By Sushant Thapa
Every day he visits my home and takes only a one-rupee coin. Not more and not less. If I try to give him a two-rupee coin, he asks, “Do you want me to take this coin?” and he won’t take it. He is in the habit of taking a one-rupee coin from my home and perhaps many other homes. I can only see him coming to my home to take a coin. I do not care if he visits other homes and collects coins, for I care about his visit to my home because of his regular habits.
We see him in gatherings and ceremonies at other places. He sits flat on the ground. They serve him well in many social functions. Unconcerned, he sits politely and leaves in a well-mannered way. Yet, his daily habit of taking a one-rupee coin from my home worries me.
“How very forgetful of him!” says my dad if he is late.
His tension is unlike that of a housemaid who lights a single cigarette in the afternoon after finishing her morning chores. A single cigarette puts the maid to relief. But a single coin puts the man to unrest every day.
People say he is loosely wired. Decades have passed. But he has not changed his habit. Everybody in the town has ceased to talk about him now. They are not worried about his activities. He is dressed untidily in dirty clothes often. He is well built, stout and tall. He seems to come from a healthy family. The only thing that concerns him is the daily collection a one-rupee coin from every home. He might have hoarded a vast amount by now.
He used to talk to my grandfather in those days when I was young. He would see my grandfather having lunch at the dinner table through the window, and he’d say, “Well, you are having your lunch, should I not be having my coin?” I used to be young but now I can write his story. I’m a grown-up man now, and I can write things about the one-rupee man.
Many times, I have placed a coin in front of the man myself. I would place it on the windowsill, he would murmur something, and I would say — “It’s there.” Silently, he would feel the coin with his hand and take it. He would say nothing to me.
Once, my little niece gave him a two-rupee coin. The man asked my dad, “Why do you create such confusion? Why do you give me two rupees instead of one?”
Once a day, we see him standing in front of the window of my house, but he is very careful not to visit more than once a day. Perhaps it bothers him, and that’s why he is particular about it.
Some say he was a rich businessman, and that his business partners deceived him and he lost every penny he invested. He got detached from the business world, but he does collect a one-rupee coin from everyone. He continued to have a relationship with the monetary world in as much that he would have his daily dole of a one rupee coin. He makes sure that he comes to collect a one rupee coin from us, and we get bothered about handing him his single one-rupee coin. The give and take process dilutes the tension. Yet, it seems to be a never-ending process that holds the burden for both parties.
Sushant Thapa is a recent post-graduate in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. His short story “The Glass Slate” has been published in Kitaab.org from Singapore. His poems and essays have been published in Republica daily from Kathmandu. His short stories and poems have also been published by The Writers’ Club, New Jersey, United States. He revels in rock music, poetry, books and movies from his home in Biratnagar, Nepal.