Thursday, June 11, 2009

THE IRONY OF MONEY IN MUMBAI

Mumbai media has been all agog at the arrest (and, of course, subsequent bail and release) of Sheetal Mafatlal (of the multimillionaire-multiple-chinned-husband and looking-very-trashy-in-Versace/Valentino-togs fame) for attempting to breeze in through Customs without thinking it necessary to declare gold and diamond jewellery worth around Rs 50 lakh.

While we, in our strictly-suburban college staffroom, were poring, and ooh-ing and aah-ing (only the 'ladies'), over the list (and intricate details) of the ornaments allegedly smuggled in by her, the South Bombay socialites were making the most of the photo-op by giving incredibly inane soundbytes. One Haseena Jethmalani (wife of political-defeated-debutant and high-end-lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani) apparently said (and conveniently later denied) that Rs 50 lakh was too piddly an amount for the likes of Sheetal Mafatlal (and the rest of the So-Bo brunch-packers) to bother about, and that women frequenting a salon owned by her (the fair Haseena) regularly strolled in wearing jewellery worth more than 50 lakh.

Just a few questions: if Rs 50 lakh is a paltry sum to the likes of Mafatlal (as it obviously is), shouldn’t the Customs Duty (which would be a certain small percentage of this puny amount) be like small change to her (as it obviously is NOT)? So, why not declare and pay it upfront and straightforward, honey? Or is the small change too difficult to see (and the fine print too difficult to read) through those oversized Dior shades?

Just another point: Today I went to Bank of Maharashtra’s Malad (West) branch, where most of the customers were dealing in amounts ranging from Rs 300 to a few thousands. There were old and limping pensioners, peering shortsightedly at a fistful of currency. There were illiterate women, putting their thumb impressions on withdrawal slips for a thousand rupees. There were hardworking men, whose sweat-beaded brows remained knitted into frowns under the blast of the AC, and whose grimy hands clutched at worse-for-wear passbooks containing details of minuscule savings accounts.

To these people, residing in the vast and teeming suburbs of Mumbai, far far away from snooty-snobbery of So-Bo (that's South Bombay's snob-abbreviation), Rs 50 lakh would, perhaps, be a big amount, an amount to aspire to through honest blood-sweat-tears, not an amount that can be sneered at with a shrug of couture-clad shoulders. Or carried in casually (and illegally) in alligator-skin designer luggage.

29 comments:

sukku said...

The rich is definitely richer in Mumbai and I'm sure they have a different set of rules. I'm sure for every one that is caught, there might be a couple of hundreds that would have walked through with their connections...so what's going to happen next?

magiceye said...

*sigh*

Priya said...

For Fair Haseena's "proud" comment to support her alike the "Lady Mafatlal", 1 thing that is coming to my mind is ...they are monetarily rich (well, "rich" is an understatement)and poorest in ways when it comes to basic and simple knowledge about our country's economy.
I think we can well come up from our trademark of "Incredible (Poor) India", only if the Mafatlal species and the genes spread across the so-bo pays a fair, legal and just a meagre amount to the govt. just for flaunting their Versace/valentino or Dior tags...

Pinku said...

Sucharita, all these things are a put on act to show they dont care...in reality they all do...have seen people from these snob sets fighting with store managers for discounts on their loyalty cards and refusing to leave a fifty rupees tip after spending three hours occupying a table at a busy restaurant...

Pradip Biswas said...

These items may be she got for "Mufat" but caught before the "Lal" eyes of customs.Possibly she tried to escape "mufat" and Customs did not make any "mafi". But is it a trouble of passing through ungreased palms grizzly. Let us only Giggle and sigh.

Mystic Margarita said...

So true! Same reason why the filthy rich are often found not having paid taxes on their income, I guess.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

@Sukku,
Mumbai sure is overcrowded with overgrown rich brats thinkinh that they can get away with anything.

@Magiceye,
Your silence is expressive.

@Priya,
If all socialites had a social conscience, Mumbai would be a 'fairer' place.

@Pinku,
U r right. Miserliness is a common trait in ill-mannered millionaires.

@Pradipda,
Loved the word-play on 'MAFATLAL'.

@Mystic,
While we salaried servants have to pay a goodly amount, directly, and indirectly, as taxes.

Swaram said...

We can just hope they were rich not only in terms of money but values too :(

Sucharita Sarkar said...

@ Swaram,
I think money and morals do not often go hand in hand.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Very True !! Rich People Forget Everything And Remember Only Money !! Nice One..Thanks For Sharing !!Also I Have Started My Own Website And Would Like You To Have A Look At It.I Would Love To Have Your Comments On That Also.Unseen Rajasthan

deluded said...

more to the point.

do they have any pretty daughters?

;)

manju said...

She has probably got away with this many times, earlier.:(

I heard that the Customs officials were 'tipped off' by some of her relatives- apparently there is an ongoing family feud over inheritance.

Ranu said...

DISPARITY in caps and bold...... you know sometimes I wish an communist govt would take over and straighten the likes of ambanis and mafatlals!!!

sujata said...

Wonderfully penned Sucharita, I was wondering at her sheer brashness,the day the news came to me, and these people that you mentioned at the bank of maharashtra, malad branch, though poor comparatively, have the values to read the fine print and pay their dues before they are asked.

Ugich Konitari said...

I dont think what we read in the papers is the true story. Call me cynical, but I think she was carrying a lot more. Methinks some stuff must have found its way elsewhere at the airport. I mean here's a woman, who usurped her sisters boyfriend, married him, then worked to throw his mother out of the house, swears by page 3 morals, exposure in fashion, and is supposed to stay major part of the year in London. Moves around in the sort of circles who know how many zeros is a lakh, but not thousand, markets so called designer stuff for prices that would buy a house downpayment for us types, and they value her stuff, with all those diamonds at 50 lakhs? And she plays the innocent wronged lady ?


Someone somewhere is sitting down and having a great laugh....

Nona said...

So-Bo! Brilliant use of two syllables (isn't it syllables?)! My heart goes out to the "poor" rich lady! She is a victim! (Pun intended!)

Babli said...

Thanks for your lovely comment. Actually I prepare Alu Posto without bay leaf but thought of preparing using bay leaf and felt that without bay leaf is the best as you have said.
Very beautifully written and you have described the true fact.When the rich people gets more and more money their desire doesn't stop and money becomes everything for them.Keep writing.

PURN!MA said...

:) I loved the sardonic take at the whole issue. Perfect case of literate but uneducated. Dior def blanked out her vision, I say!

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

Not Mafatlal, she is Mophatlal

Pesto Sauce said...

Having big accounts may be easy but understanding value of money is difficult

sanjoy chakraborty said...

Brilliant post. You have portrayed the true fact as the rich people never gets contented and their desire is never ending.

Jyothi said...

Money makes the world go round and round and round and round and round...you get the point right? There is no stopping it. Arre..why pay customs duty when you can buy a new pair of UG with that money...Sheesh ..I remember an old saying that I used to like as a kid. "I wish I was born rich instead of good looking."....;-)

Sumandebray said...

I did not get a chance to read through the details of the Lady Mafatlal story and I am not complaining! But it has all to do with the integrity of individuals. They do not mind paying a high premium for a designer label but shy away from paying any paltry sum as a governmental duty.
Another problem is how you determine the price of a used designer item. A CK evening gown might cost you anything in the range of 2-3 lakh INR when you buy. The cost of the fabric might be less than 10% and once you have worn it you (unless you are a celebrity) the resale value of that will be a few thousand if not hundreds! Same thing is applicable to jewelry. A designer jewelry has an insignificant amount of gold or whatever…… So I leave it to the Richie rich to deal with such things.
As far as the arrest and bail out saga of Lady Mafatlal goes.. it is only a symbolic case where the hands of the custom officer was not greased or he happened to be one with integrity and professional ethics or she challenged the ego of someone and does not change anything on grounds. It is the poor laborers who are regularly harassed at the international airports back home. They are conned to believe that they have imported more that 25000 INR worth of goods (which is the limit) and hence have only one solution …. “kuch khila peilya ke nikalna parta hai”

nsiyer said...

I loved your post. These arrogant wealth flaunting law breakers talk about how they were treated.
Left , according tome, too easily.

sidhubaba said...

I wish I had such "puny" amounts to declare.... I feel almost embarassed nowadays depositing a few rupees while people actually drop big bundles of notes rather non-chalantly at the only multi-national bank I have the audacity to have an account in!

SGD said...

While the Mafatlal media circus was making waves in Mumbai, I was far away on the opposite corner of the country embracing the waves of the Bay of Bengal...

I wonder at how the minds of the rich & super rich work....the lives these social butterflies lead....where deceit and lies and hypocrisy are inherent to their lifestyles!

Lilly said...

I thought I read that there were more millionaies in Mumbai then any other city in the world. Probably given the population. Oh how snobby and pathetic can some people be. I hope they fine her a fortune! I know this much for sure when I have gone collecting for charities in the past its always the richest folk who are the stingiest and the meanest people. they cant take their jewels with them so good luck to them.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

@ Unseen Rajasthan,
Rich people have conveniently bad memories.

@Deluded,
Yes they have, but they make only business-deal marriages.

@Manju,
Yes, maybe feuding families have back-stabbed her.

@ Ranu,Sujata, Suranga, Babli, Purnima, Pesto sauce, Jyothi, Suman, NSIyer, SGD, Lilly,

Agreed wholly with your views.

@harekrishnaji,
Great pun!

@Nona,
Yes, she did try to come across as a poor little rich girl.

Koel said...

really disugusting these people are....so artifical, caught up in their own fantasy world....and on top of that have the audacity to declare that they are being "framed"!!!