Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kanpur-Dehradun: the coin collectors

When a bus/ train passes over a bridge, people fling coins into the river. Partly as prayer, partly for a safe passage. I used to do that myself as a child and it always gave me a big thrill when one of my coins actually landed in the water. in the konkan, traffic was too little and the rivers too swift to make recovery possible. On the holier rivers in the plains, enough coins get tossed in and the water is placid enough to make recovery a profitable business.

When I was a child, 'phoren' magazines were pretty hard to come by. We did however, have some National Geographics, and the only article I remember of those was a photo essay on the coin hunters on the Ganga. I still remember one of those photos vividly: a pair of hands holding mud scooped from the river bed with beads, flowers and coins.

And so I was delighted when I came across the coin collectors of my childhood on this trip. But things have progressed. Instead of scooping up mud with their hands, they drag magnets tied to lengths of rope. Several people wade in the water, but there are also several who perch on the bridge parapets. I saw a woman lower a dabba from the bridge- was it lunch, or something to place the coins in?

I spoke to a group of children and they told me they can collect Rs.500/- a day. I am not sure if this is an accurate figure, or something to impress the notepad and camera carrying woman. but they did not ask us for coins, which makes me think the figure is not too off the mark.

1 comment:

nadi said...

camera, notepad, concern and love
make us make up
inaccurate figures, inaccurate words
to say we are in fact, okay.

just so long as it is not too off the mark...
somebody asked.
somebody took a picture.