TOPICS:Note from Humla

Unlike many things that lose their value when they become old, dirty, used or second hand, banknotes have a stark difference: brand new or old, their value does not diminish. However, there seems to be an exception: when they rot, they become worthless. Notes that rot! Sounds absurd. But in this regard, we have an unconventional case concerning Chhatta Dani, a resident of Humla.

‘As you sow so shall you reap’ hardly makes sense in Dani’s case. Ten years ago, when the country was still in civil war, Dani had ‘sowed’ sixty thousand rupees — his life’s savings — lest the Maoists confiscate it.

A decade later, he did not reap exactly what he had sown: the notes that he had so carefully put in a plastic bag then in a box before burying had become rotted.

Sad and panicky, Dani has now just a feeble glimmer of hope up his sleeve: rush to Nepal Rastra Bank, which may rescue him out of his rotten fortune. At a time when people are said to be stashing away their cash — the corollary being cash crunch at Nepal Rastra Bank — let’s hope Dani’s predicament will not remain unaddressed.

But Chhatta Dani’s panic over the state of his wads seems to have blown out of proportion. Granted that the notes are rotten. So what? Even notes that never dwelled inside a humid ground hole but in the Bank’s dry coffers are nearly as rotten.

Just a dekko at them: torn, cellotaped, holed, gum stuck, dog-eared and crossed-up! Some sport even colourful signatures of people who should foolishly believe all the signed notes belong to them.

So much so that I have even seen people serving the corner of a note as toothpick! Or a rolled note-end serving to assuage the itch inside one’s ear! Sticky hands in polluted cities tend to thickly darken the notes too. Little wonder, most of our notes are grungy and smelly.

Moreover, those ugly ten-rupee plastic notes are becoming transparent pieces of plastic, with all prints effacing.

Funnily, they are all acceptable. Why not Dani’s, then? Hence, even if a tiny bit on his decayed bank bills is legible, they should be treated on equal footing as the ‘other’ equally rotten notes in the market. After all, a new banknote does not denote more than a rotten one.