My cleaner’s interpretation of the $44 billion buzzword

As we all know, the buzz came into being ever since Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter for that sum


Sushmita Bose

Published: Wed 4 May 2022, 10:43 PM

In journalism, we had been taught that each time you type in the $ symbol, it is assumed it is the US dollar. So, don’t write US$. Not needed. UNLESS it is specifically mentioned that a valuation is in terms of the Aussie dollar, or the Canadian one, or the HK one; then, you obviously have to qualify the dollar so people don’t bungle up the value.

The US has a sort of copyright on the dollar. And I think it all makes sense to me now because whenever we are saying $44 billion, no one is questioning the Geographical Indicator. It’s gone beyond being a symbolic notion of soft power — since it’s now about hard cash, at least virtually, even if it is in the form of digital or crypto currency.

As we all know, the buzz around $44 billion came into being ever since Elon Musk has offered to buy an app called Twitter for that sum. I’m sure many people have made a customised version of ‘$44 billion’ their new passwords for net banking — hoping they can also roll in the moolah like the man behind the Tesla wheel.

My cleaner inhabits a very non-Tesla dimension. He likes the Tata Nano (I also like it, my father owns one and refuses to give up on it). He is from Andhra Pradesh, my cleaner, but has a suspiciously North Indian (read: Punjabi) name; and he communicates with me verbally in Hindi and a smattering of English, and on WhatsApp in chaste English. The other day, he told me that his friends — who he shares a flat with — are very excited about “a very rich man in Amreeka” who is buying Twitter for some record sum of monies.

“Oh, are you on Twitter?” I asked.

“But of course madam, although I prefer Facebook any day,” he said. “On Twitter, I follow Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan… and Ram Charan, you know that actor who starred in RRR… have you watched RRR?”

“No, I haven’t, is it any good?” I decided to indulge in small talk.

“It’s fantastic madam, you must watch it, we watched it in 3D, my friends and I, and spent Dh45 per head, and we were wondering if that’s a lot of money, but then a few others in my group mentioned this very rich man who wants to buy Twitter for a very large sum of money — more money than what went into the making of RRR…”

“Yes, $44 billion,” I muttered.

“How much is that in Indian rupees?” he wanted to know.

“I don’t think it’s even feasible to do the math… but tell me, do you know the man’s name, the man who’s about to buy Twitter?”

“I don’t,” he sighed. “All I know is that he’s very rich. Now if he’s so rich, he could have made a movie like RRR — what’s the fun in buying Twitter, which is quite boring if you ask me…”

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