Dallas-based Matchmaker Radha Patel On How Her Work Compares to the Netflix Hit, ‘Indian Matchmaking’
- From the vantage of her matchmaking service, Single to Shaadi, she talks about the reality show, modern dating and what really matters when looking for a long-term partner.
The latest season of Netflix’s hit reality dating show, “Indian Matchmaking,” premiered over the weekend, and Sima Aunty has once again prompted discussion among viewers about the right and wrong ways to find “the one.”
Dallas’ own Indian matchmaker, Radha Patel from the matchmaking service Single to Shaadi, said some of the shows hardest to watch moments can say a lot about South Asian culture. In this interview, Patel shares how her own matchmaking practice compares to the reality show, why South Asian Americans have sought out her services and other tips for finding love in the modern world.
While watching the show, I’m cringing so hard during some of these scenes, especially when the singles start listing the ideal qualities that they’re looking for in a partner. A head full of hair seems to be a really popular one this season. I’m curious, what’s it like watching the show as a matchmaker yourself? I bet you can spot some of the red flags from like a mile away.
The funniest is that, yes, they’re all exactly what I’ve seen from my clients, what I hear from my friends and family, those red flags. And I think that this show does a really good job, kind of on the educational part of it, by showcasing that look at this ridiculousness. Like if we are all looking at it and thinking it’s ridiculous, it must be ridiculous. So as a matchmaker, I absolutely was ticking off the red flags. And I also thought some of the cringeyness comes from the matchmaking experience as well, like what the “professional” was bringing to the table.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what your process is actually like and how similar or different it is from what we’ve seen on “Indian matchmaking?”
I think the glaring difference is that my tagline at Single to Shaadi is, “We are not your parent’s Matchmaker.” You can see where on the show, she starts off with meeting the entire family all in one get-go. Even when they’re introducing prospective dates or matches, the poor person is thrown right into meeting the family, or being in their home. It’s not even like a neutral space, a lot of the time. So it’s a lot of that seriousness upfront, which induces a lot of that cringe factor as well.
But that I think is like that more traditional component. Whereas what we do is, I get to know the individual. I connect with them one-on-one. I really allow them to get vulnerable, share with me kind of their challenges, their wins, what’s important to them, and what’s working. And take that time to personalize what I’m going to then be searching for them. So that’s probably the biggest difference.
In the show, Sima Aunty works with a lot of singles who are in India, and they’re sort of raised in this culture where arranged marriages are really normal. But she also works with South Asian Americans, like the ones that you work with, who grow up around more modern dating, and yet they’ve turned to this traditional process to find the one. Can you tell us more about what sort of things South Asian Americans experience that might make modern dating a little bit harder for them?
I think being separated from the large community. And what I mean by that is, I hear this from parents as well. They say that back home, I just have to tell five people and it would get spread throughout the network, that I’m looking for someone for my son or my daughter. Here in America, our communities are farther spread apart. They might be a little bit more isolated, smaller.
I think the second thing too, is being children of immigrants, there’s that language barrier, that cultural component. We respect our parents, we love our parents, but maybe we’re not sharing everything with them, especially when it comes to romance. Because a lot of us were taught, you don’t date. You literally graduate college and you get married. There’s no in-between. So having that space and that cultural competency to explore these feelings in a safe space with your own family members is something that South Asian Americans, unfortunately, a lot of times don’t have.
I feel like I know so many South Asians who struggle a lot with respecting their families and their traditional values, but also being free to do what makes them happy. What sort of advice do you have for people who are struggling with those things in their love life?
There’s a lot of kind of self-work, some coaching and kind of mindset work that needs to be done about, OK, are the things that my parents want me to find in a partner, are they really, truly something that I believe in? And if so, then let’s move forward. If not, how do I have that real conversation? So helping my singles find the tools and their voice, after they’ve done the work to understand what’s important to them.
I really wanted to ask how you measure the success of your matchmaking because in the show it very much feels like marriage is the whole point. And if things don’t result in some kind of engagement very early on, it’s essentially a failure, which even on the show is a lot more common than you’d think. Is that true for you?
Ultimately, people always ask, “What’s your success rate?” They’re going to equate that to marriage. But for us, and what I think that modern dating has taught us is that it doesn’t always have to be marriage. I think the goal is a commitment to the right person at the right time. And you see that in the show, that with the traditional concept of matchmaking, you need to be on board and ready. Like you see with Sima Aunty being pushy, like, “What’s so wrong? Why can’t you make a decision?” That’s like the traditional part of it.
On our side of things, it’s more like, let’s just get you meeting the right people. So we measure success with our successful first dates. And we’ve done over 300, I want to say 350 successful first dates. And what I mean by that is, you’ve gone through the texting phase, you’ve gone through that back and forth. There’s no ghosting, there’s none of that. Like we’re actually meeting and you’re actually forming a genuine connection, whether it goes beyond the first date or not. And we offer that accountability.
How do you know when two people might be compatible? What makes two people a good match?
I think there’s the four C’s, you know and this is not my secret, necessarily, but I have adopted it. It’s chemistry. Right? At the end of the day, people have to be attracted to each other, especially if we’re thinking about a relationship or children and procreation is the goal. Like if there’s no chemistry, then it’s just not going to work. And chemistry is just not physical, it can be your banter, how you guys interact when it’s the two of you as a couple versus the world, and things like that.
Next is communication, with the love languages and attachment styles. Are you guys able to communicate effectively and in a way that’s healthy and beneficial to your goal of being successful in a relationship? The third one is culture. And the culture doesn’t necessarily just have to be for brown people or South Asian people. You know, everybody has a cultural component to how they live their life, what experiences they value, what foods they eat. And then the fourth one I think is like a catch-all. It can be like career, community, you know, a little bit of everything. But basically, this is the nice-to-haves. Like do I want them to be killing it in their game? Do I want them to be integrated into their community? Do I want them to have social justice values, things like that.
What kind of person do you think would be a good candidate to try this out?
My ideal client, if I had to go out there and hunt for somebody, is somebody who has ideally been in a serious relationship, that has not worked out in the past. So they’ve kind of tried things out, kind of know who they are, and have a little bit of growth from that process. Somebody who is open-minded in the sense that they know what they want, but it’s not rigid. And then two, somebody who’s willing to do the work. Means if they’re put in a situation where they’re going to meet somebody, like are you going to take the time and energy to get to know them and make it a positive experience every single time?
(This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. This story was first published in keranews.org and republished here with permission.)
Michelle Aslam is a 2021-2022 Kroc Fellow and a recent graduate from North Texas. While in college, she won state-wide student journalism awards for her investigation into campus sexual assault proceedings and her reporting on racial justice demonstrations. Aslam previously interned for the North Texas NPR Member station KERA, and also had the opportunity to write for the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Observer.