Images provided by Aparna Shewakramani and various Twitter users.
One Sunday evening, Aparna Shewakramani, the antagonist of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking, sat down to chat with me over Zoom. From a dimly lit room, she grinned, telling me about her mother’s new puppy. “I love dogs,” I squealed. I asked her about her life, the things she’s doing now, and how Indian Matchmaking has changed her as a person — for better or for worse. During this half hour, I did my best to understand Aparna. Our conversation coupled with an analysis of many anti-Aparna tweets have led me to one resounding conclusion: Aparna Shewakramani is the feminist movement.
Before I begin, I’d like to let you all know that, for the purpose of this case, I am Aparna’s defense attorney. Twitter is the prosecutor. The world is the jury, and you are the judge.
Remember, this decision rests in your hands.
Prosecutor’s Opening Statement:
I, Twitter, believe Aparna Shewakramani is far from a representation of the modern feminist movement. Her interactions on Indian Matchmaking have sparked heated discourse, suggesting that she is not an apt role model for our youth. In addition, her condescending attitude towards many of the men she was paired with makes it clear that she is simply a terrible person.
Defense Attorney’s Opening Statement:
In my thirty minutes with Aparna, I spoke with someone who was so much more than the person I saw on Indian Matchmaking. This alone attests to the fact that we cannot judge Aparna based on the way reality television, known for warping reality, portrays her. Aparna is not a terrible person; she is far from one.
The prosecutor will argue that Aparna is snobby, stuck-up, condescending, and egotistical. This is an extremely biased point of view considering “When you tape for 200 hours and then pick whatever lines you want, you can come up with whatever story you want.” Aparna herself has said this, and many of her castmates are willing to attest to this statement.
Prosecutor: I will now begin presenting evidence in the form of Tweets.
The first tweet I’d like to share is from Twitter user Mother of Cactuses who has expressed their concern regarding the infamous Bolivia scene in which Aparna implies that she found a date unlikeable because he did not know Bolivia had salt flats. This information isn’t common knowledge. Instead of understanding this, Aparna was rude to her date; in the process, she ruined any possibility of a relationship with them.
Do Americans really want someone who is rude and unforgiving representing modern-day feminism?
Aparna tells me, “I don’t really remember saying that, but I mean obviously I did. I think we taped like two years ago at this point.” Clearly, this was a moment that wasn’t very important to her. The producers, however, believed it would stir up enough controversy to include it.
As stated earlier, it is important to keep in mind that many scenes were cut out of the final product including the scenes in which Aparna described the context surrounding this moment. She tells me she was out on a date with someone, and they didn’t know Bolivia had salt flats. At first, she was startled because at the time, she was knee-deep in research for her travel company My Golden Balloon. She explains that she wasn’t bothered by her date’s lack of knowledge. Rather, it was his condescending tone and response — asking her why she would ever go to Bolivia — that struck her as strange.
Aparna did what she believed was right for her by choosing not to pursue a relationship with this man. It’s unfair of us to judge her for this decision. Instead of berating her, perhaps we should try to understand her.
Prosecutor: My next piece of evidence, from Twitter user Reet, details Aparna’s contradictory nature.
Aparna claims she has wanted to be a lawyer since she was seven but says that she currently hates the profession. To me, this seems strange and confusing. People who are uncertain of themselves are often volatile; it’s unclear what they will do next. Perhaps there are some redeeming qualities in Aparna, but it is likely that in the future, she’ll say something or do something contradictory that will overshadow her good intentions. Ultimately, Aparna Shewakramani is not trustworthy.
Aparna describes law as a practical choice: “I mean law school costs 70,000 dollars a year, so you pay 210,000 dollars for it. And you keep thinking if you change something in your career, it will work.” Aparna worked persistently to find a place for herself in law; ultimately, however, she was unable to. She understood that she needed a steady income, so she continued working, albeit grudgingly. If the prosecutor had looked closer into her statements on the show, it would have become apparent that, like most people, Aparna was just trying to get by.
After Indian Matchmaking was released, Aparna was swept into a whirlwind of interviews. She tried to balance her newfound fame with her job as a lawyer but found it difficult to do so. She decided to quit and is now doing more of the things she loves: investing in her travel company My Golden Balloon and writing a book about her experience on the show. Her life has been full of change, and she is wholeheartedly embracing it.
There is nothing contradictory or strange about Aparna. She’s being honest and transparent with her dates in order to start these relationships on a healthy note.
Prosecutor: My last piece of evidence comes from Twitter user Lois Lane who comments on an instance in which Aparna makes fun of a date.
One of Aparna’s dates, Dilip, asks her where she would go for a relaxing ten days. She responds by saying that she’s concerned if Dilip has to relax for ten days and follows this statement with a “What’s wrong with you?” Not only is this statement downright rude but it is also cruel. If, as the defense attorney says, it is unfair for the world to judge Aparna, why is she allowed to judge others?
Dilip’s original question was “What would you do for ten days if you could do anything?” Aparna says she had the perfect answer planned: “I wanted to tell him all about this ten-day trip I want to take to Chile. I want to climb Patagonia and go to the vineyards.” Dilip then changed the question and asked what she would do for a relaxing ten days.
Aparna was slightly surprised because she already had her answer, a trip that wouldn’t typically be considered relaxing, and because Dilip had suddenly altered the question. Aparna still stands by this statement: “What is wrong with someone that needs to escape for ten days? My life’s great. I don’t need to escape for ten days.”
Prosecutor’s Closing Statement:
Despite the defense attorney’s attempt at a cover-up, Aparna still said many hurtful things. Perhaps there is context behind these scenes, but we cannot verify her statements. Ultimately, we must work with what we have — the show and the Twitter community. Both speak to her horrifying attitude and behavior. Aparna Shewakramani, in conclusion, is not the feminist movement. She may even be the opposite of it.
Defense Attorney’s Closing Statement:
In one scene, Aparna is talking to an astrologer, Dilip Uncle; he tells Aparna that her astrological alignment suggests that she has been feeling extremely lonely in her personal life for the past year. Aparna unabashedly admits that this is true. This scene demonstrates her vulnerability and willingness to be honest. Aparna says “I’m always like that.” This is the onscreen version of herself she identifies with the most. “That’s the person I am. The goat yoga and that is who I actually am.”
Despite her negative portrayal, Aparna explains that many viewers reached out to her and applauded her reluctance to compromise. Her strength was a catalyst for the #belikeAparna hashtag that emerged on Twitter.
Aparna has a fan-base. These are people who have been able to see through the facade Indian Matchmaking put up around her. They know she’s not a villain; rather, she is an inspiration to them, someone who has helped spur change in their lives.
In another scene, Aparna and her mother are walking their dogs; one is seated in a stroller. While we discussed the music on the show, this scene came up. Aparna said, “[My mother’s] dog has seizures…they put like this rap music in the background as if we’re like bougie bad bitches.” She follows this statement by saying “People are becoming here less and less for that kind of archetype [The bougie bad bitch archetype, the archetype of someone who is condescending and rude.] of a woman. Or a man.”
Aparna is strong and bold. Much of the outrage surrounding her has stemmed from ignorance regarding the nature of reality television and deeply ingrained ideas of who a traditional woman should be and what she should act like. Aparna defies these beliefs by simply existing.
Nobody should be allowed to dictate her life; nobody should be allowed to decide how picky she is when selecting the person she’ll spend the rest of her life with; nobody should be allowed to police her opinions. Aparna has the right to be her best self without outside interference.
The discomfort that has risen from seeing strong women like Aparna on mainstream television indicates that the world isn’t prepared to appreciate people who believe in themselves and their careers. Patriarchal structures still influence everyday thinking, and Aparna stands in direct contrast to them. In many ways, she represents the tenets of feminism. One could even say that she is an embodiment of the modern feminist movement.
If there are still things you don’t like about her, it’s important to remember that feminism is human and that Aparna is too.
Inspired by this article.