I was walking down the road with an umbrella overhead to protect myself from the scorching afternoon sun when I spotted a child of around eight or nine years, dressed in dirty rags searching for something, closely inspecting every small pebble on the road. As a part of a voluntary organization, I also teach those kids who are the children of construction workers residing in neighbouring areas, I called him and asked him what he had lost. He replied that he had lost his five rupee coin. I too joined in his hunt for the five rupee coin. After five minutes of search in vain I was exhausted and told him that the coin was lost and that we better end the search operation. But he said that it was a gold coin (the new five rupee coins that come out) and was adamant to find it. I mumbled some excuse of having lunch and then going to class and continued on my way, the heat clearly beating me. The child continued his search in hot sun, without even a cap on his head.
In the evening when I met him, he triumphantly showed me his precious (gold) coin, the one that he had lost and found. I smiled and patted him on his back. He asked me whether I wanted some of the sweets that he was planning to buy with his small treasure. I smiled once again and shook my head in affirmative and continued with the math that I was teaching him.
But he had taught me a greater lesson that day. He had taught me the value of money, that of even small denominations. Having grown in middle class or affluent families we often don’t understand the real value of money, having more than sufficient of it to survive on. One, two or five rupee coins are considered as of negligible value by most of us; while for many others even hundred rupee notes are just playthings that they can just grab from their dad’s cash cabin or from their own fat salaries. But remember, every time you flaunt your money, there is someone out there for whom every penny he earns is dear and precious. There are countless people for whom every single rupee they make is essential to keep the fire burning in their homes.
There are many in society who have hardly any respect for the currency notes. They fold it a hundred times and jab it into their pockets and sometimes even forget it in there till it comes back from the laundry, dry cleaned. There are many for whom a torn hundred rupee can just be thrown across into the dustbin.
The garland of currency notes that Ms. Mayawati accepted openly during a public rally is an act of disrespect to our currency. In full view of hundreds of common people who struggle to meet both ends meet, the presentation of a garland of 1000 rupee notes worth nearly rupees five crores to a public servant was a flaunting of wealth and an extravagant show of money. This vulgar display of money is an insult to the nation and can send a wrong signal as to the worth and value of these currency notes. I was just caught up in thinking of how many poor people in our country could have benefited from the garland that was presented to the head of the BSP!
Children should be taught from a young age to handle money with care and to respect it. They should be taught not to soil it or disfigure it and to treat it with care and caution because it is what feeds you, clothes you and helps you in securing the necessities of life. Money, though not the supreme necessity of life, is something that still helps you buy many luxuries in life and is to be treated with deference and not flaunted in public.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.