Author Dave Besseling didn’t believe Bombay’s alleged No 1 pickup artist, until he saw him in action and was... disturbed. He covers their eight-week jaunt in Laid In India.
ELLE: How low does your self-esteem need to be to seek the services of pick-up artist Sid Malhotra?
Dave Besseling: Pretty low. But I don’t mean that in a derisive way. If you’re a man who can’t relate to women, or are scared to approach women, the prospect of contact can be frightening and that’s all right, we’ve all been there. What’s disturbing here is how old a lot of these guys are, it’s as if the way they grew up didn’t allow for any social or sexual development.
ELLE: You maintain from the start that you were reluctant to write Sid’s story—what changed your mind?
DB: I was reluctant because the whole concept of a ‘pickup artist’ just seemed so passé and juvenile. But once I went to a bar with this guy and saw him do his thing, saw it work, I knew there was something larger to be learned about India in 2016. The fact that pickup artists still flourish is an indicator of how far we still have to go in terms of gender issues.
ELLE: Why do you think Sid’s quite-lame tactics are successful? Have Indian women set our standards embarrassingly low?
DB: I think they have a type of girl in mind—young, impressionable and looking for compliments. That said, one of Sid’s model friends told me, the standards here are so low and methods so crass, that however creepy, the simple fact that he has manners gets him that much further. That’s pretty grim.
ELLE: Have you ever been tempted to use Sid’s advice?
DB: After being in Sid’s world for a bit, I started to get hyper-conscious of what I was saying, and how it could be taken by a girl. It was a real headfuck. Thankfully, that receded once the research was over. After the story came out, every time I’d go out with a girl, they’d ask, “Wait, is that something you learned from that pickup artist?” And I’d have to say, “No, he was the subject of a story—why haven’t you asked me if my profile on Jeff Bezos has affected the way I do my shopping?”
ELLE: Since you’ve had a pretty good run there, what do Indian women on Tinder want?
DB: Let’s just say white-swiping is definitely a thing. I think the frustration that allows Sid’s basic manners to pass for desirability, is what lets white skin skip several steps of vetting, too. Fact is, Indian women put up with more male bullshit than women in any country I’ve ever lived.