BENGALURU: Even as hard currency is slowly being taken over by digital modes, a soon-to-be launched Rezwan Razack’s Museum of Indian Paper Money is an attempt to keep alive what could be unseen, unfelt in the cloud-driven future. Rezwan Razack, co-founder and joint MD of the Prestige Group, will, on February 17, open to public South India’s first museum on currency, a culmination of a 50-year hobby which has required Razack to devote several man hours. “It started as curiosity, then went on to become a hobby and passion, and is now an obsession. I have been devoting six hours a day researching this subject,” says Razack when we meet him at the museum on Brunton Road where preparation are going on in full-swing. The musuem will be inaugurated by Dr C Rangarajan, former Governor, Reserve Bank of India.
The museum comprises notes dating back to the 1800s. Early private and presidency banks, including the uniface or one-sided notes attributed to the colonial Government of India. The portrait notes of British monarchs such as Queen Victoria, King George V and VI while India’s colonial history has been documented in the notes from French India, Portuguese India–all of which are placed prominently in the museum. The latest addition is a Re 1 note of 2020. Often, Razack finds himself travelling the world to pursue his hobby. “All holidays are planned around this interest. If the vacation doesn’t have anything to do with my hobby, then I just don’t go,” Razack says with a laugh.
While much of his research was done during the writing of his books, The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money (2012) and One Rupee - One Hundred Years 1917-2017 (2017), he continues to visit libraries, especially the British Council in London, to dig further. “Learning never stops,” he says, adding that he is pursuing a niche hobby, with almost everybody turning to him in case of queries, with even grading companies using his book, and his knowledge, as a provenance. At this point he recalls a lunch meet with an official from the RBI, who, over the course of the conversation, mentioned that some notes continued to be printed in foreign countries, including Germany, post Independence. While Razack was initially sceptical about this, he later came to understand that the official was present when the printing plate was destroyed by dipping it in acid. This lead took Razack on a research trail, and he soon found out that one lakh crore worth of notes were indeed printed outside India.
While he admits it’s a hard hobby to pursue, with information hard to come by, that often has to be inferred through research, logic and documents, he also points out that unlike metal, paper currency doesn’t have an intrinsic value and deprecates over time. “And further more when it ceases to be a legal tender,” says Razack, who with a book and museum in tow, is hoping to make history fun by holding classes for children.