Agence France Presse
Published — Friday 1 February 2013
Last update 1 February 2013 12:43 am
MUMBAI: India is a country known for its love of gold, but for one businessman a ring or chain was not enough.
Datta Phuge is now the proud owner of a golden shirt worth 12.7 million rupees ($ 240,000), made up of 14,000 pieces of 22-carat gold and put together by 15 craftsmen over 16 days.
“Gold has always been my passion since a young age. I’ve always worn gold as jewelery in the form of bracelets, rings, chains,” he told AFP.
The 42-year-old, who lives in the Pune district of western Maharashtra state, hatched the plan late last year with a local jeweler friend.“We were thinking, is there something different we could do with gold? What has no one done before?” he said.
At 3.32 kilograms (7.3 pounds), the end product is so hefty Phuge said he had asked Guinness World Record to recognize his shirt as being the heaviest.
He only wears it for special occasions, along with numerous flashy gold accessories. The rest of the time the shirt is locked up at home.
His fashion choice may sound ostentatious in a country where an estimated 42 percent of children under five are malnourished, but Phuge is adamant that “it is my property, it does not matter what other people think or say.”
He seems delighted that the shirt, with its six Swarovski crystals for buttons and matching gold belt, has brought him his 15 minutes of fame.
Phuge, a grandfather who runs a finance company, also says he is a keen social worker and harbors ambitions to go into politics.
Showy displays of gold have become something of a trend in the area, started by late local politician Ramesh Wanjale who became known as the “gold man” around Pune — a title Phuge seems keen to inherit.
“Everybody knows me as the ‘gold man’ in the whole region. Other rich people spend one crore (10 million rupees) to buy Audis or Mercedes, to buy what they like. What crime have I done? I just love gold,” he said.
India is the world’s biggest consumer of gold, with purchases an essential part of religious festivals and weddings.
But faced with a rising import bill, the government has sought to discourage buying by raising import duty by 50 percent.
Indians bought 933.4 tons of gold in 2011, the last year for which complete data is available, according to the World Gold Council.