My father, whom I respect, love, and admire, is admittedly not infallible. And one of the major mistakes he made where my own life is concerned was in 2013, when in a mood that was mixed parts of ‘Nothing else is working’, ‘Customised service is better than faceless matrimonial websites’, and ‘The upside could be great and how bad could the downside be?’, he enrolled me in the lists of Sycorian Matrimonials (back then, it had not yet become Sycoriaan).
As it turns out, there was one upside and four downsides. The upside was that the whole association with Sycorian left me with stories upon which I will be able to dine out for years and years. The downsides were:
- The hefty enrolment fee they charged. As Amba said, for that amount of money they ought to be manufacturing brides and grooms, Pygmalion style, to customer specifications.
- The customised service being far, far worse than faceless matrimonial websites because the Sycorian relationship managers refused to reply coherently to email, kept begging for phone calls or face to face meetings (in which nothing ever happened), and in general did nothing beyond sending profiles of prospective brides, which matrimonial website algorithms do anyway, at far less cost.
- The psychological pain which my father suffered when he was repeatedly spurned by prospective brides’ parents, either because they were yuppies and shuddered at the thought of their daughter marrying into a crass Punjabi business family, or because they were lalas and shuddered at the thought of their daughter marrying into a business family so manifestly unsuccessful that the father in law drove a Toyota Corolla and the groom himself rode a bicycle to work.
- The time I wasted and psychological despair I suffered while reading the profiles of said prospective brides.
This despair was largely because most (though to be fair, not all) bridal profiles were very much like each other, especially in the following respects:
- Education at a British university
- Worked in a family business or didn’t have a job
- Claimed to be from a cultured family (though neither any profile nor a Sycorian relationship manager could ever give a satisfactory explanation of what a cultured family is, and if it involves petri dishes)
- Claimed to be the perfect blend of tradition and modernity
What impressed me over give months of reading Sycorian profiles is that whenever it came up, everyone claimed to be only a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. There were no imperfect blends, near-perfect blends, ninety-fifth percentile blends, off-spec blends, or cheap-but-serviceable blends. The only parallel is to olive oil, where if you go to a supermarket you can find extra virgin olive oil, olive oil, and even that gross pomace olive oil, but never virgin olive oil without the extra virginity.
Just as with cultured families, no explanation was ever forthcoming on what exactly a perfect blend of tradition and modernity is, and what it implies for one’s daily life. Nor was it ever explained why being a perfect blend was a desirable trait in a bride, when in whiskey blends are looked down upon and single malts are preferred.
RoKo and I once speculated that the modernity consisted of meeting in a five star hotel coffee shop, and the tradition consisted of getting the prospective groom to pick up the bill, but that was just us being bitchy, and anyway, as the months went by, I ended up meeting ladies from Sycorian even in mall coffee shops. So I eventually decided that “perfect blend of tradition and modernity” was just something that people used to fill in matrimonial profiles when they could think of nothing else to write, the way we, as Class XI students who had to come up with farewell dedications for graduating Class XII seniors whom we had no clue about, used to write “Amit Kumar’s smiling face and cheerful personality will never be forgotten!”
So after completely giving up on Sycorian around the beginning 2014, I paid the expression no more attention until the very end of 2014.
In the end of 2014, I was vacationing in Bavaria, and went to Neuschwanstein castle.
It is important to note that Neuschwanstein, which inspired the shape of Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle has no military value. It looks like a fairy tale castle because the mad king Ludwig II wanted to build a castle that looked like it was out of a fairy tale and which would be the perfect backdrop in which to perform Wagner operas. In fact, in pursuit of this goal, he actually wanted to build three more fairytale castles, all without military value, just so he would have the perfect simulacrum of an imagined age of chivalry and knights.
However, as the guide at Neuschwanstein pointed out, it wasn’t just opera backdrops and medieval high fantasy and impractical castles. Neuschwanstein also had a toilet that automatically flushed whenever you stepped off it, and one of the first telephone lines in Bavaria. All the modcons that the late nineteenth century had to offer, really.
A couple of days after going to Neuschwanstein, I was in Nuremberg, where I visited the transportation museum, which exhibits the personal train coaches of Chancellor Bismarck and King Ludwig II next to each other. Bismarck’s coach is straightforward, free of frippery, and has a stenographer’s desk and telegraph machine. Ludwig’s coach is a bright blue with gilt all over the place. Talk about contrasts.
Anyway, by 1886, the rest of the government of Bavaria was fed up with Ludwig spending the entire treasury on his impractical romantic castles, so they had him declared mentally unsound and unfit to be king, and replaced him with a prince-Regent. He mysteriously died by drowning shortly thereafter. Even more mysteriously, the psychologist who signed off on the medical report declaring him insane died the very next day.
It was after learning all of this that I had a flash of insight: with his obsession for creating the perfect medieval castles, but also making sure that said castles had flushing toilets, telephone connections and electricity, and were linked by a train that had a gorgeously medieval livery; it is actually Ludwig II of Bavaria who was the perfect blend of tradition and modernity. If you aspire to be the perfect blend, nothing but bankrupting a nation, being declared insane, being deposed from the execution of all your responsibilities, and then dying under mysterious circumstances will do. Anybody claiming to be a perfect blend without going through all this is either ignorant or a liar.