People should ask for what they want in a partner and believe they deserve it: Aparna Shewakramani of Indian Matchmaking
Netflix reality show-cum-docuseries Indian Matchmaking took many viewers by surprise. They had not expected a TV series to hold a mirror to the many prejudices in our society, where arranged marriages are fixed, based on the lofty and unreasonable expectations of parents and the families.
The docuseries portrays the lives of seven young and aspiring professionals who have finally decided it is time to tie the knot. Most of them are highly accomplished, well educated, and talented, but they would rather not find their own life partners. They seek the help of Sima Taparia, a Mumbai-based matchmaker to help them in the quest for the perfect spouse.
Sima, who arrives with her dossier of the bio-data of many eligible profiles, offers them options and a lot of advice, the top ones being: “Adjust your expectations”, and “You have to learn to compromise and be flexible".
Ironically, none of the participants find their life partners in the show.
One of the participants in the show is Aparna Shewakramani, the 35-year-old lawyer from Houston. This breakout star became an overnight ambassador for women demanding to have their voices heard, not only in their choices for a life partner, but also in the workplace, homes, and every space they occupy.
As a full-time lawyer with a prestigious educational background, she is genuine, unapologetically herself, and charming with her one-liners that catapulted her into meme fandom.
Aparna was born in London, lived in Dubai as a child, and has called Texas her home for over 25 years. She is an avid traveller - she has been to over 44 countries - and is also the co-founder and owner of a luxury travel company called My Golden Balloon.
In an exclusive interaction with YSWeekender, Apana spoke about the show, the memes that followed, and the whole experience of being in a reality show like Indian Matchmaking.
YSW: Are you really the 'stubborn', 'picky' woman as described by Sima Taparia in the show?
AS: I find it surprising how many people believe that characters on reality television are accurately portrayed as three-dimensional people. They are not. They are carefully crafted archetypes made to further tell a story – and here it is one of South Asian matchmaking. It's wonderful that this show has opened up a bigger conversation about the way we consume media and the stories that are fed to us as the "truth."
YSW: Do you believe you have high expectations when it comes to finding a groom?
AS: I don't label my preferences and expectations for my partner. I believe that each person should thoughtfully ask for what they want in a partner and then believe that they deserve it.
YSW: Can you tell us about yourself and why you got into law?
AS: I got into law because it was a traditional path that was suggested along with being a doctor or engineer. I enjoyed law school and have had an interesting 10 years practising in Texas. I love that I can do my legal job during the day and then my passion project, My Golden Balloon, in the evenings and on weekends.
YSW: What do you love to do when you are not working or over the weekends?
AS: I love my travel company. It is my passion project and I give my entire Sunday to strategising for its growth. The luxury travel company offers downloadable city guides of all my favourite places to eat, sleep, and explore in a city for $3. Once COVID-19 has passed, we will resume our tours for 14 people or less to international destinations. That is currently paused for health and safety reasons.
YSW: Why did you feel the need to make an appointment with matchmaker Sima?
AS: I was ready to meet someone who was also serious about settling down. When you are on websites and apps, it's not easy to figure out if the other person is on the same page as you as far as finding their partner. They might just be there to casually date whereas, with a matchmaker, the idea is that everyone is serious.
YSW: Sima Taparia has made many observations about you in the show. But what is your opinion of her and her method of doing things? How did she measure up to your expectations?
AS: She's certainly very traditional in her methodology. I have realised that a matchmaker is someone you're also "dating"; you have to build a relationship with them, as well as the dates they are setting you up with. So, it has to be the right fit for you, which is very specific to each person.
YSW: What is your opinion about people seeking out websites and matchmakers to help them find a match?
AS: It's simple for me. I think it's a great idea to use every opportunity presented to you to find your partner; that includes websites and matchmakers. It's about efficiency and opening up your pool to new people.
YSW: Why is marriage important to you? What kind of man are you looking for?
AS: I would like to find a partner to complement my life and stand with me through good and bad. My criteria, that I expressed to Sima, but was not shown to the viewer, is for a partner who is introverted, laid-back and very intelligent. I want the same things today.
YSW: In the show you are shown as not liking your date talking to the server. Can you explain why?
AS: I think you should be kind to your server. I was referring to instances when I am on a first date and the man I am meeting strikes up an extended conversation for more than five to 10 minutes with the server about life - anything from news events to sports teams to their personal lives.
I am on that date because I want to know more about the man in front of me and those long conversations take away from the short amount of time we get to know each other. But always, always be gracious to those in the service industry who work hard to make your dining experience comfortable.
YSW: What was the process of shooting the reality show like? Why did you sign up for it?
AS: Any first season of a show is interesting because like here, we all signed up for the premise of the show - using a matchmaker in the hopes of finding love. The show taping was a positive experience and I enjoyed it a lot. It was amazing to witness the behind the scenes of a TV production.
YSW: After the show, it came to light that no one found a suitable match. What could be the reason for this?
AS: I think matchmaking is an ongoing process and for these seven individuals, including myself, the journey continued after the taping ended. This show is just a moment in time and there was no successful match during this short time.
YSW: Why were you more optimistic after meeting the astrologer? Do you still feel the same way?
AS: I am open to hearing from astrologers, as you can see from the show, and have had my birth chart read before in the past by two different people. All three have said the same things about my future, but I remain undecided if I believe in the practice overall. I took it with a grain of salt and with good intentions on the show - as just another piece of matchmaking.
YSW: What were some of the challenges you faced on the show?
AS: Dating on camera with a whole crew around you can be challenging since you can't really be fully relaxed. We did our best to get to know each other authentically but that extra layer always changes the dynamic.
YSW: Some of your dialogues have been made into memes. What do you feel about that?
AS: I enjoy them all and even repost them on Instagram. I love that the fans of the show are so creative and express their appreciation of the show through their memes.
YSW: What advice would you give women like you who are looking for a life partner with some help from a matchmaker or websites?
AS: I would tell them not to listen to people trying to rush them into this big decision. Remember, "stubborn" is a compliment nowadays. It means you are thinking carefully about your future partner choice and won't just "adjust" or be "flexible" because someone is pressuring you to settle down.
YSW: Are you still seeing Jay from the show?
AS: Jay and I remain good friends and speak/text almost daily. I am also close to Shekar and speak to Dilip too. I am so lucky to call these grounded, loyal, and amazing men my friends.
YSW: What has your life been like after the show has been aired?
AS: I am enjoying all the positive conversations coming from this from women who reach out to me to tell me they feel empowered seeing an independent, career-focused woman on their television who speaks her truth unapologetically. If I could assist any one in speaking up for themselves, be it in matchmaking or any other area of their life, I consider my participation in this show a huge success.
YSW: What are your plans for the future?
AS: I continue to search for Mr Right and am optimistic I will find him soon. I am considering a move to NYC at the end of this year and will hopefully enjoy all the changes to come.
(Images credit: Aparna Shewakramani)
Edited by Teja Lele