The Rishta Aunty of Instagram

Ome Khan’s matchmaking show gives people the chance to showcase their best selves, but she doesn’t let them go without asking a few tough questions.

Hanaa’ Tameez

August 17, 2020

The Rishta Aunty of Instagram
(Designecologist)

One Thursday night in July, Omehabiba Khan, 28, was talking to her brother Masood Khan, 26, about the challenges of finding a life partner — dating is time-consuming and meeting people in person organically during a pandemic is nearly impossible.

But cultural and societal factors are at play, too. Masood Khan shared that South Asian communities traditionally expect women to conform to the man's expectations in heteronormative relationships. And, he added, men face pressures, too, from height to salary requirements — it seems as if men aren't worthy of love if they aren't six-feet tall or successful doctors, lawyers, or engineers.

Ome and Masood Khan — Pakistani Americans who grew up in the Chicago area — have had talks like this before. But on this particular night, the siblings were hosting their conversation on Rishta Live, named after the Hindi and Urdu word for “relationship,” Ome Khan's weekly matchmaking show on Instagram Live that aspires to connect single people during quarantine.

While the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking has been widely criticized for participants’ sexist, casteist, and colorist comments after premiering on July 16, Khan has been addressing many of those problems head-on since she started Rishta Live at the beginning of the pandemic, when most have been confined to virtual dating. 

Khan has earned the moniker of a “rishta aunty” — women who are, whether professionally or informally, trying to set people up. But unlike most matchmakers, Khan — who has been setting up her friends since she was in high school — has created a non-judgmental, interactive space for participants to be themselves, yet doesn’t hold back on questions.