Elizabeth Taylor summed it up best when she quipped: “Money is the best deodorant.” In these times of bizarre bailouts that feels ‘right on the money’ as the stench of bankruptcy that surrounds Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal can only be overpowered by a liberal squirt of Euros or the enchanting odour of crisp greenbacks cranked out by Ben Bernanke and the Fumbling Feds.
A deep discussion on the economics of recession always puts people to sleep so I shall stick to the superficial and serve you the trivial stuff you’ve always craved for.
Let’s set the ball rolling by understanding why the rupee is called the Rupee. Before Sher Shah Suri came along and applied the Sanskrit word for ‘shapely’ (what Rupiya means) to silver coins, the tankha (yes, the Hindi word for salary!) was the fiat currency of the Thuglaqs. Babar and Humayun somehow didn’t fancy the Rupiya. They preferred the Shahrukhi instead.
Akbar deserves the credit for putting the Rupee back into circulation as he felt it had its merits. The rest of the Mughals just cut, copy, paste Akbar’s template and that’s how India was flooded with many variants of the Rupee. The East India Company standardised the currency system by subsuming the local denominations.
For example, in the Madras Presidency, the basic unit was the copper Kasu. Then there was the silver Panam (80 copper kasus). Followed by the Rupee (12 panams) and on top there was the gold Pagoda (3.5 rupees). Over time, this was simplified into Pice, Paise, Annas and Rupees. 16 Annas, 64 Paise and 164 Pies were the equivalent of one rupee. Now you know the real import of the legendary Bollywood dialogue ‘pie pie chuka doonga’!
The Yuan and Yen have similar origins to the Rupee. As in, they cue the round shape. Pound comes from Latin word ‘Poundus’ indicating weight. While ‘Dollar’ is derived from Thaler, short for Joahimsthaler, a coin made from metal mined in Joahimsthal, a town in Czech Republic. And ‘Dirham’ owes its origins to the Greek word Drachma meaning ‘handful’. Hope the dime-a-dozen trivia you just learnt was worth every penny!