Aug 10, 2011

The Change

"Please give me an exact change of Rs.7 Sir. I do not have coins in my cash drawer", pleaded the restaurant manager when I produced Rs. 10 note to settle down my coffee bill.

Being a regular visitor, I knew the manager personally, and so I told him, "No problem sir, I will collect the change later on when I come for another cup of coffee". I did not want to wait for the change then as I had to catch Navjeevan Express which would leave in another 2 hours.

I had a sleepless night earlier for I was afraid of sleeping off and missing the train. I badly needed cups (mugs!) of coffee to keep me awake till I boarded the train. So, it wasn't a surprise when I stopped again at another restaurant as soon as I cycled to the main gate, to grab another cup of coffee.

"Sir, please give me Rs.8 change. I am just now opening the shop", the manager pleaded even before I placed the order.

Desperate to have the cup of coffee, I said, "It is ok Sir, I do not mind the change. Please produce the bill so that I can collect my cup of coffee from the counter". Saying this, I produced a ten rupees note, collected the bill, and produced it at the coffee counter to grab my cup of hot coffee, all the while wondering where do the coins produced by the Government of India go to!

Chennai sleeps early (around 9.30PM) and wakes up early. The beggars wake up along with Chennai, in the wee hours, get ready in their shabby, torn clothes with old aluminum plates to collect their alms in.

"Beggars deals with coins! Maybe I will give a ten rupee note, and collect 8 or 9 rupees as coins in return. After all, he must be happy to give me the change for he is getting alms in return", so I thought.

"Sir, I do not have change with me. Please give alms so that I can have a bun and tea", he begged.

As if God heard my distress alarm then, a bus that will take me to Chennai Central stopped in front of the shop, and I boarded immediately to avoid myself from donating a ten rupees note to the beggar!

"Please tender exact change", shouted the conductor from his seat looking at me as I boarded the bus. Well, do I have an option? The conductor must have been happy to have me on the bus for I ended up paying Rs. 10 to buy a 4 rupees ticket!

Where the hell does all the coins produced by the Indian government go? I asked myself the same question again.

The Monday morning weather of Chennai was cold and sultry, and the early morning breeze blew on my face through the window, making me feel sleepy, temporarily relieving my mind of thinking about the change.

After about 30 minutes, the bus crawled into the Chennai Central stop. I got down from the bus, collected my baggage, walked to the station, went past the security check at the entrance, noted down my platform number from inquiry, and reached the platform. I still have about half an hour to go!

It was then when I was thinking about having another cup of coffee I heard the familiar voice "hey Jam!", calling me. I looked back to find that it was from my aunt, who was returning from Bangalore after spending her summer with her daughter and son-in-law.

"Hello, aunt! How are you? Its been long time since we met!", I asked her with courteous regard.

"I am good, my son. Where are you leaving to? You do not have time to keep in touch with old people nowadays huh?", she asked. I shied away with a smile.

"I am going to Ahmedabad by Navjeevan express, on an official visit aunt", I said. When I was about to explain more about the official trip, she cut me in and said "Son, do you know why it is called as Navjeevan?"

I tried to think of some answer, but before I replied with a yes or no, she continued, "it passes through nav (nine) jeevan (life) rivers.

While I was about to ask her to name the nine rivers for me, she took all the coins she had in her purse and said "here, take these coins. Sit next to a window seat, and whenever the train crosses the rivers, throw some of these coins, thinking about our family!"