Thank you my friends, for coming in such large numbers to listen to this ragged old story-teller with his grey beard and bad teeth. Thank you. My story today, is about our own ruler Prince Mohammed Bin Rushdie, who we lovingly call MBR. But of course a story-teller worth his salt does not plunge straight away into the history without explaining the background.
There is a story about Jeff Bezos which is probably apocryphal, but I will tell it anyway. He decided one morning that he would collect his waste material and weigh it. There were three fairly solid turds, burnished gold in colour -what else?, and they tipped the scales at 61.67 grams. He had also used a chronometer to time the process, and recorded in a notebook, that from the moment of entry in the toilet to his exit, it took thirteen minutes and twenty-six seconds, or 13.4333 minutes.
The day before, he had checked with his accountants that he makes $321 million a day, or $222,884 a minute. If you have a calculator handy, you will find that 13.4333 minutes of Jeff’s life is worth $3,090,643. From these figures, after rounding, it can be calculated that his shit is worth $50,000 per gram.
I have not heard that Mr Bezos has any plans to sell his shit on Amazon, or e-Bay, or anywhere else, but who is to say that this can be entirely ruled out? People own lots of things which they jealously guard, with no intention of using them. Take that bottle of Isabella Islay whisky which someone paid $6.2 million for. We can imagine the proud owner celebrating his birthday taking his guests to the purpose-built salon where it is exhibited in a reinforced glass vitrine with an armed guard making sure of its safety. Clearly priceless bottles are not meant to be drunk, they are passed on to heirs.
No, dear listeners, I m not just spouting these facts to waste time and pad my story. My old mentor Quayyum bin Quayyum warned us against padding. The audience always pick it out and pays the storyteller in yawns. I am just putting the tale of Prince Mohammed bin Rushdie in its context. He is known to the world as MBR. He is a great reformer, and has allowed the women of his country the right to drive. He is known for his respect of justice, and if anyone breaks his law, he is known to order a suitable punishment. He has a chateau in France, a yacht that Russian oligarchs eye with unconcealed envy. Although he is known to be very even-tempered and relaxed, it is said that if anyone mentions the name of Jeff Bezos in his presence, he can fly into the most fearsome rage. He has claimed to be the first person in the world to own $1 trillion, but Forbes does not recognise this, giving for pretext that he is conflating his wealth with that of his country. Forbes seem to ignore the fact that the country belongs to him.
But dear listeners, there are other things we need to know if we are to understand the meaning of wealth, about which, ultimately, my story is all about. I do not propose to tell you what to think, but will only give you some facts which will help you form your own opinion. The gourmets among you, might conceivably understand, albeit with some effort, that Kiyoshi Kimura, the so-called king of sushi in Tokyo, paid over $3 million for a 287 kg bluefin. That comes to about about $10 per gm. Which means that a sushi with 10 gm of tuna would fetch just under $100. Kimura san undoubtably realised a handsome profit on his outlay, since Japan has enough millionaires (and billionaires) and they can afford a little luxury when the fancy takes them.
I believe that my next examples are a tad more difficult to explain. Take the koi fish. That’s a type of carp, and there is a variety which comes in different ravishing colours. They weigh less than one kilogram usually, and in some parts of the world many people keep them in their homes for their beautiful colours. But would you pay $2 million for one? Miss Yingying of Taiwan paid just a bit less, $1.8 million for a rare beauty. For the pleasure of looking at it, with no intention of eating it.
Since I am a teller of tales who has little concept of things besides the twists and turns of well-formed narration, I can offer one explanation: could it be that the fun lies in the fact that if you spend say $500 million to buy Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, then you gain respect worth $600 million, if you allow me to put a price on pleasure, plus you get to keep the art treasure. Quite possibly one or two among you, owners of big pharma or shares in Birco the petroleum company, might have partaken of Almas, the Beluga caviar from a rare albino sturgeon found only in the Caspian sea which regularly fetches $34,000 a kilo, but can you get your mind round the story of the racing pigeon someone bought for $1,9 million? You worthies are much more sophisticated than the rustic narrator that I am, but until a few weeks ago, I had not heard of a watch called Patek Phillipe. I am the proud possessor of a Timex, made in Dundee, sixty years ago and still going strong. I’ve never missed an appointment, even if the watch loses 5 seconds every year, This Patek thingy loses one-millionth of a second every year, but this is automatically adjusted by a device receiving waves from Neptune. Don’t ask me how this works.
I meant to tell you that such a watch fetched $35 million at an auction in New York last year.
Now, after having primed your imagination, I can broach the real theme of my story. Thank you for having so patiently listened to the various strands I felt, I needed you to hear in order to truly understand my tale.
As I said, it concerns MBR.
You will remember his name does not top Forbes’ list, and this is something that mars his sleep. You and I my dear friends, we worry about which is cheaper, goat or chicken, but there are others who spend sleepless nights worrying about whether to offer a Patek Philippe or a Rolex to their prospective son-in-law. Who develop ulcers worrying about whether their yacht is a few metres longer than that Russian oligarch’s. Yes dear friends, size matters.
You’ll like the next bit. So, MBR calls his physician. Doctor, he wails, I’ve got insomnia. Doctor Hassan el Nourani was known for his forthrightness.
Yes your highness, guilt feelings often makes one lose sleep. What guilt feelings? Why should I feel guilty? The doctor winced as he realised his faux pas, and thought of a way out. I mean, he said, I don’t believe you gave the order for that enemy of the state to be strangled in the Turkish embassy, his body quartered and thrown in Turkish forests. It was some criminal gang. Yes, yes, the man was a scoundrel, and deserved to die, but the CIA knows you had nothing to do with it. Fortunately a servant arrived with coffee, baklavas and falafels, just at that moment, and that saved the doctor.
Yes your highness, you were saying that you are not sleeping well. The Prince cleared his throat. I have been worried about something of great importance, and I’ll tell you what it is. I was looking at Forbes’ list recently and discovered that not only am I not on the top of the rich list, I am not even in the top three! What shall I do. Send your men to kill Mr Forbes, thought the doctor, but he did not say it aloud. Confiscate the fortunes of your enemies, he thought, but as he knew that he had already done that, he said nothing. The doctor also knew that his patient had tried all possible medicines and sleeping draughts in the past and none worked. But el Nourani did have a logical mind. Premise 1, he said: The Prince is having trouble sleeping because his name does not top the Forbes’ list. Premise 2: You get on the top of the list if you have more money than anybody else, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, The Sultan of Brunei etc. Premise 3: MBR’s worldly possessions falls short of those of the above-mentioned. Conclusions: Two possibilities: The problem cannot be solved, or his wealth must be increased. Consider the second alternative, the doctor asked himself. Is that possible? Now our good doctor believed with all the fibres in his body that there is no problem on earth that cannot be solved. But how? He did not know, but he knew that there was a solution, somewhere, floating in space.
A solution floating in space, floating in space, floaaaa… That’s it. Eureka! I’ve found it, he said, unable to control his excitement.
Your highness, he said finally. I have found a remedy, but you must give me three days.
He went without sleep for three nights and two days, reading books on space and heavenly bodies. One sentence caught his attention.. “… somewhere floating in space is the planet 55 Cancrie e!” It is a planet about 10 times bigger than our own earth, and half of it is carbon. It is only 40 light-years away, in the northern constellation Cancer. It is clearly visible to the naked eye.
You need a little concentration to grasp the situation, dear listeners, so please bear with me. As you all know, in our solar system, the most abundant element present is silicon, but in other solar systems, there are planets rich in carbon. Meteorite dust when analysed have been shown to contain particles of diamond. Maybe some of you do not remember that diamond is a form of carbon. For example industrial diamonds are made from carbon, by subjecting it to very high temperatures and pressures. Don’t ask me to explain, but although the diamonds are in the core of 55 Cancrie e, whenever there is an eruption_ and there are a good few, it spits out diamonds.
You know a million had 6 zeros. Like 1,000,000. A billion nine 0’s. A scientist friend of mine from Abdul Aziz university tells me that the wealth of whoever possesses the planet would be in the region of 1 followed by five hundred zeros dollars. Dollars USA. If he were to spend 1 billion dollars every second, it would take him twenty thousand years to spend all his money.
I am sure you have already guessed what Dr Al Nourani is going to do…
He rushes to the palace and after no more than fifteen minutes with MBR, the latter summons his half-brother who is the director of Land Registry. Dr Hosni el Rushdie arrives in his helicopter and MBR asks him how he can claim 55 Cancrie e as his own. Simple, cries the director. I will get the attorney general_ our half brother Abderrahmane el Rushdie to prepare the papers, put our seal on it, and the planet is yours. With all the diamonds? Of course, brother majesty. Its lakes, its mountains, all the fish in its seas and lakes, all the _. MBR interrupts him. Fuck the fish, all I am interested in are the diamonds, he says. All yours, sir, reassures Hosni.
The latter returns to his office in his helicopter and within an hour he comes back with no more than a piece of paper. Mind you, it was a rather large sheet in the most exquisite translucent vellum made of camel skin, and bearing a multicoloured seal. Brother highness, this certifies that the planet is yours.
So finally, Mohammed Bin Rushdie is now not only the richest man on the planet but he is a few billion times richer than all the billionaires, the Russian oligarch’s, the oil sheikhs, Chinese tech giants in the world together.
He can’t believe his luck!
Now my friends, I am sorry that this story does not have a happy ending. When his powerful neighbour in the north heard of the appropriation of 55 Cancrie e by MBR, he flew into a rage. He summoned his own half brothers and threatened to sack them all. Or worse. Why had they not thought of annexing that diamond planet for him? Can anything be done now? One of his most half-brothers assured him that there was.
‘Just tell me, idiot!’
‘You can declare war on him…’