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The cost of loving

With the 2010 Commonwealth Games just around the corner, sex in the city could well be the secret weapon in India’s economic growth, writes Steven Baker.

art and culture Updated: Sep 12, 2008 12:50 IST
Steven Baker

A few years ago, my friend Mark and I were visiting Japan. When we landed in Tokyo, the first thing that hit us was just how expensive the place was. It wouldn’t have been such a shock if we had come straight from London. Instead, we had spent the previous six months living like rajas in India. So, when I bought an apple at a convenience store for Y250, it almost fell out of my mouth, when I worked out that this one tiny green apple had set me back over Rs 100.

This meant that when it came to finding beds for the night, we were faced with some tough choices. Which is how we ended up in Shinjuku’s red light district, staying in a euphemistically titled ‘love hotel’. Renting a room in such a place is cheaper than even a hostel bed. The downside is, you don’t get a full night. Six hours and your time is up. Sayonara. What’s even more surreal is that when you check in, the whole transaction is done from behind a partition. Once you’ve parted with your yen, a mystery pair of hands slide over the key and a packet of condoms.

In Europe, the idea of love hotels has not really caught on. I guess most lovers have the place, and space, already to do their loving. But what is becoming more and more popular as a place to have sex are coin operated toilets. Loved-up couples are able to rent their very own miniature ‘love hotel’ for less than the price of a Tokyo apple. The only thing to watch out for is that these things work on a timer device. Five minutes and you’re out. Which means that your quickie really has to be quick.

Why not set up coin-operated toilets in Delhi? It would kill two birds with one stone — the problem of Delhi guys ad hoc urination, and of Delhi lovers having no place to make out. Unlike the city’s five-star hotels and night clubs, admission should be available to all: first daters, boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls etc. If a cover charge is levied of Rs 2, or even better, Rs 5, the scheme could become very profitable, indeed, for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Additional revenue could be generated by supplying guest amenities such as flavoured condoms and edible underwear.

The seXbox could be marketed as something of a modern-day tourist attraction, especially if positioned outside existing popular sites like the Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. Farewell Incredible India, make way for The Amsterdam of the East. As most Delhi monuments have a two-tier price structure for foreigners and Indians, overseas tourists could be charged a few hundred rupees admission. As inflation hits 13-year highs, what a fantastic money-spinner. And with the 2010 Commonwealth Games just around the corner, sex in the city could well be the secret weapon in India’s economic growth.