Zodiac Sign · May 31, 2024

For a decade, Athena Sobhan, a 28-year-old Bangladeshi American living in Southern California, has tirelessly swiped right on Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and a slew of other dating apps, including South Asian-focused ones like Dil Mil. However, after five years of fruitless swiping, she's calling it quits on the app game.

"These apps are a total disaster," Sobhan sighs. "It's become a giant game, and I'm just not interested in playing anymore."

Fed up, she did something unexpected: she turned to her mom with a question she never thought she'd ask, "Would you be open to helping me find someone?"

This shift in strategy reflects a growing trend among young South Asian Americans. Disillusioned with the shallowness and frustration of dating apps, they're turning to a practice once considered a relic of the past: arranged marriage.

While Western media, like Netflix's "Indian Matchmaking," has sensationalized arranged marriages, Harleen Singh, an associate professor of women's studies and South Asian literature at Brandeis University, emphasizes that the modern reality is far less dramatic.

While Western media, fueled by shows like Netflix's "Indian Matchmaking," has painted arranged marriages with a broad brush of exoticism, the reality in the US is far more nuanced, explains Harleen Singh, an expert on South Asian culture at Brandeis University.

The process itself can range from highly traditional to a simple introduction facilitated by families. "There's a misconception that arranged marriages are forced unions," Singh clarifies. "This portrayal often comes from an outsider's perspective."

In some religious or very conservative communities, families may have the final say, potentially even arranging just one or two meetings before the couple weds. However, this is increasingly uncommon, especially among South Asian Americans.

Those opting for a modern arranged marriage often describe it as an initial introduction, followed by a period of getting to know each other, much like dating. The key difference? Familiarity and shared values. They trust their family's judgment in finding someone who shares their commitment to marriage, a stark contrast to the often superficial connections found on dating apps.

"Dating apps are limited by their algorithms," Singh explains. "When families are involved, they consider the bigger picture – a potential partnership that extends beyond the two individuals, fostering a stronger connection within the community."

This sentiment resonates with Joytsana Sangroula, a 24-year-old Nepali American from New York. Despite both positive and negative experiences with dating apps, she ultimately feels they lack the organic feel and seriousness she desires. Seeking a long-term relationship with a Nepali man, she's opted to explore options within her community, hoping to find a more meaningful connection.

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