I just phoned a friend. I fall back on Banjo for solutions to many problems. Today it was to know the right word for ‘one who collects old coins’. His prompt answer was ‘numismatist’. Now, that word is a little difficult for me to spell and more so to pronounce. And, I guess not many people are familiar with it, at least in India. So for this post I’ll stick to a simpler expression: ‘coin-collector.’
I had just been introduced to this new hobby. I had started with a few coins, which my grandfather had given me. I had not seen them in common use. Some were shapeless and not as shiny as the coins I was used to seeing. I washed them with soap and water but there was no improvement in the looks. I tried other cleaning materials to no avail.
“How do I shine my coins?” Now, this was a worry wearying me out. I was five then.
Where there is a will there is a way. In a different context, unrelated to my problem, I heard someone say, “Petrol is a good cleaner. I use it to clean my cycle chain.”
“Coins! Petrol! Cleaner! Eureka!” I had stumbled upon a solution to the nagging problem that had taken away my sleep. “I will clean my coins to a sparkle and surprise everyone,” I was determined.
“I would need a very small quantity of petrol to clean my coins. Where do I get it from?” The solution to the subsidiary problem came instantly. We had a moped.
“I’ll draw some petrol from our moped. How do I do that?”
Where there is a will there is a way. I took a piece of sponge fastened it to a metal wire and lowered it into the petrol tank, dipped it in petrol and pulled the wire. It wasn’t easy.
The piece of sponge got detached and fell into the tank. My efforts to take it out failed. The problem was that the inside of the tank was dark and I could not see the piece of sponge. “How do I see it to be able to fish it out?”
Where there is a will there is a way. I’ll light a match and illuminate the inside of the tank; locate the piece of sponge and fish it out. Simple!”
I ran inside our house and fetched a matchbox. I took out a matchstick and struck to ignite. I failed to light it. It was destined that way. Before I could strike the match a second time, I saw my eldest brother approaching.
A word about my eldest brother: Born on December the 25th he has been a guardian angel to us, the younger siblings––warding off our troubles.
I staggered when I saw him approaching. Not that I was afraid of him; I loved and adored him. Just that I did not want to seek his help in this endeavour. I wanted to go it alone and surprise everyone.
I shelved the project for sometime.
In due course, I had other pressing issues to deal with––my homework, a game of football with my friends in the neighbourhood…. Coins, sponge and petrol were forgotten. A big tragedy was averted.
Not really! When it strikes again the second time, my guardian angel would not be around to steer the path for me. I leave that story for another day.
Anything can ignite a child’s mind.