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.