The world-wide recession has diminished the purchasing power of money, making some of the essential commodities beyond the reach of the common man and now Rupee has gone beyond the Rs.57/- mark in exchange to One US Dollar.
The memories of the good old days when Rupee had it’s purchasing power, are still fresh in my mind and I thought to pen down these few lines for my readers to read and believe that even the coins had enough value in the Golden days.
Five decades ago, I was dropped daily at the school gate by our driver in our car which was of ‘Opel’ make. It’s shiny chrome-plated wheels had iron spokes, it’s stepney rested on the right hand side mud-gaurd, and it had a horn, which is similar to a breast pump which I blew once everytime after alighting and it used to make a distinct sound – ‘chi-ghawn-uk’.
From the gate I had to run towards the big playfield outside the main building of our School for the prayer assembly, otherwise we could be scolded for being late. There we used to recite ‘O Lord thou Art in Heaven, Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come’, while the lovely breeze full of the fragrance from the pine tree leaves blew across the field.
While running towards the field, I use to hear two distinct sounds; one of the Geometry box in my heavy back-pack and the other of the coins in my pocket. The more the sound of the coins, the more happier I was.
In the pre-decimal era a Rupee had 16 annas or 64 paise. One-fourth of a Rupee was called a ‘chavanni’. If I bought something by paying this coin, the shopkeeper used to rub the coin on his left palm to ascertain it’s genuineness before accepting it. Such was it’s value.
Coins had tremendous purchasing power. In those days I could buy a pastry for two paisas during the interval at 11.00 am from the ‘Chocolate Corner’, shop outside St, Josephs Acadmey or a small ice-cream [kulfi] for another two paisas after close of school.
Accordingly, my Dad used to give me 2 or three annas every morning which were more than sufficient for the day. And once in a while I was thankful that he gave me a ‘chavanni’ (four annas coin = 1/4th of a Rupee). That day I used to be the king of the Class, brimming with confidence.
With a ‘chavanni’ I could buy cholla bhaturas, lassi and a few more snacks which I desired to eat. We could even go to a movie hall in the four-anna class where students used to do a lot of hullah-gullah. Once our group of students went to see ‘Do Ustad’ a Sheikh Muktar starrer and freaked out in the four-anna class.
A cup of Coffee and a King size Samosa could be bought for a ‘chavanni’ in an up-scale restaurant and if a ‘chavanni’ was given as tip to a waiter in Kwality Restaurant [Pride of the Town], he used to salute us with utmost respect.
This reminds me of the famous dictum – ‘You take care of your coins, your notes will take care of themselves’. But this doesn’t hold good anymore.
This does’nt hold good now, because coins have no value at all. As it is, even the notes have also lost their value today. A beggar also does not accept a ‘chavanni’ or a 50 paise coin. They demand at least 5 or 10 rupees note.
The coins are hence utilised by putting them in the donation box of a temple, and that too for our own satisfaction.
The 21st Century has witnessed a drastic change in the purchasing power of money world-wide.
Slowly and gradually, the little siblings of the ‘chavanni’ went into coma and one fine day the Reserve Bank of India issued an order that a ‘chavanni’ was no longer a legal tender.
The ‘chavanni’ was thus, dead and buried. I felt very sad.
It would have been better if alongwith the 25 paise coin, the elder sibling, the 50 paise coin, had also been buried by the Reserve Bank of India. Our neighbourhood stores have started marking the MRP of all products in whole rupees and the decimal is only found nowadays in the price of newspaper ie Rs. 2.50p or Rs.3.50paise.
Those of us who have lived through the cheap and cheerful days of the ‘chavanni’ today mournfully bid adieu to it’s successor the 25 paise coin. I pray, one day, it should have the power to buy something, as the chavanni had.