Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Chavanni

Some time back our Reserve Bank of India administration withdrew 25 paise coin from the market, that is, it is no more a legal tender. And with that withdrawal a little of our culture is lost too. Gone are the days when a chavanni (a 25 paise coin) had its own value, that is, material value or monetary value. Among Indian currency of various denominations, chavanni had its own charm and perhaps more popularity.

I distinctly remember- when I was young- I used to get pocket money of ten rupees a month, a sizable amount then, with instructions from my parents not to carry the entire ‘treasure’ in my pocket to school. I used to request my brother who worked in a bank to convert that ten rupee note (royally big in size then) into 40 chavannis with the intention of spending 4 annas a day. Later the currency was digitized and 4 annas became 25 paise. 16 annas or 100 paise made a rupee. Even though I intended to spend a chavanni a day, still at the end of the month I managed to save at least two rupees. My elder brother gave me an equivalent of the amount I saved at the end of the month. What a thrill it was!

Remembering the chavanni is quite nostalgic. It brings the simple and golden old days to mind. A coke in those days cost 4 annas or a chavanni, if you like. A cinema ticket cost 1 rupee 4 annas in Calcutta. We felt powerful to have a chavanni in our pockets when we went to school. We could have four or more varieties of snacks costing one anna or even less each, like puchka, moshla muri, churans and even sandesh.

A chavanni was also auspicious. When our community ‘Maharaj’ (Brahmin) visited our house, I remember, my mother used to give him 1 rupee 4 annas or ‘sava rupio’ as it was called then. Sava rupio was considered as ‘shukan’ or good luck. When there was an engagement ceremony, the would-be bride was given sava rupio with a coconut as shukan and also as acceptance of the girl in the family. No occasion was complete without that chavanni.

A chavanni also had its funny side. In our Gujarati language it is also called ‘Paavli’. If you wanted to call somebody an idiot or nincompoop, you said: “Aani pavli padi gai chhe.” It translates to “He has lost his mind.” Oh that phase, I feel sad it will never come back. It is lost forever with the chavanni gone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shocking satya

The second episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate on child abuse was a revelation, shocking, overwhelming, overpowering and moving, to say the least. It is not that we were not aware of this nasty side of our society. In fact, we read about it every other day in the news papers. Aamir Khan has brought this ugly fact right into our drawing room. There are many aspects and facts Aamir’s research has disclosed.

For example, if I heard him right, every second child is abused at one stage or the other in his teens. This is absolutely shocking. Another point, according to his research 53% of the children abused are boys. That again means that the percentage of abuse of boys or male child is more than that of girls. So far we were under the impression that girls are suffering more and male child abuse is occasional. Aamir has broken this myth.

The more shocking aspect of the show - even our high courts are not serious or understanding about it. As one gentleman from a NGO said that in one case, when a child was abused orally, the judge said that only penetration was considered rape and there was no penetration in that case. This is absolutely unbelievable. A judge of a high court says this, and still occupies the chair? And according to this courageous gentleman, it took ten years and hearings in the Supreme Court to start a case against the perpetrator. Accused hire the finest lawyers available who ask most filthy questions to the children making them suffer more. Apart from such high courts, we have such lawyers too. The case will go on forever.

What is our society coming to and whom can you trust? What does a child do, what about his childhood and growth? As Aamir rightly said: “Listen to your child and more important, believe him or her.”

Some articles have criticized Aamir for charging huge money for this program. But let me say this, he may have charged but he has done his job and a wonderful job at that. How many actors do that?

Finally, I too believe in defense. Even a murderer should be given a chance to defend himself, but not a child abuser. He should be thrown in the tank right away.