A few years ago, at a family function, I bumped into a married couple. They seemed completely happy and at ease with each other, just like any other couple. I was surprised after they mentioned off-handedly that their relationship was the result of an arranged marriage.

The couple shared that they had not known each other beforehand before their families set them up, and they were married to each other after just a handful of meetings. They had only gotten to know each other well after they had gotten married.

They were both Indian, and Indian citizens, and the way they described the process of an arranged marriage matter-of-factly.

“Arranged marriages are very normal in India," they said.

From my perspective as a Chinese person living in Singapore, the idea of an arranged marriage was surprising. Most Indian people in Singapore, as far as I knew, got married after meeting each other and dating. Family opinions and approval played an important role, and relatives did play a part sometimes to set people up. But I thought that the process of meeting each other, getting to know each other, and deciding whether to date and later get married was a process left largely up to the couple themselves.  

I write all of this to provide the context for what is coming.

So, I happen to be currently based in London, where I am doing my exchange programme at King’s College. And one of the really nice things about being in London is that it is a truly diverse city, with communities of people from all over the world in great numbers.

As it was, I was studying in the Law Common Room within the King’s College campus when someone mentioned that the King’s College London India Society was organising a ‘matchmaking’ session featuring none other than ‘India’s Number 1 Matchmaker’, Sima Taparia.

For those who are unfamiliar, Sima Taparia (or Sima Aunty) as she prefers to be called is a rather famous woman, as the host of the Netflix show, ‘Indian Matchmaking’.


Indian Matchmaking is a Netflix reality TV series that debuted in 2020. It follows 'Sima Aunty', as she is fondly addressed as, as she seeks to set up Indian couples from all over the world in arranged marriages. But there’s of course, a twist.

"In India, we don't say 'arranged marriage' ... there is marriage and then love marriage,” Sima Aunty proclaims in the first episode of the series. “The marriages, they are between two families. The two families have their reputation and many millions of dollars at stake. So, the parents guide the children, and [facilitating] that is the work of a matchmaker."

This show generated quite the buzz, attracting media attention from international media outlets, and has been renewed for 3 seasons thus far.

Sima Aunty even released her own song.


I had watched the show for a bit when it first came out in 2020, but quickly forgot about it, since reality TV shows were never really my thing. But the mention of Sima Aunty coming to London brought all these memories right to the forefront of my mind.

The first reaction I had was one of surprise. The KCL India Society somehow managed to get someone who has their own Netflix show, down for one of their CCA events. I guess in London things work differently here.

The second thought I had was: This might actually make a pretty good Valentine’s day themed article.

So, in a moment of pure madness, I decided to drop a private Instagram message to the co-president of the KCL India Society.

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To my surprise, the co-president, a student named Sahil, agreed to let me cover the event.

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One of my friends from an ad hoc study group in the Law Common Room, decided that she wanted to tag along with me for the event as my ‘assistant’. She was a Spanish girl named Aitana. Somehow, she had heard of Sima Aunty too, and even composed a poem for the occasion.

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Very philosophical 

On the day of the event, my ‘assistant’ and I went down to one of the school auditoriums for the event. There was a huge crowd of people queuing to enter the venue. As it turned out, you had to pay £17 (S$ 28.97) for a ticket to enter the event. When we got to the front of the queue, we just showed the student doorman the message we received from the India Society co-president, and he waved us through without us needing to pay for a ticket.

Entering the venue, I saw that some had dressed very elaborately for the occasion. Another thing I noticed was that a large majority—possibly about 70% of the attendees were female. The vast majority of the students who attended the event were of South Asian descent, but I did spot a few non-South Asian people at the event.

Settling into my seat, I struck up a conversation with one of the attendees.

What, I asked, did she think about matchmaking as a method of potentially finding a partner?

“A few years ago, I would have never considered being matchmade with someone else,” she said.

“What has changed now?” I asked.

“People on dating apps are truly disgusting and terrible,” she replied.

“With matchmaking, at least, there is no anonymity,” she elaborated. “Because the families are all part of the matching process, there’s at least some filter y’know?”

“So would you be looking for a potential partner at this event?” I probed.

“Nahh, I’m just here to support my friend. Besides,” she sighed, “I’m a PhD student, so I’m older than everyone here, probably. In Indian culture, it's still such that guys would not want to date women who are older than them. I’m also a Muslim, so a lot of Hindu families also will not accept their sons marrying or dating a Muslim. There are many such difficulties.”

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My ‘writing assistant’ and me at the Indian Matchmaking event

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The KCL India Society Co-Presidents introduce Sima Taperia to the event

At this point, Sahil, co-president of the KCL India Society, took to the stage to enthusiastically announce the arrival of Sima Taparia.

Sima’s theme song began blaring on the loudspeakers. To loud cheers, Sima Aunty and her husband made their grand appearance, dancing and lip syncing to her theme song down the stairs to the stage, while an entourage of KCL India Society members doubled as back-up dancers for her as she slowly made her way to the front of the room.

It was quite the entrance.

Sima Aunty makes her grand entrance

How the ‘matchmaking’ event worked was that you could sign up as either a ‘participant’ or a ‘spectator’. As a participant, you had to provide a profile of yourself and what you were looking for in a partner, which would be compiled into a ‘biodata’ (This, by the way, is also how Sima Taparia matches couples on her show).

All the female participants first lined up on the stage and presented their ‘biodatas’, after which the male participants would go up 1 by 1 to present their ‘biodatas’. The girls would then be asked if they would be willing to go out with the guy by raising a rose that they had been given. If a guy was lucky enough to have more than 1 girl pick him, he would be able to choose the girl he wanted to go out with.

At the end of the event, the spectators would be allowed to vote for who they thought was the ‘best’ couple of the show, who would win a free dinner date.

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Participants taking part in the matchmaking event


It soon became clear during the event that Sima Aunty was not really doing any active matchmaking, but was more playing the role of a fun variety show host. She introduced the participants, invited them to talk more about themselves, and made quips as the participants presented their biodatas.

Sima Aunty constantly reiterates in her show (and continued to do so at the event) that one cannot have too high expectations of their partner (‘You cannot expect 100% from your partner. By staying together, you need to make 100%!’), she also encourages the would-be matches to be honest with the type of person they are looking for, and the type of people they are.

This honesty did lead to some interesting biodata traits, however.

One of the guys biodata stated ‘I am still dependent on my mum for clothes’ (hits real though), earning a quip from Sima Aunty.

‘That’s not good’, she said, with perfect comedic timing.

The event was rather fruitful, with most guys managing to get at least one of the girls to pair up with them. For one participant, however, he wasn’t so lucky. None of the girls raised their roses for him.

‘He honestly seems like such a nice guy though,’ the PhD student I was sitting next to commented wistfully.

Soothing over any potential awkwardness or embarrassment, Sima Aunty immediately piped up, “Don’t worry, I will find a girl for you!’ She then went into the crowd of spectators for a few minutes, before emerging with a girl several minutes later who was willing to go out with that participant. Loud cheers ensued.

Another participant, later in the event, came up. He was rather tall, and you could tell that he probably spent some time in the gym. He had a certain swagger about him.

“Oh gosh,” the PhD girl next to me whispered. “That’s a red flag right there”.

4 of the girls participating in the event raised their roses for him.

“Maybe it's not the dating apps,” she remarked later, “It might just be society in general.”

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The night was capped off by a Q & A session with Sima Aunty, where she mostly gave anecdotes and bits of wisdom that she frequently dispensed from her show, such as the story of how she and her husband got together (‘It was an arranged marriage that required both of them to adjust to meet their needs’), or what she thought were important ingredients to a long-lasting marriage (‘Family background of the boy and girl is very important!’), or what one should look for in a romantic partner.

After that, the event wrapped, and Sahil invited the spectators who had pre-booked a picture with Sima Aunty to come forward.

I went forward, not for the picture (it would have cost £3 (S$5.11) to book that picture), but to thank Sahil for letting us into the event. I tried to stand as far away from Sima Aunty as possible so as not to photobomb anyone, but Sahil warmly led me to Sima Aunty.

“This is Samuel, he’s an exchange student from the National University of Singapore and he’s covering the event for his school magazine,” Sahil introduced.

“Ahh, National University of Singapore,” Sima Aunty said, “My show is very popular in Singapore. Popular in Singapore and Malaysia. My show is in 190 countries.”

Sahil helped to snap a few pictures of Sima Aunty and me. Given how warm everyone was, I decided to see if I could ask Sima Aunty some questions.

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Sima Aunty and me

She agreed, and I proceeded to ask her for her opinions on arranged marriages in India, as well as her insights on the practice.

“Yes, [arranged marriages] are increasing. It’s not just about the individual getting married, but about two families coming together," she answered. "In India, the families are very important, and it's not just about the individual getting married.”

Sima’s husband piped in at this moment, “Also, if there are any problems, the family can help to resolve it together.”

I asked her what she meant by ‘family background’. In some international media reports of her show, a criticism levelled at her was that ‘family background’ was code for casteism or wealth exclusivity.

Sima’s response however, was far more measured.

“A stable family is important, because children will take on the values of their parents. If the family is messy, parents always arguing etc, the children’s lives will also be messy,” she explained.

What then, I asked, about those who came from broken or difficult families?

“Most importantly it is about whether their heart is good,” Sima responded. “Whether the children’s heart is good. If it is, then it's ok.”


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Sima Taparia saying goodbye as she leaves the event
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Interviewing Sahil, the KCL India Society co-president

Before attending this event, I had never gone for any matchmaking events before. But as far as I could tell, it did not seem all that different from how dating shows or set-ups would work.

It was a far cry from my previous impressions on what arranged marriage was like. The ‘Indian matchmaking’ event I had gone for seemed more like a fun, get-to-meet-people type of event. Furthermore, the event stressed that there was no pressure on any of the participants to get together with anyone.

“It’s a fun thing, completely without pressure," Sahil explained. “If [the couples] do not work out or do not get together, that’s completely fine.”

“We invited [Sima] because her show is very famous in India, famous for matchmaking many Bollywood couples, and it’s a fun event to hold this Valentine’s day,” he elaborated.

Indeed, even in Sima’s own show, upon matchmaking the couples, she leaves it to them to go out, get to know each other, and see if they want to continue being together.

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Sima Aunty and her husband leaving the KCL event

At the end of the night, Sahil announced that Sima Aunty and her husband would be leaving the event. Loud cheers greeted them from those who were left in the auditorium as they waved goodbye.

They were escorted by the India Society committee members out of the building, where a car was waiting for them. Almost like a valet, he held the car door open, while Sima and her husband, ever the celebrities of the evening, continued waving to the leaving event attendees and shook the hands of the committee members. Finally, they bundled into the car as it drove off into the night.

Editor's Note: Justified would like to thank the KCL India Society for being such welcoming hosts and letting Samuel cover this event!

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