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Power of one

From a single roti to a pack of bindis, from a phuchka to a filmstar postcard, Metro checks out what can be got for a rupee

If India and the US are inching closer to each other every day, if the Indian economy is being measured in dollars, if there are so many Indian billionaires (with the billions counted in dollars) sprouting every day, the value of the rupee must have increased and it’s time that the world, like Dollar shops, had Rupee shops. This is a look at what a Rupee shop, where each item costs Re 1, will look like if it were opened in Calcutta.

FOOD AND VEGGIES SECTION

Lots of single rotis. They cost Re 1 almost everywhere, from Shankar Hotel in CK Market or BD market of Salt Lake to a shop near Ballygunge station to another on Surya Sen Street. At a Tollygunge pice hotel, one hata of rice is available for Re 1.

Select vegetables. Lemons, potol, tomatoes, karela, potatoes, onions. One of each would come for Re 1 (Salt Lake price), and 25 to 50 grams of green chillis. But there will be no bananas — the fruit seller insists he cannot sell a Singapuri or a Martaman for a paisa less than Rs 1.50!

For Re 1, you can have a little bit of carb. Or one vegetable.

GROCERY AND DAILY NECESSITIES SECTION

Sachets of Nescafe, tomato sauce, Colgate Dental Powder, shampoos Clinic Plus, Rejoice, Sunsilk, Halo and Chik, Parachute Hair Oil — all cost Re 1. A packet of Robin blue and locally packed detergent come for Re 1 around the Tollygunge studio para. So does a small pouch of locally made garam masala powder.

For Re 1, you can either wash or oil your hair. Or clean your teeth.

COSMETICS AND ACCESSORIES

A packet of eight bindis (the simple red, round ones) costs Re 1. Colourful scrunchies for the hair cost the same and so does a pair of the simplest, straightest, narrowest black hair clips.

Red ribbons also come for Re 1.

THE SWEET CORNER

A single gujiya costs Re 1. Small laddoo, burfi, coconut naru and rasagolla are also available for Re 1.

HARDWARE SECTION

May not be much help — only a pair of tiny screws and curtain hooks are available for Re 1.

RECYCLE ZONE

The raddiwalla buys empty beer bottles for Re 1 each. At the recycle corner, the bottles will be bought and the customer will get coupons against them that may be redeemed against purchases from the store.

FLORIST CORNER

The florist will set up shop near the exit. A pretty sunflower is available for Re 1. So are flower petal packets for puja and lean rajanigandha garlands and small, stubby marigold ones. Packets of dhoop too.

Worshipping at home can come cheap.

MEDICINE STORE

Armed with Re 1, you can pick up a Disprin tablet from the drugstore.

ENTERTAINMENT ZONE

Filmstar postcards are available for Re 1. So are Spiderman, Superman and various God and Goddess stickers.

THE COMMUNICATION CORNER

There will be a PCO from where local and STD calls can be made from various networks — STD calls from BSNL and Airtel cost Re 1. Local SMS costs Re 1 or less. The latest mobile phone talk plans make calls within a service provider’s network available for 30 paise per minute. Some are even priced at 17 paise or 19 paise. What do the cell phone operators do with the loose change' They keep adding it till they reach Re 1.

Next to the PCO will be a weighing machine, where you drop a rupee coin and get a cardboard ticket with a weight that varies from machine to machine, a filmstar’s blurred mug-shot on the reverse and a forecast about your future that is perfect or an analysis of your beautiful personality. There will be a tea-stall on the other side of the communication corner, where tea in miniature khullars or 10 ml plastic cups will be available for Re 1.

If some of the sections look a little bare, the two other stalls outside will be overflowing.

At the SNACKS CORNER, all varieties of delicious, scrumptious and delectable telebhaja will be available. Much of the best telebhaja and “chops” in the city — aloor chop, phuluri, beguni, peyanji, enchorer chop, phulkopir chop, sometimes chingrir chop (made with shrimp heads that are never fresh, but taste heavenly) and deemer chop (made with one-eighth of a boiled egg) — don’t cost more than Re 1, including at places like Laxmi Narayan Shaw and Sons on Bidhan Sarani.

And Calcutta’s trademark phuchka is still available for Re 1, give and take a little depending on the where and who.

Many sweet shops, even the one at BD Market, Salt Lake, serve piping hot shingaras at Re 1 per piece. These are so tiny that they can be popped into the mouth whole, but the taste is not entirely dissatisfying, and in winter, there might even be bits of cauliflower in the stuffing.

The shop will also stock the chinebadam (peanuts) that comes in a longish packet in buses, on college campuses and other crowded places for Re 1. Aamshi, topa kul and a packet of black salt (electric noon), all sold for Re 1 outside schools and colleges, will also be available.

THE PAANWALLA’S will be the best-stocked. A mishti paan may not be affordable, as it costs Rs 1.50, but a single paan leaf comes for Re 1. A sada paan without supari and jarda can come for Re 1.

Unfiltered cigarettes cost a rupee; a packet of six bidis and a box of matchsticks are available at the price. Super Manik Bidi comes five in one packet for a rupee.

Paan masala and biscuits (one to four) come for a rupee — and gutkhas like Tiranga and Shikhar. All candy and chatpata stuff come for Re 1 or less — Hajmola, Eclairs and orange and litchi candies. Mouth-freshners will be there too — Chloromint chewing gum costs 50 paise, Happydent, Big Babool and Centerfresh cost Re 1.

But then candy and mouth-freshners have been doubling as an alternative currency — as substitutes for 50 paise or Re 1 whenever the paanwalla has run out of change.

It will not be possible to sell some stuff from the store. The revenue stamp that costs Re 1, or the dhobi agreeing to iron a hanky or a small top for the same amount, will only be available outside.

Photocopying on the A4 size usually costs less than Re 1 per page. And at a public toilet at Maddox Square, using the “urinal” costs 50p, “latrine” Re 1 and bath Rs 2.

You are not likely to go far on a rupee. The minimum bus fare (government and private) is Rs 4; while the minis start at Rs 4.50. The minimum cycle rickshaw fare is Rs 5; in autos it’s Rs 4.

The only public transport under Re 1 seems to be at Kestopur canal: you can cross the khaal by kheya for 25 paise. That’s four times for a rupee.

Twenty-five paise seems to be lowest denomination.

Says M.L. Agarwal, proprietor of Ganesh Bhandar store in Lansdowne Market: “In my shop we stock items from 50 paise onwards. Elsewhere in the city 25 paise is the cut-off.”

There are several other uses of the rupee. Its value still hasn’t gone down as offering to temples and to beggars.

And your morning newspaper, the one you are reading now, comes to you for Re 1 on three days a week!

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