Thursday, February 19, 2009

That scented eraser

One fine day around 1966, before the mass prayer in school, my classmate Dayananda was proudly, gleefully displaying that big, crisp ten rupee note to us. We 3rd Standard boys were quite stunned to see him with such a fortune in his hands! Ten rupees!! That was not yet a 'pocket money' age for us then and we were not bought things unless absolutely necessary.  I learn long later that the Rupee had full value in the economy during that time and in general people spent money very judiciously. Dayananda came from a rich business family, in fact used to live close to our house. 

This is how the big ten rupee was.  It is from the same period, from my collection.  'Signed by PC Bhattacharya'. Front view.


So that 'fine day' was also to turn out to be a day when we learnt some life lessons. Perfumed erasers [we called 'scent rubbers'] had begun to enter Indian shops.  In no time it seemed to have become popular, attracting school children. We were told they were imported from Japan. The main body of the eraser was soft and white, with letters of the English alphabet one on each were in the box.  A corresponding picture accompanied the letter. There was also a green 'strip', somewhat translucent, on the 'top'. The eraser had a pleasantly sweet fragrance and that I can still smell that sweetness shows how deep it has an impression in my mind.  There will be certain little things like this that sticks on in the memory for a very long time, in many of us. 

Parents were pestered to buy this 'expensive', dream rubber that cost a hefty fifty paise each, a whopping five times dearer than their best Indian counterparts. The 'local' erasers we were bought were hard and erasing was akin to scratching.  They were also leaving a mess and sometimes even making a hole in the paper.  But these new scent rubbers gave an unbelievably smooth, clean erase leaving nearly no 'debris'.  What a joy!  Didn't we simply erase what we wrote just to use the eraser? Joy!  Those were still pencil days in 3rd std.

This 'rich' boy Dayananda had perhaps designed a plan for that day, with this 'big money'. We had finished our mid day meal from our little lunch boxes and somehow a group of 5 or 6 was formed. I can remember three of them - Manohar, Rajagopal and Srinivas. Soon we were heading for the nearby shop, called "New Corner" [really 'new' at that time and thriving even today]. He used to keep small stationery items, peppermints, etc.  The shop also sold this wonder rubber. In those days, ten rupees could buy a lot of things.  So besides scent rubbers, he bought us chocolates and pencils of our choice for the entire ten rupees and our pockets were filled with these 'generous gifts'. Time had halted while we were happily feasting at the counter. 

So much excited we were with Dayananda's 'treat' that we had lost track of the length of time we spent at New Corner and completely oblivious of what was in store back at school, we leisurely walked back admiring the new possessions in our little pockets.  It also had not occurred to us the fear of being asked esp. at home "where did you get all those?".  

As it was, we were quite late for the afternoon session. We were shocked to see the premises 'silent and empty'.  The afternoon session had started, we never guessed how long before. So we were caught coming late. We were so frightened, somewhat guilty to ask permission to enter the class.  As feared, we were made to stand outside the class and the matter was duly reported to the strict Head Mistress. Interrogation revealed the truth. We were warned and let in to attend the class but the 'ten-rupee-boy' was retained for further inquiry.

The following day, his parents were called and the boy was reprimanded. That money was supposed to be remitted by him as school fee [it was Rs.5/- per month], but the temptation and boldness to buy the scent rubber had got the better of him. He joined another school for his 4th for different reasons.

The incident had taught us a lesson about what squandering money was all about and how bad it can be esp. at such young ages.  Dayananda is around and we meet very occasionally.  I had once asked him if he remembered the scent rubber shopping spree, but his memory of that was zero, but the scent of the rubber and of the 'feast' still lingers in mine, never to be erased.  

* * * * *

How did the eraser look like?

 I now add the picture of that rubber, thanks to one Mr. Ankur who gave the link  [Hong Kong Museum] in the comment intimating where the image is on the net.  Here it is, the screenshot:


Bindu@Hyderabad said...

Did you study in CKC Mysore? I studied there from 85 to 88

Gurpreet Kaur said...

oh my god.. I got goose bumps reading this. I googled a lot to see this eraser but all I found was this picture u posted, that's what brought me here. There's not even a single picture of the eraser on google. I remember I was too fond of it in my school days as well :)

shivani said...

Loved ur post. The story could be anybody's I mean the narration is so real and we have all had similar experiences. But of course only few can shake those cobwebs off and show all from those hazy mist so well. Must admits though I was also searching for an image of that scented rubber. Glad my search brought me here. Very well narrated. Hope to visit again soon. Hope you find the inclination and the time to visit mine.

Ghatna said...

Same here
I loved it too
Any idea if we get it today anywhere??

Ankur said...

You can see the green eraser here -

Dinakar KR said...

Mr. Ankur..... many thanks for the link [Hong Kong Museum of History] to the image of the 'alphabet eraser'. It is the exact one.