An Indian businessman and local politician has bought himself a new shirt for his birthday - and it's made of solid gold.
Pankaj Parakh, who made his fortune in the garment industry, routinely wears several kilos of gold jewellery. But for his birthday bash this evening, he's gone one better with a 22-carat gold shirt.
"Gold has always fascinated me since I was five years old and studying in school. Over the years, I have become passionate about this royal metal," he told the Hindustan Times. "For my marriage 23 years ago, many guests considered me an embarrassment as I sported more gold than the bride!"
He paid £127,000 for the metal, and had it made up by Shanti Jewellers at Parel in Mumbai, to a design by Bafna Jewellers of Nashik. It took a team of 20 craftspeople around 3,200 hours to make.
Parakh says the shirt, which weighs four kilos, is perfectly comfortable. It's lined with cloth to prevent rubbing, and can be washed and hung up to dry. And, he says, he's used to wearing a heavy weight of gold already.
"In public, when I go around Yeola, or meet my constituents, I get extreme reactions - some say I flash my wealth, others feel I am poking fun at people's poverty, though women are usually silent observers," he says.
Parakh does, though, share his wealth, having financed 120 polio operations at a hospital in Udaipur.
"I spend at least a week each year to offer voluntary services at the 1,000-bedded hospital, the biggest and best for polio treatment in India," he says. "I also arrange for any requirements of the poor patients like food, medicines, surgery and blankets, from which I get immense satisfaction."
There's a long tradition in India of wearing one's wealth, though more usually in the form of womens' bangles. In rural areas in particular, it's the safest and most convenient place to keep your wealth. According to the World Gold Council, 75% of demand for gold in India is in the form of jewellery. The price of gold in India has quadrupled over the last ten years, making the metal an excellent investment.
Last year, 32-year-old moneylender Datta Fuge commissioned a similar shirt to Parakh's. It won him a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's most expensive shirt - a record that Parakh now believes he has broken.
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