I discover one day that coins are scattered all across the house. Some in my wallet, some in my laptop pouch, my wife’s purse, many in the shelves and drawers all around, coins everywhere.
I wonder why there were so many coins and then it strikes me. Coins enter the household via myriad transactions with the sabji-wallah, cigarette seller, grocer etc. A coin by itself these days has no buying power and hence it remains consigned within the house. And it is quite a task to put them together to extract some “collective” purchasing power as it were. And hence they gather over months, even years.
There, my own theory of the financial greenhouse effect: A green house traps heat as the heat which comes in cannot go out as it is “weakened”, something similar too with the humble coin!
In an inspired moment over a weekend, I think I should contribute to the household tidiness by putting these coins together. I summon my kids and we set about unearthing coins from all corners of the house. They ooze out from everywhere, some from even the little medicine box we have, probably a reflection of the second decimal place pricing of medicines and hence the consequent “change” received in each transaction.
“But Papa, why are we collecting all these coins?” asks the younger son.
I fancy myself as a great parent and I proceeded to give him a homily about how each paise counts. “Boond boond sey ghada bharta hai”, etc. I am not sure he understood, but my sons did enjoy inserting the coins, one-by-one, into an innovated piggy bank which I fashion from an empty plastic carton. I seal the sides of the flaps with some sturdy plaster tape and cut open with a knife an aperture on the top of the cube to insert the coins.
“This now is our piggy bank. And we shall ensure that all the coins are placed into this.” I intone.
“But what happens when this box is full?” asks the elder one now.
“We shall see, we shall see”, is my response.
“No, but tell me, what shall we do with these coins when the box gets full”, persists Son the Elder.
Then comes my big brainwave. “A dinner at Hotel Leela’s Jamavar with all the money we collect.” Jamavar is our favourite restaurant. What a motivational device for the kids. And the wife!
Son the younger is incredulous. “Papa, you must be joking.” Poor chap cannot comprehend that a Jamavar meal could be had in exchange for a box full of coins. He has always seen me settling the bill with my credit card!
“But how are you sure that the boxful of coins will be enough to pay for the restaurant bill?” The elder son, ever the objective type, queries.
This has me stumped for a while. Really, how could I ever know this.
Then comes a bigger brainwave. Time now to mix some academics to this exercise!
“How would you calculate the volume of this cube?” I say referring to our piggy bank.
“Simple, it is a cube, so length into breadth into height is the volume. Since all sides are equal…..” the objective one’s voice trails off. “But what has this got to do with the amount of money?” he pipes up again.
The rest of the Math is a bit complicated but suffice it to say that among the 3 of us we agree upon the average size of the coins (the new 50 paise coin), stack up 20 of them together (that’s Rs 10 worth of coins), measure the height and diameter of this pile. And then do a pi-r-squared-h number on this one and reach an approximation of the “volume occupied per rupee” in a manner of speaking. And then it is a simple exercise: divide the volume of the cube with the volume “per rupee” and we have a fairly good approximation of what the amount collected would be like once our piggy bank is full.
I do not remember the amount now but it was more than what we have ever paid at Jamavar during our prior visits. Maybe a few hundred rupees less to account for the gaps between the coins. Afterall, the coins inserted are not expected to slide down into neat cylinders inside the piggy bank.
Elder one is agape with admiration while the younger one cannot comprehend the complexities but is now pretty convinced that Jamavar is not so far, after all! And I, a proud father, preen with glory that not only I am tidying up the house but also inculcating values of small savings in my kids and teaching them applied mensuration. “Waah, waah”, I said to myself.
The next few days the entire family is busy inserting spare coins into the box. The loose change kept in the car to enable the driver to pay the parking fee is removed by the kids and inserted into the piggy bank. My wife looks forward to receiving more coins from the sabji-wallah’s, in fact she would ask for it. I am happy that the price of a pack of my brand of cigarettes goes up from Rs 80 to Rs 88. That meant I can contribute Rs 2 per packet bought. (When I mention this to my wife, her response is terse: “You could contribute Rs 88 for every packet not smoked if you quit smoking.” I keep quiet about my contribution after this!)
Each day the kids check the amount of coin in the piggy bank. Not a difficult exercise as the carton is made of translucent plastic and they can judge the level of the coin by holding the “bank” up against light.
“Papa, this does not seem to be getting filled up”, says the younger one, one evening when I return from office. “What shall we do?”
Not quite the question one expects after a 10-hour stay at the office. And I snap back, “There is a quicker way. You just have to go around all the 384 apartments in our residential complex with this piggy bank and ask for donations for the Jamavar cause. If all drop in a coin on each visit, the box will be full in maybe 3-4 weeks.”
My proposal has no takers! Not surprisingly, my kids are taken aback at this, what they rightly think, is a stupid suggestion while my wife takes-off on me for my silly Jamavar plan and an even sillier plan of donation seeking.
Cut to last fortnight:
I return home after office one evening and the kids come running to me. “Papa, papa, the coin box is full. We verified it this afternoon. When shall we go to Jamavar?”
“This Saturday”, I said, happy that this project of mine was coming to an end.
“Excellent”, the kids clap, “But how do we pay the Jamavar guy?” This credit card generation cannot bridge the distance between the restaurant bill and the box of coins.
“Very simple! We take the box to the restaurant. We sit down. We place the box on our table. When the steward comes to take the order we just tell him to count all the coins in front of us on the table and then we order a meal for a corresponding value.
I do not notice the incredulous faces of my sons and my wife. They are agape with the thought of the steward spreading the coins on the starched table linen, bunching coins of different denominations together and then proceeding to count them.
I continue cheerfully, “The other alternative is that, we proceed towards the cashier’s counter with the check and ask him to help himself to coins from our box corresponding to the check amount.”
Needless to say my brainwaves are vetoed.
We still have a boxful of coins in our cupboard and a Jamavar to visit. Suggestions, anyone?