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Money matters

Statesman News Service |

The county-wide cash-crunch and empty ATMS makes one long for the good old days when 10-rupee and 100-rupee notes could buy a lot. Grandfather got Rs 10 a month as salary for filling up gun-powder in cartridges at the Fort and was able to meet the family budget. And why not? For a rupee one could buy 25 seers of the best wheat.

Now for Rs 260 you get just 10 kilos of wheat flour (atta). Mutton was 5 paisa a seer (almost a kilo). Now it is Rs 480 a kg. Salt was one anna a seer, now it’s Rs 18 a kg. One paisa of dhania powder lasted three days. One dhela was enough to buy ginger (adrak). Potatoes were 2 paisa a seer and tomatoes slightly more. So where was the need for big notes from banks and ATMS ~ and cash-crunch?

An old resident of Vithalbhai Patel House was curious to know in a letter to this newspaper, how many damaries made up a rupee. Now the damari was among the smallest coins of the old currency systems, though it continued to be in use for some time even after the British takeover from the Mughals. Only the cowrie (seashell) was smaller than it and the dhela slightly higher in the monetary denomination.

The damari, akin to the proverbial widow’s mite, also figures in stories, like the dacoit chief who, on being repeatedly asked for a damari he owed a member, took off the head-gear of a one-eyed dacoit and threw it with the remark, “Damari ke badle pugree ley ley (Take this in lieu).”

Now for the damari: It was one-fourth of a paisa in most places and one-eighth of it in a few others. Since 64 paisa made up a rupee, 256 damaries, or 512, equalled it. Well, the damari has been long out of circulation despite some nursery rhymes. Since 25 seers of the best quality wheat cost just a rupee in the good old days, a rupee as per present rates was equal to Rs 500. That would mean a damari would be worth Rs 2 ~ not such a small coin after all! So keep the ATMs functioning!