Of wars and donations and paise and rupees…

Kanch listens to me with round-eyed seriousness –  unusual for a child who’s usually happier to be running and jumping rather than sitting down and listening!

“But I also want to give something. Can I take it out of my Bank Account?” (Bank account is usually capitalised at that age – six or seven – because it’s such a ‘grown up’ thing!)

I have been talking to the children about the Kargil war between India and Pakistan and how many families on both sides are suffering. One of the stories – about an orphanage – touches their hearts deeply and Arch promptly decides to send everything she has in her account (attempts to teach them about saving!) to a relief fund. She seriously takes out her passbook, examines it and figures she can donate every bit of the eighteen hundred rupees she has in it!

Kanch is inspired by the older sister’s generosity but has no clue about money – not much anyway! Rupees and paise are rather nebulous entities in her world… commerce and economics are not even words! So she thinks up a sum she wants to give – a fabulously large amount – “Can I give ten paise?!!” she asks. It is as much as her sister and I can do to keep our faces straight and explain that maybe, just maybe, ten paise is rather small and we should think in terms of rupees!

Her passbook is duly hunted down (being Kanch, it is bound to be lost!) and we figure out that she has all of three hundred rupees in her account. Ten paise or three hundred rupees – there isn’t much difference in her mind about the figures – and so a cheque for the whole amount is duly made out and posted…

One swallow does not a summer make, however and it takes a while for the idea of money to sink in…

On another occasion, the kids have been talking about Christmas at school and how Santa will come to give them all presents… the what do you think I will get, Amma – speculation goes on till I decide to take matters in hand. A lecture on what Christmas is all about – giving rather than receiving – is delivered and obviously goes in deep! They decide to buy presents for the children of our faithful domestic help – Vasanthi – a top favourite with both!

This time Kanch decides she will do the volunteering and bearing the previous Kargil donation experience in mind (vaguely – the rupees and paise bit is still a bit of a haze!), she grandly volunteers to buy a present – for thirty paise! (one small candy costs about one rupee – a hundred paise!) This time the laughter refuses to be held back – but Kanch, ever ready to laugh at herself, joins in quite cheerfully!

Another lesson on rupees and paise has be sat through before it begins to sink in.

I find myself thinking of this while traveling in America – converting everything quickly in my mind to  rupees from the dollar values and thinking, oh my god, this is too expensive… at lots of shops till I visit an Ikea outlet and am tempted to buy everything in sight!

Much like this dal/curry which costs very little but is very rich in nutrients…


  • Moong dal/whole green gram/pesarlu/pachaipayaru – 1 cup – soak for 3-4 hours
  •  Onion – 1 cup – chopped
  • Tomatoes – 1.5 cups – chopped
  • Tomato paste – 1/2 tsp – optional
  • Ginger – 1 cm piece – grated
  • Green chilies – 1 – chopped
  • Garlic – 2 flakes – optional – minced
  • Kasooti methi – 1 tbsp
  • Jeera powder – 1 tsp
  • Dhaniya powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/4 tsp
  • Chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Chopped fresh coriander to garnish + chopped raw onion

Heat the oil in a pressure pan or cooker and add the green chilies and onions. Saute till golden yellow.

Add the tomatoes and all the dry spice powders. Saute for three to four minutes.

Add the soaked dal, salt and sugar. Add two cups water and pressure cook for two whistles. Switch off and let the pressure reduce.

Mix in the kasooti methi.

Garnish with lime juice, fresh coriander and raw onions and serve with rotis or tava toast (pan toast) or rice. All it needs is a raita or a salad to make a complete meal. You could also add a few microwaved and crushed curry leaves on top for added flavour and nutrition – remember that thing about black hair and curry leaves?!

No one will call you a cheapskate either!

Key: student level easy!