I’m fond of the Metro Price Index. Growing up, a roll of color film (bulk Fuji rolled and packaged in India) cost 100 rupees, when my bus ride (no subway back then) to school was around 2 rupees. At 50 subway rides or $75 a roll (the New York subway fare was $1.50 for most of the nineties, the last film decade), how many Nan Goldins would you have?
Growing up, the Hilsa fish was a monsoon fixture. Fatty, viciously bony, sharp-smelling, it is the fish-eater’s fish. It has a fish jargon reserved for itself, that wouldn’t apply to other fish. It belongs to the pantheon of fish that divide their lives between river and sea. There was a season for not eating Hilsa, even for us city people, to let the stocks regenerate. If Bengalis were a hunter-gatherer people it would have the status of salmon for the Inupiat.
I’m too late for the mango season, but August is full monsoon, so naturally my mother cooked Hilsa for my first meal home. It was a fresh, full-flavored fish, like many I had growing up. “Much better than the one you ate last time.” (Two years ago.) This Hilsa was 1000 rupees a kilo. A real bargain, apparently. The average subway (or auto-rickshaw) ride here is around 8 rupees. 1000 rupees/kilo = 454 rupees/lb = 56.7 subway rides/lb = US$2.50 * 56.7/lb = US$142/lb.