It wasn't the 16-anna truth
In 1957, India adopted the metric system of coinage whereby a rupee comprised 100 paise. Earlier, a rupee comprised 16 annas. With the new system coming into force, one anna consisted of 6 paise. Rajiv Ahuja writes.chandigarh Updated: Dec 05, 2013 09:14 IST
In 1957, India adopted the metric system of coinage whereby a rupee comprised 100 paise. Earlier, a rupee comprised 16 annas. With the new system coming into force, one anna consisted of 6 paise. Thus, 16 annas were equivalent to 96 paise or a rupee. But there remained an unexplained difference of 4 paise.
This was not considered important as officially the annas had been abolished and people were supposed to transact in paise only. But people who had been using annas for long were so obsessed by them that though all payments were made in paise, the calculations were done in annas.
This incident dates back to the early sixties when I was 10. The halwai shop near our house that sold samosas and aloo tikkis at 2 annas per piece changed the rate to 12 paise per piece. One day, father gave me a rupee and asked me to get eight samosas for the guests.
After getting the samosas, I gave the one-rupee note to the shopkeeper and stood for the balance. The shopkeeper asked me, "What else do you want?" I told him, "You have not returned me 4 paise." He replied, "One samosa costs two annas and I have given you eight samosas for a rupee. There is no question of any balance." I corrected him, "The price of one samosa is 12 paise, so eight samosas cost 96 paise, which entitles me to a balance of 4 paise."
Though he had put the rate list in paise, he was making all calculations in annas. Despite my repeated entreaties, he did not budge; even a few customers standing there supported him. So with a heavy heart I made an exit. Confused, I explained this to my father. He agreed with me partially, but since he was also obsessed with annas, he could not address the problem. I felt so bad that I did not look at the halwai shop for days together though I had to cross it on my way to school.
After a fortnight, while passing by the shop, I looked at the rate list and was surprised to see a change. It mentioned: "One samosa/tikki for 13 paise and two samosas/tikkis for 25 paise". I felt a winner. After all, I was not wrong in demanding the 4 paise back and in a way had recovered it.