|Don't touch me! I am fragile.|
Sitting across the counter, i break down in a cold sweat. Oh no! As i wait pensively for the change, the pan chewing passenger lifts his half- mast lungi, digs inside the red "patta- patti's" pocket and voila! He has fished out the ten rupee note. He places the note across the counter, crumpled, soiled and bathed in sweat. Gingerly i pull it with my left hand and place it in the cash chest. Cursing my fate, i issue the ticket and the next in queue turns up. This time, it is a happy housewife who is oblivious to anything around her, except the money in her 'safety locker'. She asks for two platform tickets and produces a ten rupee note from the purse tacked in her blouse. I resent this safety locker of women, don't they have other decent places to keep purses? My bad luck, i need a rupee change and again i get a glimpse of the purse and a coin. I place the balance and tickets and she takes them away happily.
Next comes the tobacco specialist. I try to get up from my seat, but he stands right in front of my counter saying- " Amma...one minute, this one ticket alone". Feeling absolutely doomed, i collect the note from him, a folded ten rupee sprayed generously with tobacco. The moment i take the note inside the counter, i start sneezing and the gentleman outside hides his wicked chuckle. I feel my eyes zooming in and water running from my nose. Chocked by the smell of tobacco, i push the draw closed as soon as possible and issue him his ticket. Getting up from my seat, i walk towards the wash umpteenth number of time and start washing my hands with liquid soap. My liquid soap and dettol expenditure is nearly half my salary! Washing and drying, i come and sit back again in front of the guillotine. People simply amaze me as to where they keep currency stacked- starting from inner wears to towels tied on their heads, used cigarette packets, "surukku" bags...The list is endless. It is indeed filthy to even mention some places where they keep it here! And look at the pride with which they produce it across the counter- the thought of it makes me shudder.
And we the staff within the counters are no better either. We keep counting and bundling them, numbering them right bang on the water mark columns. 58,76,29 we keep writing number of notes on the top most one and hand over. We may be better than "artists" who draw heart with arrow lodged in watermark column, love anecdotes like- " I love Shanthi", " Ram & Ramya- 23.5.2001". Defacing the currency notes is the best pastime of our unemployed Romeos and Juliets, who relentlessly autograph on rupee notes.
Then there is the other lot, who lick and count..Oh no...i simply cannot describe this! May be they find the notes tastier than their wife's sambar! Nowhere in the world is the nation's currency so defaced and mutilated than here. Recent study by Current Science states that 96% of Indian coins and 100% of currency notes is infected with bacteria, three of the species highly infectious! Worse, these bacteria are anti-biotic resistant. Handling currency? Please wash your hands before and after contact with money. As for those safe keeping money in 'safety lockers', please do think how many earlier 'safety lockers' the money might have crossed!
All images courtesy- Wikipedia, The Hindu