Fifty Paise

This essay is about Kailasha – my grandmother, a restless woman – and dates back to a time when the 50 paisa coin was losing its value.

At 67, her patience was more affected than her energy. She was always up to something – completing tasks, fixing things, correcting wrongs, and sometimes doing it all in one breath. Which was great. For others.

And there was someone who understood that. A stout short man who sat behind the counter in a drug store that sold everything but drugs. His shop was a thousand steps away from home, but to my granny it was a stone’s throw away.

Once when I was accompanying Mom to the shop, the man looked disturbed. “Can you please tell Daadi to stop it?” he complained. Mom raised her eyebrows, more out of confusion than surprise.

Of the many habits my grandmother had, one was of maintaining day-to-day accounts of household expenses. That too with her little red Natraj pencil, which she occasionally sharpened with a knife. She was too used to knives to get used to sharpeners. And I know that because I had tried. And I had tried because I was young and unaware of how my granny was an adamant woman, set in her own ways, who played only by her own rules – rules that were mostly fair, to be honest.

But it was the time when fairness had started losing its value. And someone understood this, so he continued, “She did it again. Do I look like a money-hogging pig?”

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Whether one was a pig or not was never a deciding factor for my granny to settle the accounts if something didn’t sit right in her little diary.

She did it herself because it was her transaction. She did it the moment she realised it, otherwise she would feel lazy. She did it even for an amount as little as 50 paise because to her, it was a matter of principle.

This self-dependent, now-or-never attitude was great. For others. And that is what the shopkeeper understood. “She walked back all the way to return 50 paise! That is not required. Especially, not from her. Not at her age,” he yelped.

In her defence, she didn’t go there because the man would be in trouble if he was short of his 50 paise. She went there because she wanted to sleep in peace without worrying about remembering to return what wasn’t hers.

“I do it for me!” she would argue.

Seven days later, I woke up to the usual cacophony. “Why can’t it wait for five more minutes? Just don’t move, let the floor dry and I will do it for you!” my dad was busy convincing my granny to do the impossible – stay still. Five minutes later, we heard a shriek – her last loud and clear shriek.

“Osteonecrosis,” the doctor reconfirmed. “Her willpower is strong, but not her bones.”

She tried proving the doctor wrong. He advised, “Please avoid any kind of movement for a few days.”

Little did we know that a few days would turn into a few months followed by a lifetime of bed rest.


Twenty years later, when I was shifting to a new city, I decided to do my house with utmost ease. There was just one problem: I realised I could only be at ease after the house was done.

“Don’t do it all at a go,” they advised. I’d agree and do it anyway. I am a restless woman.

“Leave that for me. I’ll do it later,” they would urge. I’d nod and do it anyway. I am a proud woman.

“Please don’t spend another day fixing the house. It doesn’t have to be A-okay on day three itself,” they would suggest. I’d nod and do it anyway. I am a stubborn woman.

Boxes must be unboxed now. Waste must be discarded now. Things must be arranged now. The place must look aesthetic now.

“Impatience runs in the family,” I explained as the doctor told me I had fainted out of exhaustion. “It’s called perfection,” my inner Kailasha corrected me.

If she were alive today, I know she wouldn’t have let me do anything. Solely so she could do it all by herself.

Old habits die hard, but genes don’t until you do.

As much as I learnt my lesson, the next time I am overwhelmed by a task, the Kailasha in me would still want to get it done now.

Moulika Danak is an advertising professional who writes for a living and reads to escape the same.

Featured image: Flickr