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The unbearable cheapness of being

india Updated: Feb 26, 2012 01:34 IST
Hindustan Times
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The past few weeks have seen a fair bit of activity from the freak newsmakers of the world, be it the emergence of Bharatiya Janata Porn in the Karnataka Assembly, or the Congress slamming Mayawati for poor governance and corruption, which is a bit like Kim Sharma judging Aarti Chhabria for being absolutely pointless.

But what really tickled my cockles (yes, that’s what I call them) was a recent global survey by something called the Economist Intelligence Unit, which stated that when it came to the ‘cost of living’, Mumbai was the second cheapest city in the world. Sadly, the report did not say what the economists were smoking, or where one could acquire the same.

The survey may technically be correct, in the sense that Arjun Rampal is technically a National Award-winning actor, but it does throw up a lot of questions. For example, who were the respondents who said that Mumbai was cheap to live in? I mean, where did the economists conduct this survey - in the bathroom at Aurus? The Antilla rooftop? Sharad Pawar’s back-pocket?

Barring the jokes in this column, there’s nothing in the city that I can consider cheap. Take, for example, the three basic necessities of life — beer, rum and other alcohol. Along with its garbage-strewn streets and Jackky Bhagnani’s career, the alcohol price hike is something that Mumbai should be ashamed of. The city stopped being the ‘second cheapest in the world’ when we were forced to start choosing between house parties and house payments.

And that brings me to my next point — midget Hitler. Ok no, I mean housing. I would like to see you walk up to the average Mumbaikar who’s paying about half of Nigeria’s GDP to enjoy beautiful views of his neighbour’s wet laundry, while simultaneously trying to not step on the 372 people sharing the little pencil box that he calls home, and tell him how lucky he is to be living in the second cheapest city in the world. You’d be destroyed quicker than a disputed structure at a rath yatra.

According to the survey, the four cheapest cities in the world are (in order) Karachi, Mumbai, Teheran and New Delhi. I don’t know what it’s like to live in Delhi, but I’m sure it’s cheaper than Bombay, unless you’re getting married. Then you’d have to sell your Bombay home just to be able to afford bartenders (cost not inclusive of their bullet-proof vests). Also, I don’t know about Karachi, but if it’s so cheap to live there, people would stop joining terror camps and stick to more traditional occupations, like match-fixing.

We like to delude ourselves into believing that we can change things, which is why we voted in the BMC elections. Of course, by ‘we’, I mean 46% of the city, aka one local train compartment. And of course, the Sena-BJP alliance won, thanks to their ace strategy of not being the Congress. Seriously, people are so pissed off these days that a dead sewer rat would win more votes than the Congress. (Mind you, I’m not equating the two. At least rats are industrious.) So what can one expect now? With the incumbents back at the helm of the BMC, Mumbaikars can look forward to great innovations and efficiency in the field of ugly political posters. And as for the city being cheap, let’s face it — the only being that has a cushy existence in this city is the idol at Siddhivinayak.

There is one thing that’s really cheap here though — the life of the citizen reading this column. Then again, things could be worse. You could be in Karachi.

Ashish Shakya is a writer and a stand-up comic. He co-writes the TV satire, The Week That Wasn’t. Sometimes he’s even sober while doing so.