Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hisaab-kitaab days are up

This story idea was given to me by a friend who was a businessman over dinner. He told me how the invasion of the computer has put to end an age old tradition of manual writing on the ‘Hisaab-Kitaab’ book. After learning more about the book which was facing extinction I went around the old Bhopal area to find out more about them and then after getting enough material spoke to my editor who asked then asked me to file the story during my stint with the Hindustan Times.

Diwali may still retain all its pristine glitter but the sale of the traditional account books “Hisaab-Kitaabs’ – the kind that have taken a nosedive, thanks to the invasion of information technology. These colourful books bound in red cloth with ‘kadhi’ strings cost between Rs 40 and RS 500.
Traditional businesses open new accounts on Diwali day and the old books are usually replaced with new ones. The book comes in various categories of accounts to be kept such as “Kaachada Hisaab-kitaab”, “Tibandi hisaab-kitaab”, “Choubandi hisaab-kitaab”, “Matabandi hisaab-kitaab”. The book itself is two to three feet long and about a foot wide with 150 to 500 pages of paper either white or pale yellow. These books are in demand during the Dhan Teras during the Diwali festivals.
According to Gore Lal Ramesh Kumar Jain, owner of the oldest (55years) “hisaab-kitaab” shop on the Marwari Road in the walled city, the sale of the book has dipped in the last five years by 25-30%, primarily because well-off businessmen have opted for computers to maintain their accounts.
The city has only three such shops and all of them are in the Chowk Area. According to Maulana Syed Saab of one such hisaab-kitaab shop, people used to come from Guna, Barailley, Sehore and even other states to buy the account books till about 10 years ago.
The hisaab-kitaab books used to be made in the City by the Jains till the 1980’s. But they left the business because of huge losses. Now the books come from two different cities, with the pages coming from Indore and the cover from Nagpur. The books are merely assembled here and sold.
The old order appears to be changing, yielding place to the new. Businessmen say though small traders and businessmen may continue with the tradition for some more time till the red-bound “hisaab-kitaabs” would slowly be replaced by the sleek and fast computers.

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