Following the news of the world's wealthiest leaders, Malavika Sangghvi writes to the man on top of the heap, Vladimir Putin

Sunday, 8 December 2013 - 8:10am IST | Agency: DNA
  • Sudhir Shetty DNA

Dear Mr Putin,
Congratulations for making it to the top of The Huffington Post’s list of the world’s wealthiest leaders.

As you might be aware, our own esteemed leader Sonia Gandhi had featured in the original list ranking 12th (with an alleged wealth of 2 billion USD, richer than the Queen of England and the President of Syria, but behind Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea and Hans-Adam II, the Prince of Liechtenstein).

But of that we shall speak no more, as it has been beeped out of existence.

The topic I write to you about is your own estimated worth of ..er ..between USD 40 billion and 70 billion. Gosh Mr Putin, what were you thinking?

In a 32-page document published last year, Boris Nemtsov, your former deputy prime minister, had detailed a summary of your toys: 58 planes and helicopters, 20 homes with opulent fittings worthy of the tsars and not to mention 11 watches that are alone worth several times ‘Putin’s annual salary’, he’d said. “In a country where more than 20 million people barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a blatant and cynical challenge to society. We absolutely cannot put up with this.”

His laundry list mentioned 15 helicopters, 43 aircrafts including an Airbus, two Dassault Falcon executive jets, an Ilyushin II-96 airliner that featured an $11 million cabin fitted out by jewellers, a 53.7-metre yacht with designer interiors like a spa, pool, waterfall, wine cellar and a five-decked yacht  with a jacuzzi, barbecue, and maple wood colonnade.

The detail that caught the world’s notice was of course your £47,000 ‘flying toilet’. Frankly Mr Putin, after I read through all of this, I began to feel sorry for you. I began to think of the upkeep of all this.
The cleaning, storing, securing, maintaining and, not to mention, the deep and profound worrying that owning all these possessions would call for. I wondered how you had not been crushed under the weight of all of this.

Me, I tend to worry if I get a new cell phone. But middle class neurosis is not meant for the likes of you, I guess, which is why we see you striking all those weird macho poses riding shirtless on horseback, harpooning hapless whales or tranquilising polar bears in between running your nation and dictating the future of the world. 

But what about guilt? When you take time off from leaving paw marks on the great outdoors of the world or hounding edgy female musicians, you too must have noticed that other people are not as rich as you. They do not have yachts and palaces and private jets. Some of them do not have enough to eat, actually. How do you sleep at night with that thought? Would a teeny prick of guilt,  like the pea in the fairy tale princess’ bed, keep you awake on your million-dollar mattress at night?

Oh, silly question. I guess your accoutrements are there to insulate you from guilt, right? No thoughts about the morality and shame of it all then?  What about the worry of being caught with all this stuff if there’s a revolution? 

No?  Sorry I asked. 

If there’s no worry, no guilt, no shame for the morality of it all, then all we are left with, Mr Putin, is the awesome abyss in your soul, which requires you to fill it with this mind-boggling assemblage of material possessions. It must be the largest hole in the world. I guess that’s why you need that £47,000 toilet. You’re so full of it!

Still giggling at the thought of it.

Yours sincerely etc


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