“Bhaiyya chutta hain kya?” “Brother, do you have change?”

ten rupee

I clutch ten rupee bills in my hand

I plead with the rickshaw driver again

“bhaiyya, please take a 50 note instead”

He shakes his head and looks away

I ask him again,

“Bhaiyya, can you give me change in 10 rupee notes?”

He looks at me as if I asked him for his kidney.

I look down at the ten rupee bill

tangerine Gandhi smiling at me.

He tells me, ‘let go, janice’

I unclench my fist and give the note

to the puzzled auto rickshaw driver.

I stand at the spot even though the auto 

has departed, feeling longing and sorrow.

Taxi, train, bus, street food –

Mumbai demands small bills

Ten rupee notes are hard to find

and once found quickly slip away.

Where are all the ten rupee notes going?

That bill, so valuable for its scarcity

reminds me that things are worth 

more than what they seem

Janice D'souza grew up in the Mangalorean Catholic community in South India. A first generation college student, Janice draws inspiration from her mother who tried for many years to teach herself English and go through vocational training. She moved to the U.S. in 2010 to attend Berea College, a tuition-free, work-study school where her studies focused on social justice and women's issues. During her time at Berea, she co-led a movement to reform the college's investment policy, and, working closely with the administration, achieved many of the campaign's goals. Her final thesis at Berea, informed by both personal experience and extensive research, examined menstrual hygiene in the developing world. Janice has shared her insights on the topic with the International Center for Research on Women and senior members of the World Bank. In both India and America, she has worked with nonprofits ranging from rape crisis centers, to women's empowerment organizations, to food pantries.

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One thought on ““Bhaiyya chutta hain kya?” “Brother, do you have change?”

  1. Hi Janice,

    I personally feel that you must visit to Chennai once to see how easily you can get the ten Rupee notes even if you give a 500 Rupee note to a Bus Conductor here. Same applies for Auto Drivers in most of the cases.

    Thank You!

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