Monday, August 18, 2008

Two cents

As I passed out novels to my twelfth graders, a girl exclaimed, "I found money in my book!" She held up a note of some sort; it wasn't Indian.

"Hey, it's your lucky day," I said.

"Oh, I can't keep it," she said.

"Why not? Of course you can. We'll never figure out who it belongs to."

"No, I just can't. I'll give it to you."

I laughed, "No, then that would be seen as a bribe. I can't take it." I looked around the room. "Does anyone object to her keeping the money?"

No one objected, but someone suggested she donate it to charity. "Great idea," I said. "You can donate it to your favorite charity. How's that sound?"

She looked relieved. From a corner of the classroom, I heard someone say, "That thing's worth about two rupees." Two rupees is about five cents. All this trouble over five cents! But I guess the girl's got morals, or whatever you want to call it. Something I don't have.

The next morning, after I heard the crash of another small landslide behind my house and went outside to investigate, I found a 1,000-rupee note on the ground in front of my door. That converts to about $23; not a ton of money, but quite a lot here. In fact, I didn't even know the country had 1,000-rupee notes until then. (When I exchanged several hundred dollars at the airport, the highest denomination I got was 500.)

My neighbor, who was also outside to see if there was any damage to our water supply, said, "Thanks, that's mine."

"Yeah right," I said.

"I'm just kidding," he said. "But make sure you put that to good use. You know, buy your neighbors beer or something."

"I was thinking of buying some students pizza with this," I said, "but I like your idea better."

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