Saturday, February 25, 2017

How India got converted into metric system by Nehru


Before metrication, the government of India followed the Indian Weights and Measures Act passed in 1870 which used the British Imperial system. However, many other indigenous systems were in use in other parts of the country and this was a constant problem with government officials and the public at large.
P N Seth was the founder and secretary of the Indian Decimal Society, whose aim it was to push for the introduction of the metric system in India. P N Seth was assisted by others in the society, such as Professors Dr H L Roy, Dr S K Mitra, and P C Mahalanobis, and other leading Indian scientists. Since 1930, they advocated for discarding the old chaotic system by writing in newspapers, journals, participating in debates and distributing literature.
During the post-WW II interim government, there were attempts to introduce some standardisation in weights and measures but the conservative section of the ruling party never allowed it to be passed. Then outstanding scientific personalities and public figures were mobilised by the Indian Decimal Society. P N Seth put forward a scheme for metrification of currency on 17 January 1944, which was finally adopted in Indian Parliament in 1955.

Naye Paise song written by Rajendra Krishna beautifully picturized in 


Among Jawaharlal Nehru's many ambitions for India was to make its measures metric, its thermometers Centigrade and its coinage decimal. Easier said than done. Through the length and breadth of India, there were more than 140 different systems of weights and measures. Dates and records were kept according to 30 different calendars, at least one of which, instituted more than 500 years ago with a slight miscalculation, has slipped out of phase by 23.2 days, so that Hindu dances meant for moonlit nights were often performed in total darkness. To top it all, the Indian coinage system, based on the coinage standardized by conquering British in 1835, was at least as unwieldy as that used in Britain itself.

Having already established a national calendar of twelve months (more or less comparable to the Gregorian) and threatening soon to put weights and measures on the metric system, Nehru's government chose to inaugurate a new decimal coinage. In place of the rupee (20¢), anna (1/16 rupee) and pie (1/12 anna) of the past, the new money consist solely of rupees and naye paise (literally: new coins) worth .01 rupees. The trouble was that for three years both sets of coins was to be used at once, and since there wass not always a way of translating pies or annas into a precise number of naye paise, the government has had to decree a system of what parimutuel bettors call "breakage." i.e., the rounding off of small fractions that don't count too
As the first of 610.000,000 new coins poured into the bazaars, India's newspapers carried conversion tables with instructions on how to use them. Sample: "To make a payment of 36 naye paise, you first pay 4 annas or 25 naye paise, then pay the balance of 11 naye paise by tendering 1 anna and 9 pies."

In Calcutta, where thrifty Bengalis ran wild in 1953 over a ⅓cent rise in streetcar fares, mobs rioted around the post offices when it was discovered that the price of stamps would be rounded off in favor of the government. In industrial Kanpur, bus service was tied up for hours when bus drivers discovered they could not drive and argue about fares at the same time. Mothers fretted that the new coins were too easy for kids to swallow.



From 1947 to 1950, the older coins of pre-independence were still valid. This represented the currency arrangements during the transition period up to the establishment of the Indian Republic. The Monetary System remained unchanged at One Rupee consisting of 192 pies.
·         1 Rupee = 16 Annas
·         1 Anna = 4 Pice
·         1 Pice = 3 Pies



Monday, February 20, 2017

MUMBAI-Ghodegaon to Goregaon- capping history ,aborigenes

Capping it for Goregaon

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The first families of Goregaon, the Topiwalas and Samants, have bequeathed Bombay a legacy that goes far beyond the suburb
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Girish Samant, son of socialist patriot Baburao Samant, and Baburao’s architect brother     Vinayak Samant, flank a model of their ancestral Samantwadi cottage which five generations of the family occupied in east Goregaon since 1891. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Girish Samant, son of socialist patriot Baburao Samant, and Baburao’s architect brother     Vinayak Samant, flank a model of their ancestral Samantwadi cottage which five generations of the family occupied in east Goregaon since 1891. Pic/Nimesh Dave
You think you’d know a man over 30 years. I met director and film guru Vikas Desai in Europe in the summer of 1988. Young and travelling solo, I was warmly embraced by his family who continue to call me “third daughter”. Yet, I’ve only just discovered my old friend is actually Vikas Desai Topiwala - great-grandson of Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala, who left Walawal village in the then princely state of Sawantwadi, at age 11, a rupee in his pocket to carve his life in 19th-century Bombay.
Filmmaker Vikas Desai in his Rajkamal Studio office, Parel, stands beneath the hanging cap of his hat maker great-grandfather, Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala (portrait inset), who rose to become one of the most famous philanthopist industrialists of his day. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Filmmaker Vikas Desai in his Rajkamal Studio office, Parel, stands beneath the hanging cap of his hat maker great-grandfather, Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala (portrait inset), who rose to become one of the most famous philanthopist industrialists of his day. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Sheer grit and guts saw Anant Shivaji Desai rise to be counted among the city’s richest landowners, whose descendants, in turn, spun extraordinary success stories and charities like Topiwala Medical College at Bombay Central and Topiwala Theatre in rustic Goregaon. Flooded with perfect sun and soil for mango, guava, papaya, jackfruit, drumstick, toddy, cashew and coconut trees to sway in its gentle breezes, Goregaon was a cluster of the villages Pahadi, Goregaon, Eksar and Aarey.
Activists Mrinal Gore, Baburao Samant and George Fernandes at Baburao’s daughter Neelam’s wedding in the 1970s
Activists Mrinal Gore, Baburao Samant and George Fernandes at Baburao’s daughter Neelam’s wedding in the 1970s
The path of the Topiwalas runs poignantly parallel to their relatives’, the Samants - socialist contemporaries of “Paniwali Bai” Mrinal Gore (she campaigned for drinking water in the suburbs) and her husband Keshav. No, Goregaon isn’t christened after the activist couple, it predates them. Ghodegaon was the horse trading centre under Maratha rule. Warriors bought horses from Ghodegaon market after trial trots in Ghodeghoom, a rugged hilltop 10 kilometres away.
Girish Samant, property developer and activist, guides me through Goregaon’s gullies. The soft-spoken 64-year-old is the son of late freedom fighter Baburao Samant, revered for his entrepreneurial ethics. “We are the aborigines of Goregaon!” Girish laughs. Five generations of Samants, from the Kudaldeshkar Gaud Saraswat community, occupied a cottage with a scenic garden, a wall away from the bungalow where Girish and wife Sukanya now live. Great-grandfather Ramchandra Samant arrived in 1891. His son Balkrishna grew up there. Next was Girish’s father, Baburao, the sarpanch of 1950s Goregaon who shaped its finest democratic moments. Theirs was among three pucca homes in Goregaon’s tangle of jungles and huts. There was nowhere to go except an annual jatra between Goregaon and Jogeshwari.
Goregaon got its railway station in 1862. From their verandah the Samants heard whistling steam engines puff grandly into platform place. “The station became part of our home,” shares a lady of the house in a film recording the family’s centenary year in that ancestral home. Braving a pond full of snakes and frogs to cross before they entered the station, the Samant children lolled on platform benches for fun, joined by gossiping mothers and aunts who gawked as they people-watched. Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar were regular commuters, with Filmistan Studio nearby, in a level era when glam stars thought nothing of hopping aboard public transport to shoots.
Baburao’s 81-year-old architect brother Vinayak tells me he and their sister Vasudha Patil deeply admired their elder sibling. “He taught us honesty is everything in life,” he says. Describing the bond between the Samants and Topiwalas, Girish says, “Vikas’ father Motiram held my father in high regard and assigned him responsibilities in family trusts.” Motiram Desai’s mother was Girish’s grandfather Balkrishna’s cousin.
Vaulting over flyovers to midtown Parel, I stare up at the small, round headgear that started it all. On a wall behind Vikas’ desk in Rajkamal Studio hangs the cloth topi of Anant Shivaji Desai earning his scions their sobriquet. It appears almost to crown his 70-year-old great-grandson in blessing from four feet above. Vikas will not wear the topi out of respect – the last Desai to was his son Hith as a little boy tearing around to play Topiwala Topiwala! Forebears looking benignly from mounted portraits include music composer Vasant Desai and the legendary V Shantaram, father of Vikas’ vivacious wife Tejashree.
“I picked up family history from a pair of unusual sources,” Vikas says. “One was an imposing dhoti-clad character, more major domo than cook, Govind Baba, in our Peddar Road bungalow. The other was my father’s uncle Vasant Samant, proprietor of an interesting one-man shop on Sunkersett Road in Thakurdwar - a ladies specialty store stocking utensils, perfumes and talcum powder.
Compelling circumstances led to “Topiwala” appended to the Desai surname. Eight-year-old Anant Shivaji Desai’s business acumen budded at a tiny chana-kurmuri counter where he helped his father. On his death, he was forced to leave Walawal village for Bombay. A relative pressed a rupee coin into his hand, eight annas of which was ticket money for the 13-day boat trip. Two months after, finishing the chinchuke (tamarind seeds) and kilo of rice his mother had packed, he fainted of hunger at Grant Road station.
Employed as a labourer at that station, he learnt tailoring in a mill during his lunch break. Those sewing skills won a series of orders. By 1872, he specialised at stitching caps that beat competitors with their superior style. Bombay’s best hat maker’s typical attire was often a pagadi (turban) and bhikbali (earring at the top of the ear) worn above a coat swathed in a jariwali uparne (shawl). An appreciative clientele of Parsis, Muslims and Gujarati sethias paid handsomely for quality caps fashioned by Anant Shivaji Desai, titled Rao Bahadur Topiwala by the British.
Anant Shivaji Desai also crucially established himself as the sole agent for Raja Ravi Varma lithographs. After the iconic painter’s death in 1906, he acquired the rights to the Baroda and Mysore collections and published these. Buying the artist’s studio and selling his art was an important move. Prise open the frame of a Ravi Varma print, you will invariably read beneath: ‘Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala – Ravi Varma Press’. Vikas elaborates: “I have memories of the Raja Ravi Varma press in Malavali being revived by my father (Motiram Desai) and of the picture department in our shop at Moti Bazaar.”
Besides his signature topis, Anant Shivaji Desai dealt in silver, copper and brass kitchen implements. While his son Narayanrao continued trading in metals, Narayanrao’s son Motiram Desai pioneered anodised aluminium in India and introduced velvet fabric as well. Motiram and his step-brother Sitaram became empire builders with philanthropic zeal. Not forgetting his father’s travails on reaching Bombay, Narayanrao had acquired chawls, residential colonies and student hostels at Thakurdwar, Lamington Road and Sikka Nagar to house fellow community members migrating to seek employment in the city. He also set up the Rao Bahadur Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala Charity Trust, one of the largest such trusts in the city at that time.
“My great-grandfather had already started several medical, educational and religious trusts around 1900,” says Sitaram Desai’s daughter Janhavi Desai Topiwala. His son admirably ensured that schools, colleges and hospitals opened in their native district of Sindhudurg. Narayanrao passing on prematurely, his elder son Motiramshet illustriously managed the empire. “In the 1940s my father inherited 350 forest land acres in Goregaon,” Janhavi says. “Of these about 140 were acquired by the Aarey Milk Colony. The Topiwala Ganesh Temple trust was set up by him in east Goregaon. But I’ve never lived there.”
It is evident Janhavi is very fond of Vikas and Tejashree. Her cousin shot his first feature film, Shaque, in the racecourse view flat of her father whom he called Bhau Kaka. Vikas says, “Our great-grandfather laid the foundation of high school education in his native region – Topiwala High School in Malwan is considered among the best in the Konkan belt.”
My thoughts fly to the long years. I’ve been visiting the Desais every Ganpati week, always struck by this graciously understated family. I was close to Vikas’ beautiful mother Sunita (Aaiji to all), yet missed connecting with her husband Motiramshet, who would gravely preside over the puja. So remarkably unassuming that few realised the exceptional gifts he gave the city. Vikas glowingly recaps a 1946 episode. Congress kingmaker and the party’s star fund collector, S K Patil, requested Motiram Desai’s donation towards a college for Nair Hospital. The merchant magnanimously handed Patil a blank cheque to fill with any amount. Patil wrote Rs 5 lakhs and the Topiwala National Medical College was born. Vikas adds that cricket’s Ranji Trophy was actually intended as the Topiwala Trophy. But Ranjitsinhji died around then and his name came to commemorate the championship.
Back in Goregaon, spanning the bridge that links Samantwadi in the east to the crowded west, we witness more munificence. Washington Plaza mall was the Topiwala bungalow where Vikas’ parents married. “Major political agitations and elections were fought from here,” Girish points out. Patriots and visionaries, his father Baburao and the Gores staunchly stood by the common man. Providing housing for the poor and protecting them from demolition drives, they remain inspirational figures for their compassion.
Arriving at Topiwala Theatre, a multiplex today, I learn it was constructed by Sitaram Desai in 1969, with Asia’s first Mirror Screen – two screens flashed from one projector. Outside the train station, at Persian Bakery (Licence No. 3 in gram panchayat ledgers), Firdause Irani informs us his father Shapur woke Goregaon to mawa magic and khari crumbles in 1951. Girish remembers scalding his feet on hot coals as a kid unwisely sprinting across rail tracks for a birthday cake from this counter.
We pass what used to be a quarry, a dhobi ghat, finally reaching Amba Mai Mandir: the right spot to reflect on this small suburb’s big history. To salute a humble hat tailor who made himself one of the greatest industrialists - and taught his clan that conscience can be married to commerce.
Author-publisher Meher Marfatia writes fortnightly on everything that makes her love Mumbai and adore Bombay. You can reach her at

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  • Meher Marfatia
    Meher Marfatia
    Meher Marfatia was born in Bombay in 1963. She graduated from St Xavier’s College with English Literature and Psychology before earning her MA degree in English Literature.
    She has worked as a journalist since 1984 and is also an independent publisher – her imprint is 49/50 Books.
    After working as Assistant Editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, from the Times of India group of publications, she was invited to be founder Text Editor for The Art India Magazine and Verve magazine as well as Copy Editor of Marg, a reputed journal of Indian culture.
    She has been awarded the Scholarship in Advanced Journalism Studies at the International School of Journalism in Berlin, Germany.
    A long-standing interest in researching lost communities, ethnic diversity and the performing arts has seen her publish extensive feature stories on these themes in leading newspapers and magazines.
    Her recent weekly columns include “Urban Legend” on Bombay heritage and the parenting column “Big on Little”. Her fortnightly online articles for The Swaddle are “Lessons in Small Print” and “Modern Family”.
    She lives in Mumbai with her husband Noshir and their children Zarir and Ayesha.