Part of the Rehman Rashid series of reviews

GIRDING my loins and all associated body parts to spend another several thousand ringgit on cigars (as a means both of celebrating the release of my retirement funds and anticipating a time when I will have spent the lot on cigars) I find that I have subconsciously adopted a new unit of personal currency – The Cg (pronounced “Cg”), present exchange rate c.RM70/USD20/EUR15.

We aren’t rich, you see. We are (or have been) mostly working stiffs: wage-earners and salarymen, slaves to the machine, grist to the mill, corporate drones building hives more than making honey, protected against our lives’ quiet desperation by the great & good institution of the Employees’ Provident Fund, God bless them.

We smoke cigars not as accessories enabling the flash of a Lange & Sohne and lacquered cufflinks on the wrist below an Esplendido, but to impart to the mundane toil and struggle of our lives occasional moments of grace.

For us, the value of cigars is not weighed on the scales of the be-yachted and their wanna-bes. These aren’t whimsical indulgences of conspicuous consumption. Whatever cigars mean to those of us who continue to acquire and consume them as their prices explode under the brutal institutionalised sadism of tobacco taxes, the cost of doing so must be factored into personal fiscal management.

Hence, the innovative financial instrument, the Cg. Embroiled as I am at present in the adventure of relocating out of the big city, I find myself managing these expenses in terms of the Cg. For instance, refurbishing the small-town pre-war shophouse I’ll be living in will cost only about 150 Cgs at present rates.

In a Cg-denominated economy, the apparently disproportionate cost of cigars renders everything else reasonably inexpensive. You could have a long weekend in Barcelona for 100 Cgs. A new fridge would cost a mere 20 Cgs; a college education, oh, 10,000 or so, with twinning programmes.

A grand bottle of wine can be had for 10 Cgs; a good one for just one; dinner and a movie for Cg5; major surgery, Cg500. It becomes much easier to evaluate priorities and choices. (Would I rather have a 50-inch 3D HDTV or 80 cigars? I’m thinking, I’m thinking…)

Cg1 = RM70 because that’s how much I’d have to pay a local retailer for the least expensive of my favourite Cuban cigars, which at present is the Vegas Robaina Famosos. Your rate may vary.