Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chavanni, Atthanni aur Rupaiya... Raja, Kalmadi aur Radia! (Part-1)

First we had the 'sovereigns'. A time when... gold coins reigned. And rained. Then their reign ended. Since "all that glitters is not gold". Thereafter... the elderly and senile poly-tricks brigade took over... 'Coz "old is gold".

We called these gold coins 'mohars'... and they were abundant... courtesy 'the Company'. But now it is difficult to even spot the 'gulmohar' trees... what to say of the 'mohars'. The philosophy of 'company ka maal, dariya mein daal'... resulted in the 'Boston tea party'... without wine, cheese, caviar and Page 3. This in turn resulted in the American Revolution... and the awakening of Uncle Sham. And the world has not been the same again. See... chai and paani makes for some dangerous concoction! Take your (non Darjeeling/Assam) tea and shove it.

After the 'Mohar'... came the humble 'Anna'. Not Anna Kournikova silly! Just plain Jane... 'Anna'. However... this 'Anna' was immortalized by Kishore Kumar in the song 'paanch rupaiya baara anna... marega bhaiya na na na na'.

One Anna was equal to 1/16th of a Rupee. It was subdivided into 4 Paisa or 12 Pies. Thus there were 64 Paisa in a Rupee and 192 Pies. Shortly thereafter... we all ate humble pie... courtesy 'Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai'.

Sometimes, 50-Paisa is colloquially referred to as aath (8) anna... that is 'Atthanni' in Hindi. Since cost of living generally likes to live life King-size (or is it Emperor size?) and be a permanent high-flier... paeans were sung to the not quite humble 'atthanni' viz. 'aamdani atthanni, kharcha Rupaiya'... even inspiring a Bollywood movie by that name.

Last heard... the government of India has taken a decision (!!!) to withdraw '25-paisa' coins from circulation from June 30 2011. From this day the 25-paisa coins will cease to be legal tender in the country... and will be consigned to history. The days of 'chavanni' and 'char anna' are numbered... so to speak. Even beggars can and will be choosers... and thumb their noses at the theory of 'beggars can't be choosers'. Boo!

But this act of our very 'charitable' government will give a promotion to 'chavanni chaps' throughout the country... thus ensuring a substantial vote bank.

But don't underestimate the 'char anna'. After all... a pair of hands belonging to someone who was not even a 'char anna' or a primary member of the King Cong... is the hand that rocks the cradle... and rules this anna-less nation.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement that, "The minimum denomination coin acceptable for transaction will be 50-paise from that date."

... But 50-Paisa isn't enough to buy dates!

... Plus the 'atthanni' has not taken too kindly to this demotion... and is planning to go on a hunger strike... demanding a separate nation. But may make a climb down and settle for... demanding a separate state instead.

From June 30, 2011, together with 25-paise coins, all other coins of lesser denomination: one paisa, two paise, three paise, five paise, ten paise and twenty paise also 'will not be accepted in transactions', it said. Most of these coins vanished a long while ago as the government found the cost of minting them many times more than their face value. You see... these above-mentioned paise did not have a Face Book account... since FB was yet to take its virtual birth. They may decide to sue Lark Zuckerberg for causing loss of face value.

The colloquial saying... 'Char anna murgi, barah anna masala' too have to be modified... in keeping with the times. It literally means: Chicken for 4 annas, spices for 12! Actually means: In adversity, everything takes a bad turn.

It would be modified to: 'Aath anna murgi, ek rupaiya masala'... while adversity will remain... constant. Except for the humble servants.

Meanwhile... the 'Paisa' was characterised by: "Paisa, Paisa, Paisa, Paisa... Tu Bhagwan hai kaisa?" And "Paisa phenk tamasha dekh."

India introduced her first decimal coins in 1957. The coins were initially called 'Naye Paise', or new Paise, to distinguish them from the previous coins. In order to aid the visually challenged people, each coin was distinctly different. Wonder why though. Kyunki 'yeh paisa bolta hai'.

A rhinoceros is featured on the 1994 - 25-paise. This is very symbolic. 'Coz both are nearly extinct.

The 1999 - 50-Paisa features the Parliament building and a map of India. The mere presence of the former... is a sure shot health insurance against the periodic 'withdrawl from circulation' virus. Therefore the 50-paisa aka atthanni cannot be retired. Movie halls from across the country... can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Meanwhile... the stock of chlormint will continue to travel northward... guaranteeing fresh breath and a permanently lit batti in the dimaag.

Once the 'Rupee' aka 'Rupaiya' appeared... it inspired the 1955 and 1976 Bollywood films titled: 'Sabse Bada Rupaiya'... and the song by the same name (sung by the late Mehmood). The song had the following brilliant lines... which captured the essence and the importance of the 'Rupaiya' in society and in one's life:

"Na Biwi Na Bacha Na Baap Bada Na Maiyan

The Whole Thing Is That Ke Bhaiya Sabse Bada Rupaiya"

Need we say more...??

OK! Lets hear some Patti Rap then:

palmolive mitti tel gehu ko
(palmolive oil, karosene oil, wheat)

poore nahi poore nahi
(it is not enough)

paise kabhi poore nahi
(money is never sufficient)

ek aana do aana gullak ko tod ke
(one aana [6 paisa], two aana, breaking the piggybank)

char aana aath aana karza varza jod ke
(four aana, eight aana, considering the debts)

ek aana do aana gullak ko tod ke
(one aana [6 paisa: old unit], two aana, breaking the piggy bank)

char aana aath aana karza varza jod ke
(four aana, eight aana, considering the debts, etc.)

handa vanda girwi mein daal ke
(having pawned all the household utensils)

paanch das bheekh le ke paise nahi poore padte
(having got five or ten paise in alms, money does not suffice)

tum ho gyani tum ho gyani
(you are the wise one)

he mirjapur ke tum ho gyani
(hey, you are the wise man of mirzapur)

choona bhatti jhopad patti ragdam patti patti rap
choona bhatti jhopad patti ragdam patti patti rap
tharra bhatti jhagda kothi joota patti tulla patti
tharra bhatti jhagda kothi joota patti tulla patti

(More later...)

Note: Mehmood's yesteryear classic 'Sabse Bada Rupaiya' (1976) returned with the 2005 Bollywood movie 'Bluffmaster!'... starring Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra. A Ramesh Sippy production, the flick has been directed by Rohan Sippy. Keeping Mehmood's original voice intact, this one was remixed by the UK band... Trickbaby. Chetna and Saira Hussain give their additional vocals to this three decades old track. Music: Vishal-Shekhar. The lyrics can be read here. To read the lyrics with English translation click here.

The foot-tapping beats (of the remixed version) make the number quite pleasurable... further helping you to dance to the tunes... as the song progresses. (Link)

The lyrics of the song 'paanch rupaiya baara aana marega bhaiya na na na na'... from the 1958 movie 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi' can be found here.

The Patti Rap lyrics are from the 1995 movie 'Humse Hai Muqabla'... starring actor-dancer Prabhu Deva, Nagma, Vadivelu and Girish Karnad. Written and directed by S. Shankar. Complete lyrics: here. Alternatively click here. Incidentally... this was the dubbed version of the 1994 Tamil movie 'Kadhalan'... which was a huge commercial success. This was the first Tamil movie to be dubbed in Hindi. The Telugu version was called 'Premikudu'. 'Kadhalan' means 'Lover' in English.

A. R. Rahman composed the background music score and the soundtrack. The soundtrack, released as Kadhalan: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, features 9 songs composed by Rahman, with lyrics scored by Vaali and Vairamuthu. This soundtrack cemented the popularity of A. R. Rahman and earned him national acclaim. New styles were experimented with, as in the song "Pettai Rap", a Madras bashai song that was written in a rap-like style, interspersing Tamil with English words.

The synthesizer and the keyboard feature while drawing from Tamil folk music. Songs like "Urvasi Urvasi" and "Muqabala Muqabala" became huge hits and were played everywhere in South India. Even in the rest of the country... these songs gained popularity because of the dubbing of the movie into Hindi.

On Coins and Mohars: Do read:

1. Gold Coins of India (link)
2. Earliest known coins from India (link)
3. Coins of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan from ancient times to the present (link)

Photographs: Courtesy link.

1. India's first decimal coins includes odd shapes: This six coin set includes the round 1 Naye Paisa, scalloped edge 2 Naye Paisa, the square 5 Naye Paise, the scalloped edge 10 Naye Paisa, the round 25 Naye Paise, all dated 1957, and the round 50 Naye Paise dated 1960, its first year of issue. The coins have the denomination on one side and the Lion Capital of Emperor Ashok from the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. The Ashoka Pillar was erected around 250 B.C. and now serves as the national emblem of India. All 6 coins are uncirculated.

2. Modern Indian coin sets includes odd shapes: This set of ten recent coins of India includes 6 odd-shaped coins. Included is the 11-sided 2002 - 2 Rupee features a map of India. The 2001 - 1 Rupee is struck in stainless steel. The 1999 - 50-Paisa features the Parliament building and a map of India. A rhinoceros is featured on the 1994 - 25-paise. The aluminum 1988 - 20-Paisa coin is a seven-sided coin. The 1988 - 10-paisa is also struck in stainless steel. The square 5-Paisa is dated 1993. The 1971 - 3-Paisa coin is a six sided coin. The 1976 - 2-Paisa has scallopped edges. The 1972 - 1-Paisa is square. Because of their low purchasing power and the high cost of production, the lower four denominations are no longer issued and are increasingly difficult to get. The reverse of the coins features three lions from the ancient Lion Capital of Ashoka, a sandstone pillar from the third century B.C. It is an interesting set that includes a variety of unusual shapes.


  1. Loved the Patti Rap! That's a hidden side of your talents! :D
    But on a more serious note, in my bachpan ka piggy bank, which I have kept till date, there are some 5 paisa and 10 paisa coins that I so diligently collected. Twenty years back, a twenty Five paisa coin meant all the world! Feel bad it's out of business now..

  2. @ Preeti: Ummm... the Patti Rap is courtesy the 1995 film 'Humse Hai Muqabala'... starring Prabhu Deva. I have mentioned it in the notes at the end of the post :)

    "Twenty years back, a twenty Five paisa coin meant all the world! Feel bad it's out of business now.."


    Tinkle and ACK (Amar Chitra Katha) used to cost between Rs. 2.00 - 4.00 back then. Sigh! Those were really good ol' days... minus all the mindless serials and breaking news...

  3. This is awesome....bringing back memories of aath anna-ar jhaal muri during primary school days :)

  4. Enjoyed reading this post, as usual, Roshmi!

    I remember the old 'kal anaa'means quarter anaa, which was copper round coin with a hole in the middle. The char anaa was small and heavy compared to the current ones.

    I remember using 50p coin, I think, which was said to be having silver content which had more value than the 50p and people started hoarding them, without using them!

    Old 10p. coin was unique and heavier! Hmmm...nice to read about these coins!

    Kaadhalan was a hit here and I love nearly all the songs in the movie esp. 'yennavale', sung by Unni Krishnan! Rahman is great! The movie was also an entertainer! SP Balasubramanyam did a good role in that movie!

    I used to always buy the Rs.2 Amarchitra katha for my children...I must have had the full collection!

    Well researched post and enjoyed reading, Roshmi!

  5. infrmatv like alwaz... tho i liked d coins pic at d start more... ;P myb like d small kid who wud prefer a buk wid pictures 2 one wid words.. :)

  6. Hail the Rapper Queen!!

    Loved ur rap. Yours is always a hilarious read! U make boring facts so enjoyable!!!

  7. It has been a while since I visited your blog (even my blog too). This is a brilliant post with wealth of information and the way you addressed the infamous trio is superb.. Hats of to you and waiting for more.
    Happy new year to you and your family tooo !!!!

  8. @ Indian Pundit: Thik tai! How I miss those jhal muris :(

  9. @ Sandhya: Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle... Ah! Those were the days...

    "'kal anaa'means quarter anaa, which was copper round coin with a hole in the middle."

    ... Never heard of this 'kal anaa'. Nowadays it means: come tomorrow :D

  10. @ Tangerine: Thanks girl! :)

    Ummm... the Patti Rap is courtesy the 1995 film 'Humse Hai Muqabala'... starring Prabhu Deva. I have mentioned it in the notes at the end of the post :)

  11. @ Thanks a bunch... and wish you the same :)

  12. Both interesting and humorous post :) Arre what 50 p is the govt talking about. Nowadays nobody accepts that too. Shopkeepers just round off prices..even beggars dont take it.

  13. @ Reema: True! Nowadays... we have to beg with the beggars to accept the atthanni ;)

  14. Recently, price of milk has been increased here, to the very insane figures of 25.50, 33.50 etc. So the 50 paise coins are definitely being put to use here!

    I still have many of those old coins btw. From the 2nd image in the post, I think I'm only missing the 2 paisa coin. Will have to check. And from the older set (the first image), I'll have to confirm on the 5 paise coin.

    Btw, there were some big Rs. 5 and Rs. 10 coins too I believe.

  15. @ Kaddu: Great to have you back :)

    From June 30, 2011, together with 25-paise coins, all other coins of lesser denomination: 1 paisa, 2 paise, 3 paise, 5 paise, 10 paise and 20 paise also 'will not be accepted in transactions'.

    ... The atthanni is very much in business.

    The insane figures of 25.50, 33.50 etc help the manufacturers and sellers to round it off to the nearest rupee. While the buyers are given chlormint instead ;)

    "Btw, there were some big Rs. 5 and Rs. 10 coins too I believe."

    ... Yes, there are. My nephew has even seen a Rs. 100 coin...

  16. Woah! 100 rupee coin! I would like to see that! :D

    And I showed the 2nd part of this post (the latest one) to Dad today... he totally loved it! :D

  17. @ Kaddu: Thanks! Glad to know that Uncleji loved that post :)

    P.S. I'm wondering... how would a thousand-rupee coin look like??