Sima Taparia from Mumbai, or as she calls herself, Sima mami has been all the rage on social media for the past week, not necessarily for the right reasons. But the marriage broker seems unaware of her growing popularity (or notoriety) on the Internet. Though she declares her job to be extremely tough especially since, “in India, marriages are breaking like biscuits,” what the audience finds tough when watching her show on a streaming channel is the casualness with which social stigmas are displayed.
Sima’s show has created two camps of viewers. The first camp thinks this is cringe content, but binges anyway because the show is as true as it gets. In camp No. 2 are those who turned off their TVs and shut down their laptops immediately after the second episode.
Sima reacts naively to this ‘fame’. “What fame? It’s been seven-eight days since the show released. It’s too soon to speak,” she says.
Made in a South Mumbai flat
Whatever the world may think of Indian Matchmaking on Netflix, Sima has matched over a hundred couples in her 15-year-long career as a professional matchmaker or marriage consultant and loves her job. It’s like a hobby, she confesses.
Aparna’s preference for a North-Indian groom from the US is now a viral meme on expectations vs reality, for Indians living abroad
“I was always very social and have been an extrovert since my childhood,” she explains. “My in-laws’ extended family was huge and though I met some relatives only once, I remembered them very well. So my family suggested I do something like this as a hobby.”
Playing cupid in traditional Indian style almost came naturally to Sima, who had an arranged marriage herself. Hailing from Gulbarga in Karnataka, she married into the Taparia family at the age of 19, she says. “Back then, marriage used to be between two families, not just the boy and the girl. So our families aligned with respect to culture and family values and we liked each other, and it was fixed.”
“I see only positive changes in people’s expectations today. Apart from education, they seek chemistry and compatibility.”
There was no chance for a romance to brew between her and her now husband prior to the wedding, as they had only spoken to each other few times via “STD calls through the number-plating system”, and met for the first time after their engagement in Pune.
Now, things have changed drastically in the arranged marriage system, Sima acknowledges. The demand these days is for an educated life-partner, whereas even 20 years ago, Sima herself had just finished class XII when she married. She went to college later.
“I see only positive changes in people’s expectations today,” says Sima. “Apart from their partners being well-educated, they seek chemistry and compatibility too.”
A meme with Sima Taparia asking clients their criteria for a partner and then telling them to compromise, is all the rage
But despite the demand from the families of prospective brides and grooms for an educated partner for their child, Sima’s show displays many of the gross realities of Indian life: misogyny, sexism, colourism, casteism and a strong obsession with fair skin. Sima is firm when she says, “None of my clients demand dowry. And I advise them to look beyond their parameters [such as the demand for fair skin] and focus on what is important, like compatibility.”
But what about her client Akshay? On the show, he is as insistent as his mother that his chartered accountant fiancé becomes a homemaker after marriage. “For me, the boy/girl and their parents, both are my clients. But if there is conflict between them, I do not interfere at all,” Sima maintains.
Business of passion
Sima’s transition from being a family matchmaker to a professional one happened almost naturally. “My husband has been supportive of my career and so have my two daughters,” she says, even though her career is rather off-beat, as matrimonial websites and dating apps have taken over the role of traditional match-making. But her client base is only growing, says Sima.
“Earlier most families had that one person who would show relations to each other or the parents would say, this is the boy or girl of a marriageable age. But today, no one wants to be a mediator. That’s why I thought I should do that job,” says Sima. “Now I’ve matched so many couples that it is difficult to recollect names!”
Since she’s always on the lookout for prospective brides and grooms, Sima never switches off. “It keeps running at the back of my mind always. Also, this is a hobby for me so doesn’t feel like I’m working,” she explains.
Still, it can be tough. Even though clients sometimes give up on finding the perfect match, Sima herself never gives up. She remains with them until they are engaged.
When Aparna demands a man with ambition, this meme shows one do a U-turn on her!
“Sometimes engagement happens after looking at two matches, sometimes three. It is god’s will and their destiny! I cannot say no to a client, kyuki they are the most important factor in my venture,” she says.
What’s my rashee?
Though Sima does not interfere in conflicts between her clients and their parents, she does manage conflicts of the stars. On the show, she says: “Ultimately, my efforts are meaningless if the stars are not aligned.” This line has become one of the most popular memes based on her show, causing thousands of cases of hysterical laughter. But as usual, Sima is unperturbed by the reactions of viewers.
“In India, 80 per cent of the families check horoscopes before their children marry and most of them have astrologers. But if a family asks for horoscopes to be checked, I also do it mere aur unki tasalli ke liye (for their satisfaction and mine),” she says.
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From HT Brunch, July 26, 2020
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