An aerial view of the Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi. (Photo: Nasir Kachroo)
In Pics: A Museum of Old Coins & Notes on a Footpath in Old Delhi
Durga Das is a unique numismatist, selling his prized possessions off on a footpath in Old Delhi.
Delhi is a multi-faceted place with decorated markets in bustling areas which further have spectacular stalls and stories to narrate. One of the famous markets is Meena Bazar at Jamia Masjid in New Delhi that evokes a certain charm for the buyers, visitors and sellers owing to its long-established history in business.
Quint Lens introduces you to the unsung hero, Durga Das, who has collected antique rare coins as his bread and butter for decades now. Durga Das moved to Delhi from Guwahati in search of an occupation at the tender age of seven when most of us in our childhood were spending some quality time with toys.
“Initially, I drove a rickshaw for over three years after hiring it for Rs 5 for a day. And then I started to sell watches to customers before taking up the idea of collecting antique rare coins, which is my hobby now,” says Das to freelance photographer Nasir Kachroo.
While selling rare coins, Das feels his labour is worth it. His almond-shaped eyes light up when he glances through the collection of his own antiquities on a footpath in Meena Bazaar.
The intrepid Das has sold old currencies from over ten countries so far. But his prized possessions, for sale, are the silver coins which date back to the Mughal and British period in India. 45-year-old Das is proud of his “silverware” which includes a coin from the time of Babur the Great, a coin from 1818 and a rare Sri Lankan cent.
“I bought antique rare coins when it wasn’t easy to find such coins in the market. I’ve started the business from a single silver coin,” Durga says running his hands through a bowl of silver.
Along with collecting antique coins, Guwahati-born Das also collects currency notes from foreigners who stop by Old Delhi during their vacations in India.
“My hut was in Vijay Ghat, which got damaged. Then I shifted to Ghaziabad. After my marriage, I settled in Ghaziabad since 2005. I have spent almost 20 years on this footpath, though. It was hard work and on some days, I did not earn even a single penny. But the dedication and passion for collecting coins kept me focused to work harder.”, Das says with a pensive smile.
Since 2002, Das has spent thousands of hours on that footpath, under the sweltering sun, to earn for his family of four.
“I have three children and a wife. I lost my eldest son to an illness. I want to spend all my money on my children to give them the best education available in the area,” Das reveals.
From Guwahati to Delhi, Das’ story is one of a unique struggle to survive in the fast-paced 21st century while collecting and selling little pieces of history.
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