Piggy Banks 2: In Which Stray Coins Save the Day

Cut to late 1980’s.

I was staying as a paying guest in Bangalore. I was a bachelor then, so I had to fend for myself for my meals. Mercifully I stayed very close to “Queens”, an eatery on Church street, off Brigade Road. In case you have not discovered it yet, it is highly recommended. I would go there every evening for my dinner. The menu was by-and-large fixed; rotis and a sabzi. I would order a non-veg dish or a daal if I felt rich that evening. The meal would cost some Rs 30-35.

One Saturday evening I realized I did not have any cash with me. Maybe some five rupees, enough to buy me that evening’s stock of smokes. But how do I get a dinner? Remember that era had hardly any credit cards, and no ATMs.

And I was terribly hungry!

I could have asked Anil, the proprietor of Queens, to offer me credit and I was sure he would oblige considering I was a long-standing patron. But I was highly embarrassed at this prospect. “What will he think”, I thought to myself. I am sure he would say, “This big executive with that big company does not have enough cash to pay for a paltry dinner!” One adjective at least was not correct, I was a fledgling product manager and not a “big executive”. But to be honest I was earning enough to pay for a Queens dinner.

And then I realized, while I may have been cash-starved, I certainly was coin-abundant! Coins lying in an old unused ash tray in the house, coins lying in the broken glass bowl next to the two-in-one I had, coins in my wallet, coins in an old cigarette pack, coins strewn behind the rows of books. There were coins everywhere in the house!

I promptly collected all the coins and counted them all; Rs 83! Rupees Eighty Three! That was enough to buy me two meals at Queens with at least one of the meals with a side dish of chicken!

But how would I carry so many coins in my pocket? My pocket would jingle all the way to Queens! As I was wearing my shoes to leave, an idea struck me. A shoe sock to carry the coins, that was the answer! I quickly located an old shoe sock and put all the coins in them. This formed a nice little bundle which I rather sheepishly carried with me. Imagine me walking on Rest House Road (that is where I stayed) and then across Church Street to Queens. Me and my sock-ful of coins.

Upon reaching Queens I looked around furtively for known faces. Mercifully there were none that time. I placed the sock (thankfully washed) in front of Anil. I am sure Anil was totally bewildered by this. I inched closer to him and explained my predicament. I requested him to use this to recover the due for that evening’s meal and the balance for the following evening’s!

Anil, being the polite guy he is, he swept aside the coin thaili without even counting the coins. “Enjoy your dinner”, he said.

Enjoy my dinner I did. Thank you Queens, and thank you coins!

To be concluded

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