G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Decent Whore Index and Worth of INR

"Today" in this post means  at the end of  August 2013

Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá in "Sex At Dawn", 2010:

"(Charles) Darwin says your mother’s a whore. Simple as that. Lest you think we’re being flip, we assure you that the bartering of female fertility and fidelity in exchange for goods and services is one of the foundational premises of evolutionary psychology."

P D Smith:

"The voices of ordinary people have been elided from the histories left to us by the Romans. But in this wonderfully vivid book ('Invisible Romans'), Robert Knapp uses the evidence of tombstones, literature, graffiti, letters and proverbs to put ordinary men and women – prostitutes, housewives, slaves and gladiators – at the heart of Roman history..."

The Economist, "Sex doesn't sell", May 25 2013.

"TIMES are tough for Debbie, a prostitute in western England who runs a private flat with other “mature ladies”. She does two or three jobs a day. A year ago she was doing eight or nine. She has cut her prices: “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be open.” She says that she can now make more money doing up furniture and attending car-boot sales than she can turning tricks...

...The days of being able to make a full-time living out of prostitution are long gone, reckons Vivienne, at least in larger towns and cities. “It’s stupidly competitive right now,” she laments. More people are entering prostitution, agrees Cari Mitchell of the English Collective of Prostitutes. Some working women in Westminster say they have halved their prices because the market has become so saturated. In London, and increasingly elsewhere, immigrants provide strong competition... "

Alfred Hitchcock:

"You know why I favor sophisticated blondes in my films? We're after the drawing-room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they're in the bedroom."


William Shakespeare:"He hath given his empire /Up to a whore." --Caesar from "Antony and Cleopatra" (III, vi, 66-67)



Artist:  Unknown to me

Ziauddin Barani (1285–1357) was a  historian and political thinker who lived in Delhi Sultanate.


Historian John Keay writes with the help of his writings about the efforts of  ruler Ala-ud-din Khilji (reign 1290-1316)  to control prices: 

 "...The success of this price-fixing policy resulted in its extension to just about every other commodity known to the Delhi bazaars. Textiles, groceries, slaves, whores, cattle, in fact everything ‘from caps to shoes and from combs to needles’ had its fixed price and its market regulators. It was not just one of the first recorded examples of planned economic management but also one of the most ambitious. And therein partly lay its undoing..."   


('India / A History: From the Earliest Civilisations to the Boom of the Twenty-First Century' , 2000/2010)  
 

Even whores had their prices fixed and also had a market regulator in 13th century India! (Remember what happened to India's National Spot Exchange Ltd in August 2013?)
 
The Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level.

In July 2013, when INR was quoting at 59.98 to 1 US$, the index showed that Indian currency was undervalued by 67.1%.

"(The Big Mac Index) is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. For example, the average price of a Big Mac in America in July 2013 was $4.56; in China it was only $2.61 at market exchange rates. So the "raw" Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 43% at that time."

Can we use any other  "basket of goods and services" instead of a Big Mac?

I have almost finished reading a biography of one of my favourite actors (and also one of the most learned Hindi film stars of all time) Meena Kumari by Vinod Mehta. The book has been reissued in 2013 after its first and only edition in 1972. I consider the late actor quite sexy. Her emoting including all that weeping adding to her seductive charm. 

I have always liked Mr. Mehta's writing style since his  (now defunct) "Sunday Observer" days. Therefore, although, these days, I seldom read his  'Outlook' or see his numerous appearances on TV, I bought the book.

The book is largely about Meena Kumari as a person, her relationships and hardly about the art of cinema. I would have also liked to read about her two films I really liked- Azaad 1955 and Kohinoor. 1960. She sparkles in them.

This is what Mehta writes on page 15-16 of the book:

"(in 1932, when Meena Kumari was born)...You could get nicely drunk for 84 paise (a bottle of beer costing 28), buy a kilo of sugar for 3 paise, smoke a packet of Gold Flake cigarette for 10 paise, get a woolen suit for Rs. 3, find a decent whore for Rs. 4. This then was the scenario..."

[Reminiscent of Saadat Hasan Manto, Khushwant Singh and Bhau Padhye (भाऊ पाध्ये). Particularly towards the end of the quote.]

I wondered if those prices in rupee, more than 80 years ago,  tell us anything about the value of INR in 2013. So I did some math. 


Price of gold at the beginning of year 1932 was US$ 20.67 (£ 5.90 in London market)  per fine ounce. Today, it is around  US$ 1,395.80.  The gold is up almost 70 times. By that logic, the 4 rupee 'decent' whore must be now worth only Rs. 270.

Now, I have not been to a whore yet but I am sure you don't get a 'decent' one at Rs. 270 in Mumbai today.

Wikipedia informs: "The Indian Rupee was pegged to the British Sterling (Pound) from 1926 to 1966 at INR 13.33 to 1 BSP."

Using that route,  INR 4 in 1932 was equal to 0.3 BSP. In 1932, those pounds could buy 0.05086 (0.3 divided by 5.90) fine ounce of gold  which is today worth US$ 1395.80. At today's exchange rate of 1 USD to 65.7050 INR, it is Rs. 4,664.

Can one buy a decent  whore at that price in Mumbai today?

I could have done the same math for beer, sugar or Gold Flake but I chose whore instead because, as Robert Knapp says in one of the quotes at the beginning, they are at the heart of any history.



 "Uthti hai har nigaah kharidaar ki tarah"

 Rehana Sultan singing  Madan Mohan's deeply moving composition and words of Majrooh Sultanpuri in Rajinder Singh Bedi's 'Dastak', 1970

courtesy: indus and/or current copyright holder of the film

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