“Change nei hai madam, toffee le lo,” (We don’t have change madam, take some candies) is often the well-versed suggestion shop attendants give when you are unable to pay them the exact amount. Now to make the most of your money you are forced to buy a couple of useless toffees which get dumped and forgotten inside your bag until that rare day when you decide to de-clutter it!
Is the availability of change so rare that they always keep a jar or two handy to stuff some colourful wrappers into your hands with a smile? At times there may be crisis of the jingles but there are also situations when some vendors willingly or lazily hand over little somethings to round off the bill. Where do all the coins go? Have they stopped making coins in the mints or are there some voracious coin collectors who desperately grab them all and never let them go? Who are the members of this chillar party?
While a child, I remember to be extremely happy when a shopkeeper used to be generous enough to give me candies rather than unnecessary coins which always used to slip off between the fingers and made me hover around over and after the rolling metals. Similarly now when children are sent to shops to collect some items they come back with some more, happily.
Suddenly the other day I discovered that there is somewhere a child within me that craves for these candies! As the man behind the counter gave me some unknown candy I demanded to know whether he had the ones I liked. He stared at me for a while as if to confirm that it was me who enquired, the same way some websites need you to type irrelevant codes to clarify you are not a machine! Then he went around looking for the one I had asked for and finally came up with a shameful smile declaring that he does not have it. Exactly at that time from the corner of my eye I saw it deep inside a jar full of miscellaneous candies and I pointed it out with great enthusiasm. To this, he looked both defeated and relieved, and struggled to get it out from the jar for me. It somehow felt special, as if choosing the forced gift was a right to be enjoyed by one and all. If they are making you buy one, you better get the best of the lot, uncompromisingly. Yet again, it is not worth it, since you have to remember to have them or they would just rot somewhere in a corner.
There are also some firm customers who stick to what they need and come up with a no-nonsense face declaring that they won’t accept unimportant titbits like candies and shampoo sachets. That is when the hidden treasure comes jingling its way out. Another and very frequently practiced custom is to remember or note down the amount to be received by either parties, and eventually rounding it off on the next purchase. But this practice is only viable when you have developed a cordial relation with the shop attendant.
This menace of ‘demanding change’ is not new and is not restricted to shopkeepers alone. In cities like Kolkata where travelling short distances is easy via autos the auto drivers create a pandemonium in case you are unable to pay him the exact amount. Similar cases happen in Delhi with customers and regular office goers when the vendors and rickshaw pullers complain of not having enough change. Either you keep losing Rs 5 everyday or you argue and find a way out (which usually nobody does, due to lack of time).
With this menace dancing around the country, it is time to get a ‘change’ and control the change crisis before it gets too late and we are left to suffer the ill balanced eco(nomic)-system with the extinction of coins.