Guys, forget about those visits to the gym. Stop dreaming about that six pack. If you want to spice up your love life, all you have to do is look really sad. That’s the method adopted with resounding success by Helg Sgarbi, the Swiss gigolo who made a handsome living by seducing and then blackmailing a string of wealthy women across Europe.
Was Sgarbi a tanned, flamboyant young man, with bulging biceps and a hairy chest? Or was he suave and polished, with a certain indefinable air of mystery? Or was he the dark and smouldering type, with eyes that glowed like hot coals?
The answer, thankfully, is none of the above. Instead, newspaper reports describe him as skinny, geeky and ugly, wearing a suit too big for him. How then did he enthral all those women? Susanne Klatten, one of Germany’s richest heiresses, said she fell for him because he had been “charming, attentive and at the same time he seemed very sad” and “that stirred a feeling in me that we had something in common”.
There are stranger ways of wooing. When I was younger, I watched in amazement as stoop-shouldered, skinny, bespectacled young men in kurtas and torn jeans scooped up some of the most gorgeous girls in college by the simple method of spouting a
steady stream of T.S. Eliot at them, pausing only to suck at a Charminar.
Needless to add, I burnt the midnight oil reading up the poet and waited tensely for the right moment before springing: “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land” on an unsuspecting co-ed. She said she thought the monsoon months were far crueller than April. “All that mud,” she explained.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find anything Eliot had written about the monsoons. A friend of mine went to even greater lengths, going around college with a fat book called Being and Nothingness, by a philosopher called Sartre. He used to grimly plough through a page or so every day, but after a month he said he couldn’t take it any more. Yet he did mug up one sentence, “Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being,” which was a great hit with the girls.
So I find it completely believable that Ms Klatten could have fallen for sadness. I can imagine the scene. Klatten enters the hotel lobby and finds a skinny chap sitting there all lost and forlorn, reading something and sighing intermittently. As luck would have it, the guy drops his book just when Klatten walks past him. She picks it up, noting it is Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. “Oooh, my favourite book,” she cries. “Really,” says the sad young man, “Mine too. My second favourite is Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.” They lock eyes and probe the sombre depths of each other’s souls. A companionable silence ensues, which he breaks by saying, “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world.”
“Yes,” she says, “All my joys to this are folly, naught so sweet as melancholy. Shall we go upstairs?”
“Ah, woe is me,” says Sgarbi and tells her all his money is tied up in a trust fund in a Nigerian bank and he has to give his lawyers a couple of million to release the cash. Whereupon she sits sadly at the desk and writes out a cheque. They then go upstairs, tears rolling down their cheeks. Afterwards, as they lie side by side dejectedly, she murmurs “in the very temple of Delight, veiled Melancholy has her sovereign shrine”.
My plan now is to cultivate that hang-dog look and shuffle along carrying the whole weight of the world on my shoulders, as well as a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Who knows, somewhere there may well be hordes of women eagerly waiting to weep with me.
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)