Humour: Only one rupee!?

What's the value of one rupee? That depends on when you ask

I recall the girl I was in 1962 and relive the magical moment when, in a small section of a spacious schoolyard, I pounced on a precious piece of purple paper.

"Please give me something for my moneybox,” said Gabriel with a winsome smile. He spoke with the confidence of a seven-year-old who has firm faith in the scriptural dictum, ‘Ask and it will be given to you.’

It was a routine request. My husband and I have been encouraging our grand-nephew to save towards the imaginative items that he yearns to possess (a drone helicopter and a fishing boat among them). Consequently, whenever Gabriel visits us, we augment his funds.

Delving into my handbag for a 10-rupee note, I fished out one rupee! I held it out to Gabriel, who looked at the coin as if it were counterfeit currency from the board game Monopoly. In a derisive tone, he exclaimed, “Only one rupee!”

“Gabriel,” I said gently, drawing him close to me, “Do you know that even when I was older than you, my pocket money was just one rupee a week?” If I had hoped to appease the little fellow, I was disappointed. His face wore the aggrieved expression of one who is reluctantly related to a disadvantaged dinosaur.

After Gabriel had left (placated by the promise of presents), I thought about the sum he had scorned. There was a time, several decades ago, when it held plentiful purchasing power, at least for a child. I especially recollect an occasion when I was thrilled to acquire it. Attending a wedding in Madras (not Chennai then), I was staying with my family at a school (closed for the summer holidays) that had been arranged for the guests. Crossing a quadrangle, I chanced upon a one-rupee note!

In his poem 'Memorabilia', Robert Browning describes his delight at discovering an eagle’s feather on a vast expanse of land. The incident held such significance for him that he never forgot the ‘hand’s breadth’ of the moor where he had found it. I have been teaching that poem for years and whenever I read it, I travel back in memory.

I recall the girl I was in 1962 and relive the magical moment when, in a small section of a spacious schoolyard, I pounced on a precious piece of purple paper. If I wish to share this story with Gabriel, I may have to pay him to listen. What will he regard as reasonable remuneration for granting me his attention?

Definitely more than one rupee!

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