Aparna Shewakramani, a 35-year-old lawyer from Houston, is a stand-out cast member of the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking.
She worked with with Sima Taparia, a Mumbai-based matchmaker, to find love.
In an interview with OprahMag.com, Aparna opens up about Indian Matchmaking, her ongoing search for love, and her life as a reluctant Netflix star.
It's fair to say that Aparna Shewakramani of Netflix's Indian Matchmaking didn't exactly know what she was getting into when, standing in line to board an airplane, she filled out an application to be on a dating show.
"I saw on Facebook that a friend of a friend had posted the casting. Are you South Asian? Are you looking still for your spouse? And I was like, Well, I am both of those things. I applied in line. Didn't even think about it," Aparna tells OprahMag.com.
Two weeks later, a casting agent got in touch with Aparna. And two years later, that show, Indian Matchmaking, landed on Netflix, rendering Aparna a near-instant internet star.
Since Indian Matchmaking's release, Aparna and her sound bites—instant memes, every single one—have become a major fixture of coverage. She's blatant about her likes (traveling abroad, not needing to see her future husband all the time) and dislikes (beach vacations, spectator sports, children at weddings). While working with matchmaker Simi Taparia, Aparna is similarly unapologetic about her standards and specific desires—men with senses of humor or podcasts need not apply. And when faced with Sima's ever-present suggestion to compromise, change, or contort entirely to find a husband, Aparna has a ready response: She'd rather not, thank you.
— Serena Vora Chandra (@serenavora) July 16, 2020
Aparna's strong sense of self has garnered her admirers, including fellow Indian Matchmaking cast member Nadia Jagessar, who called her a "boss babe" on Instagram. Similarly, Indian Matchmaking's Ankita Bansal recently expressed a feeling of camaraderie with her co-star. "She reached out to me and was like, 'I loved how you and I are both working toward breaking down a stereotypical South Asian expectation of what women need to sound like in this process,'" Aparna says. But in an unexpected twist—at least for Aparna—it's also rendered her the target of online vitriol and criticism.
Essentially, Aparna has become a living litmus test, allowing viewers to evaluate their own beliefs on how a woman should approach the search for a partner. Is she, as Sima implies, a stubborn, picky woman whose high expectations will leave her lonely? Or is she the show's unexpected hero, someone who would rather be true to herself than be instantly likable to suitors? Or, is there some middle ground?
The 35-year-old lawyer, who moved to the U.S. from India as a child, tells OprahMag.com that she agreed to Indian Matchmaking for one reason—and it wasn't to be crowned with online notoriety, or to spark debates, or to be an emissary of the arranged marriage process for Netflix viewers.
"I didn't have any intention to speak for the South Asian community, or to share anything about the [arranged marriage] process. It was just, 'Oh, could this maybe help me find a husband? How cool. Okay,'" Aparna says.
Simply put, she wanted to get married. And though, much like the show's other couples, she didn't end up fulfilling that goal, Indian Matchmaking changed her in other ways. Today, Aparna continues to work as a lawyer, in addition to running a travel company she started in 2018. Below, she opens up about the journey of Indian Matchmaking—and the one that began once the show came out.
What's your life been like since the show aired?
It's been really positive. I have a wide group of friends and I have family all over the world, so it's been really fun to hear from them. They've been very supportive and encouraging and saying how much they enjoyed it. A lot of people are like, "That was a version of you." I'm like, "Yeah, that was a version of me." That's for sure. But that's what TV is, you know?
When you were filming, did you have the show's reception in mind? I imagine that might have been an inhibitor.
I didn't think about it and you're right—it would have maybe been an inhibitor if I had even understood what would be coming two years down the road. But I literally signed up for the show on a whim. It took over six months to be selected, so I would forget about it and then it popped back up, and then I'd forget about it and it would pop back up again. Life was going on throughout that entire period.
Even when they were taping, they came by for two or three days and then would disappear for months. It was never a point where it consumed my thoughts, or had any real significant part of my life. It's interesting, today, to have it be such a significant part of my day-to-day life, because the show never was before the launch.
Soaking in the most delightful and engaging conversations that have started on modern #indianmatchmaking. Thank you to everyone for watching the show and sharing your insights online, within your own families and with friend groups. Here’s to the beautiful diversity of the experience 💗• • • • MUA: @muneezehmakeup
A post shared by Aparna (@aparnashewakramani) on Jul 17, 2020 at 8:14am PDT
Prior to this, had you ever worked with a matchmaker?
I actually had talked to a matchmaker before briefly in my twenties—I think I was 26. She's U.S.-based, and also South Asian. I reached out to her for a consult on the phone. I think it's $300 or $400 to talk to her for 20 minutes. And I did, I paid it. The matchmaker said, I mean, have you ever tried online dating? At the time, nine years ago, that wasn't a thing people really did. She said, You'll be fine. Don't worry. Come back to me like in five years if something's changed, but for now, like don't worry about it.
I never spoke to that matchmaker again. More years went by, but I was always very open to matchmaking. I saw it as an avenue to meeting someone. You ask your friends, and you use your network. I've used everything. Why not use matchmaker?
How did the matchmaking experience measure up to your expectations?
In the beginning, I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to communicate with Sima exactly what I wanted. I thought if I could be clear enough, she could pull the rabbit out of the hat. My intent was: Can I convey to Sima what I want—and very specifically what I want, not what that general person wants, which is a kind and good, but really what's important to me. I tried and I tried and I tried, and it just wasn't going through.
A part of the process was me saying, Let her do her job. If she can't relate to what I'm asking for, let me trust her and her experience. Let her pick the guys for me. That's what the evolving was: Me being open to her experience. The matches got better. We all saw that, right?
Some of your quotes have inspired memes. Have you been engaging with followers online?
At first, I was really interested in what people were saying. I thought there'd be this great discourse. And there has been—don't get me wrong. Some people are insightful, and have reached out to me about how they appreciate that I'm willing to share my opinions and speak my truth about what I want. They've said that they haven't heard a lot of South Asian women do that—not only in their lives, but especially on larger platforms like this. If I can do that for one person, that negates a hundred people that are being negative or judgmental about a very edited show, which makes no sense to me.
A lot of people seem to just hear the sound bites. I forgot that there's viewers out there that operate on that surface level. And so, I'm just kind of ignoring that part of it and I don't have time for that. I don't think anyone should really enable that in any way. I definitely said those things. It's definitely a part of me, but again, they're sound bites.
In one such sound bite, you say that you didn't feel like you needed to change for a man—that someone should accept you as you are.
What I meant by that was, The way I am today, I'm very proud of that. I've done all these things to evolve myself and grow. I still feel the same way: If someone meeting me wants to change fundamental things about me, I won't change, at this point.
If someone meets me today and is like,"We don't like the way that you dress."
or, "We don't like the way that you keep your home." Well, I'm 35 now. Those are the things I don't think I need to change at this point. Whoever comes to me will appreciate those things about me. I formed a lot of opinions by myself through life experiences. And I would expect the same thing of the other person.
I don't want to change the person in front of me. I want them to be uniquely and authentically themselves. I want them to be able to share that with me. And I want to appreciate those things about them that make them them. We're meeting in our thirties. We've formed ourselves, and are people as we are.
A post shared by Aparna (@aparnashewakramani) on Jul 20, 2020 at 8:21am PDT
Are you still seeing Jay from Indian Matchmaking?
Jay is wonderful. We still talk and are friendly, but we are not in any way involved in a relationship. Ultimately, distance means that those people will have to want to do equal amounts of work. I'm not sure that that was going to work for us.
I still talk to the of the guys who were matches from the show, actually—Dilip, Jay and Shekar. We're good friends. To walk away with three people you can relate to—who are good, and kind, and grounded—is a success in my book.
Are you dating anyone now?
I am not. It is very hard in the time of COVID to meet anyone. I was about to start trying to date—and then this happened. I heard people are doing Zoom dates. I'd be open to it. You never know how you're going to meet the right person.
Aparna's biggest fan could be watching Indian Matchmaking from his living room.
You never know. And then, we can have a wedding eventually, when this is all over.
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