonial websites where there are filters for age, height, weight, skin colour, caste, salary and all of that. For a girl, you can only choose people above your age. At least the websites that I am on, it doesn’t even let you view somebody who is younger than you.
If I could say one thing to all the aunties and uncles in my life it would be to let the children be. Do not force what was forced down your throat to the next generation. Life has changed. People have changed. Respect that. ”
Interviewed and Written by: Aishwarya Dattani, Fellow, Pause for Perspective