Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adios chavanni

Today was the last day of Indian chavvani or chaar aana that to be legally used. It was launched in 1950 as an Indian rupee unit and served its purpose well for 61 years. I still remember seeing ek aana or one paisa being in circulation. Though, as I started to recognize the world around me ek aana was put to rest. It became a collector's item and we as kids could not keep our hands off of one. As I lost my piggybank I don't even know if I will ever see it again. That time ek aana could not buy anything but one single "Kampat" a locally made toffy. On the other hand while ek aana was setting down in oblivion the other unit - 10 paisa quietly lost its value. Time spiked and even beggars stopped asking for a 10 paisa grant. Thats when the chavanni had its value. Unlike its predecessors chavanni was special. Its value hovered around as a unit that can make the "other unit" bigger. An increase of 25 paisa in bus/tempo fair raised eyebrows as students. Having one in my pockets made me feel richer and losing one could have meant loss in purchasing power. Chavanni was small and circular, like our world. It was easy to exchange as a favor, like love that could put a smile on a face without hurting the giver. Chavanni was the only unit that I have ever heard used as a name to call the boys working on road side dhabas or assistance to truckers. But like many other good things it did find its abuser too. It came with a class system. Calling one a chavanni would mean to demean him. Many people would not know that India used a different metric system in its past. 1 Rupee (or 100 paisa) was equivalent to 16 aanas. Chavanni (a quarter - 4 aanas) and Atthanni (8 aanas or 50 paisa) were the only two units that were quietly migrated to the new metric system as they were easier to divide between 100 and 16 a challenge that 10 paisa could not deal with. Now Atthanni is alone. It has lost its partner. Its the last bastion of the old aana system though not in use. As Chavvanni slowly leaves the market with heavy remembrance of its past I can hear it sing this tune:

जाते हैं ये जगह छोड़ के अंधेरों कि तरफ,
काश बैठा न होता मैं संग नोट हज़ार के।
जबकि उड़ते रहे बड़े नोट मॉलों में हर तरफ,
मैं धूल खाता रहा ताउम्र छोटे बाज़ार के।

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