Rezwan Razack, one of the doyens of construction giant, Prestige, has devoted his life to collecting at least one of every rupee note ever minted since there was a rupee. His book chronicles this effort to be followed by a museum that will host a permanent display of the unusual collection of an iconoclast.
By Leena Ghosh
Rezwan Razack, Joint MD, Prestige Constructions is obsessed with money; paper money to be precise. What originally started as a hobby, later became a passion that lead to an obsession. This obsession has now resulted in the launch of ‘The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money’, the most updated reference guide to Indian Paper Money in the world. Co-authored by Razack, the book chronicles the evolution of Indian currency dating back to 1770 and also has banknotes issued by the banks of the princely states of Kashmir and Hyderabad, and “prisoner of war” notes – currency tokens issued during war to prisoners.
Razack has been collecting paper money for decades now. “Many people collect coins but I was always interested in collecting paper money. The hobby began decades ago, when I came across some old notes. This passion for collecting rare notes led me to travel the world over in pursuit of currency notes to add to my growing numismatic collection. Although there are several Numismatists today in India, I have over the years developed a passion specifically for rare notes and primarily those pertaining to early period,” he said.
Ask him how the idea for the book came about and he has a ready reply. “Every time anyone wanted to see my collection, I couldn’t take them home. So I thought I’ll come up with a book instead.”
However, it took months of research on the subject and a little inspiration from friends, for Razack to eventually come out with the book. “I had taken a break from collecting paper money some years ago. One day, a friend who was also interested in collecting banknotes, asked to see my collection. After seeing my collection he said I should publish this information. That’s when I started building my collection again,” he said. He took a break for 18 months to work on this book. “I used to spend days in the British Library researching the subject. I learnt a lot about Indian and British history in the process. Most of the documents are classified and I took special permission to do my research. I came to know the cafeteria in the library fairly well,” he adds.
While the task of collecting data spanning over a century seems impossible, Razack explains there’s a method to it which makes it easier. “I think very logically. I started from the beginning, collecting data on the first record of Indian paper money. Then I moved to the denominations like `1, `5 and `10 notes so on.” he said.
Over the years, Razack has managed to collect banknotes from cut-note dealers, stamp dealers and auctions in India and across the globe. Razack also possess as part of his collection rare printers’ proofs, and pre-printing notes showing signatures of early master engravers like Sir George Willis and Henry Archer.
Among other rarities depicted in the book are specimens of banknotes developed by RBI in 1947, which had Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait on it. This banknote did not come into circulation because RBI decided to depict the Ashok Pillar, the national emblem instead. It was only in 1996 that Gandhi’s portrait replaced the Lion Capital on the rupee banknote.
Razack believes the academia would greatly benefit from this book. “I had to research over one lakh pages to collect all the information. There’s no comprehensive information in the public domain. Neither do you find all the data in one place. This book besides giving information on the evolution of the Indian paper money, gives a perspective on Indian history. I would like to dedicate this book to Indians to help them better understand the important role of currency in the history of our great nation and how it has transformed over the years,” he said.
A Day In The Life of Rezwan Razack
I start the morning with exercising. My trainer comes home. Twice a week I go for walks. I go to office four days a week; on the other days I visit the different Prestige sites. Once I go home after a day’s work, I just stay put. I don’t like going to social events much. I only go for special occasions. At home I watch sports channels and work on my iPad. I play golf once a week.
Boys Night Out
Every Thursday I go out with my friends to a nice place. We talk everything but business. I have only missed three Thursdays in the past 12 years.
I am more like a friend with my kids. I make sure we have one meal together as a family every day. I know all their friends and they know me. I have taught my children to be good souls and be kind. They know that whenever they do something, they have to do it seriously and give it their best.