It’s that time of the year when we can hear the sound of jingle bells at the cash registers. In India, Christmas isn’t as big a deal as in the West, but with our fondness for embracing anything to do with excess, we are rapidly getting there. Shops and malls are already marketing the Christmas spirit, which is not to do with traditional drinks like eggnog or mulled wine, but more about buying gifts for your loved ones. In that, India has set something of a world record. The most extravagant gift to a loved one is, of course, the Taj Mahal, emperor Shahjahan’s marbled memorial in honour of his beloved. His bill came to around R3.2 crore, a king’s ransom in those days. Even taking inflation into account for the past 350 years or so, it barely compares with the gift that another indulgent husband, Mukesh Ambani, gave his wife Nita, the Airbus 319 corporate jet which cost him close to R250 crore.
The difference is that one generates a lot of revenue, while the other is costly to maintain (incidentally, the government earns an average of R23 crore a year as tourist revenue from the Taj). This proves that extravagance has no limits when it comes to gifts by those with extremely deep pockets. So what does one gift the woman or man who already has everything? Arm candy may have different connotations but what you have on your wrist or arm says a lot about your financial status. For women, the ultimate arm accessory would be the Hermés Birkin bag, made fashionably famous by Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The most expensive model is covered in precious stones, but the most coveted is the one made from crocodile skin and embellished with palladium and costing approximately R22 lakh.
Going by the Indian male’s favourite accessories, his arm candy would have to be a mobile phone, and while Apple, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung all make very expensive limited-edition phones encrusted with diamonds and similar bling, the ultimate status symbol is a Vertu, the British-based manufacturer and retailer of uber-luxury mobile phones. Vertu debuted in India last year, with models costing between R1.5 lakh and R15 lakh, but its most expensive model is the Signature Cobra that costs approximately R1.8 crore. Only eight have been manufactured and it is made to order, so it carries a tag