Marriage, Arranged

Nishkam Prabodh, Satire Editor

Seema Taparia, the matchmaker featured on Netflix’s hit dating show, shares details about her first successful project through her two RC ghostwriters.

The term arranged marriage, in case an Indian friend has mentioned it to you, is a tautology. There is marriage, and there is love marriage. The latter, of course, is a sham. A marriage is supposed to be about the union of families. What do frivolous concepts such as love and free will have to do with it? At least, that is what I thought until a recent project forced me to rethink.

Before you cast this away as just another opinion you can agree to disagree with and casually walk away from, please know that I am the absolute authority on marriages. Matchmaking, for me, is not an irritating small-talk leitmotif; it is my full-time job.

Yes, I am the famous Seema Taparia, world renowned matchmaker, television megastar and your mom’s best friend as soon as she decides you have turned the marriageable age. A minor disclaimer before I begin: I am terrible at my job. As you can witness from my over-the-top, really famous show on that really famous over-the-top content platform company, I never actually made a successful match. But I knew how to put a good spin on it, and people bought it and paid me money. I am sure, as an HBS graduate-in-making, you, of all people, realize that that is all that matters.

My undefeated streak of unsuccessfully arranging marriages was recently broken. I took on a client who helped me develop a process which has tilted my success rate from 0 to 100%. I will be honest: I cannot care less about whether they get married or not. However, this client somehow found a middle path between arranged and spontaneous, managing to exercise free will as well as keep families happy. Trust me, in my long and pointless career, this was the first time I came across this inexplicable harmony. So, I naturally harnessed it to strengthen my brand and land clients after clients whom I successfully matched with their partners. I am now putting this story out among the most eligible singles in the world, during this wonderful season of turkey drops, to invite you to hire my services as you seek to get hitched.

My client, a well-educated girl from an Indian family enlisted my services shortly after finishing her undergraduate program. She was certain that she wanted to get married. As she already missed the “ring by spring” train in college, we knew we had to hit the ground running. The fact that she knew what she wanted and felt the time was right to seriously start looking, made my job easier.

I started by offering her with the plethora of options we had at our disposal. We could hit up my distribution network—the local rishta aunties, unrequited matchmakers who offer unsolicited advice to bring people together for free (Ha!). We could try dating apps and websites. We could go the old-school way and meet friends of friends through casual parties or at a religious center. Last, and my favourite, I could have her go to the next 1,000+ person grand Indian wedding and cozy up next to her crush’s mom in hopes of incepting that my client was the perfect daughter-in-law.

We settled on a route that converged old and new traditions—professional matchmakers and dating apps. 

This seems like a good place to explain what a “biodata” is. A biodata is a resume prepared for the express purpose of finding a partner. For noobs, your biodata includes your name, education, hobbies, interests, what you want in a partner, and information about your family (where they are from, their education, profession, etc). Before you ask, we are trying our best to get CPD to appoint career coaches who can offer feedback and consultations for biodatas. Hang in there.

So, you prepare your biodata and the matchmaker anonymously floats it around her circles. When there is a match, the matchmaker will send over a profile to you and your parents, and if parties on both sides agree to meet, you can start chatting away. The whole process is much like campus recruiting—floating resume booklets around, coffee chats with your prospects, and if both parties are happy, a signed certificate to ceremonialize your bond.

A lot of people like this route. This client of mine was not one of them. Secret girlfriends, men who were not quite ready to tie the knot, underwhelming biodatas, astonishingly, were deal-breakers for her. I sometimes think she was too picky. Less so than Aparna, of course (watch my show to know more about Aparna).

Disappointed by biodatas, we started hitting up the dating app circuit hard. Our intentions were clear–we only wanted to spend our time on gentlemen who were dating with an intent of getting married. However, going through hundreds of matches a week is, as I am sure you can understand, dear reader, exhausting. We needed a tweak to our strategy.

At the time, my client was a management consultant. Not unlike many consultants before her, she applied the lessons from her professional life to her personal life and that is when we had our Eureka! moment—running dating life like a corporate due diligence.

Dating, as we discovered, is eerily similar to diligencing a company. In both scenarios, you usually want a lifelong union, to be compatible, to be a strategic fit, and to realize all the synergies in the world—cost savings, putting your vision to practice, and positively impacting the society. We even created an interview guide as we perfected our now patented process: send questions to the date in advance, debrief key findings with the firm’s partners (AKA parents), and kill the deal on the first red flag. Here is a small subset of our 127 question list:

  1.     What are your expectations of marriage? The role of a husband? The role of a wife?
  2.     What are your short- and long-term goals in life?
  3.     What is your relationship with your family like?
  4.     Who are your closest friends? How long have you known them? How did you get to know them? Why are they your friends? What do you like about them?
  5.     If you wrong someone, how do you apologize? How much time passes before you can forgive someone?

Keep your judgment to yourself, please. There were fun questions on the list too! The idea, however, was to start with the serious questions first. Asking deep questions is a great way to get to know someone as long as both parties are honest. We wanted to get past some of the non-negotiables first instead of closing prematurely and then later realizing there was a red flag. 

Once our algorithm was perfect, getting the perfect match was inevitable. It has only been a few years, but the couple is happily married. Their success story continues to bring me unbridled joy and more importantly, lucrative business. After multiple iterations, I now believe I have the perfect mantra to help you get hitched. Here are a few general tips to start you off:

  1.     Cast a wide net! You never know where you’ll meet your partner. Heck – maybe see if the Harbus is up to post your biodata in the next edition!? 
  2.     Think about who you are, and what is important to you. This can be tough but helps save time – both yours and your prospects’.
  3.     For the onlookers – do not judge! There is something beautiful in the quest for love. Support your friends in their choices.
  4.     Find a trusted advisor to keep you honest. Let us be real here, the moment you meet someone you click with, it is easy to fall hard and start weaving dreams. As things get serious, grab a trusted confidant (parent, sibling, friend) to make sure you are on the mark. 
  5.     Have fun! Getting to know prospects for marriage is a great way to reflect and learn about yourself. Enjoy the journey!  

If you are tired of being single and are ready to get married, please reach out to me.

Nishkam Prabodh (MBA ’22) lived and worked in India prior to coming to HBS. An alum of IIT Delhi, Nishkam is deeply passionate about hammy comedy, happy music, and trashy fiction.