Random Thoughts

Coins with Fungus

Ever since the establishment of Railways in 1853, when first train chugged off from Boribunder to Thane, wages to its employees are paid by way of currency in vogue. British later renamed Boribunder as Victoria Terminus. We Indians can not lag behind, so we very quickly rechristened it after our great warrior. As they say, it was a major operation of sex change when Victoria (terminus) emerged as Chhatrapti Shivaji (terminus). Provision of payment of wages in the valid currency exists in Payment of Wages Act 1936. Railways, a great network do not make the payment to all its employees on first of every month. Instead, due to a massive number of employees spread over a large area, wages are paid on different but fixed dates. Although salary is paid on ‘assumed attendance’ basis for full month yet absence, if any, is adjusted in the following month.

Bandikui was a major Railway activity center. Prior to carving out railway territory into divisions in 1956, Bandikui was a place of far greater significance than Jaipur.Those were the days of British Raj. Wages were paid in the form of prevailing silver coins.

There was this Dr. William Craft posted in a senior position as Divisional Medical Officer at Bandikui. Whenever DPC (Divisional Pay Clerk) with heavy bag of silver coins and menacing ‘security guards’ in toe, would visit Bandikui for disbursing wages, Dr Craft shall sit beside him and begin his ‘examination’ of coins, yes ! You read it right, examination of coins, coin by coin, one by one. The coins which had green fungus on them, he would pick aside for ‘closer’ or so to say intensive examination. He would begin the scrutiny of coins by poking lead pencil and digging out clean whatever little fungus he could, out of the faces (head and tail) of the coins.

All those coins which still had fungus deep entrenched in them, finally, he would place them apart. Such ten to fifteen rupees worth of different denomination 'dangerous' coins, he would then order, to bury deep underneath the mother earth. He was of the firm opinion that these fungus laden coins are ‘deadly’. Anyone who comes in contact with these coins will suffer ugly and painful death.

Month after month, ten to fifteen of such ‘infected’ and ‘evil’ coins were killed and buried by Dr. William Craft. He believed that by doing so he was actually doing a service to humanity and contributing his bit to save mankind. The orderly, peon or khalasi whosoever was available at the appointed time (coin examination) would have gala time for he would simply pocket them. An elaborate report of burial would be fabricated and submitted to the satisfaction of Dr Craft.

All through the tenure of Dr. William Craft in Bandikui, he observed and abided this procedure with a religious zeal to the great amusement and greater gains by the ‘pall-bearers’. Needless to say, Dr. Craft was immensely popular among his staff.

Twenty years back, this tale was told to me by one Kalyan Sahai Gaur, a retired railway man of British era. I still wonder how and under what ‘head’ these dead coins were shown in the books.


More by :  Ravi Pipal

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