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When will Rupee Symbol be on my computer?
Now that the Indian rupee has an identity, the question is: how soon will our computer keyboards start reflecting it? Very quickly, it seems. Vendors say they will roll out the symbol as soon the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) sets the guidelines, since it takes only a minor software change to incorporate it.

Techies say what is required is simple internal coding to assign an additional function to any one of the existing keys that currently holds a single function. The IT industry is awaiting standards from BIS on where and how the new function has to be allocated.

“We are fully equipped to integrate the rupee symbol; it requires only a software code change. It would not take more than three months once the standard guidelines for adoption of the same are introduced,’’ said an HCL Infosystems spokesperson.

It would be interesting to see which single-function key (Insert, Page Up, Page Down, Delete or some function key) will bear the rupee symbol. According to S Rajendran, chief marketing officer, Acer India, technically it’s an almost inconsequential issue. “We just have to tell our manufacturers to make the plastic injection moulds with the new symbol. We can bring out a changed keyboard almost immediately. But it’s important that the entire ecosystem first accepts it and starts using it.’’

Keyboard supplier Intex Technologies has launched talks with vendors to incorporate the new symbol in their products. “This will gain momentum as soon as we receive the authenticated design. Similarly, we have asked mobile handset vendors to incorporate the new symbol in their software,’’ said Ramesh A Vaswani, executive vice-chairman of Intex.
Nasscom and MAIT will play an active role in compliance.

“We will ask our member companies to incorporate the rupee symbol in their operating platforms, either as a new programme or as an update,’’ said Ameet Nivsarkar, vice-president, Nasscom.
The man who created the symbol for the Indian rupee is a single parent with 18 children, living on the IIT Bombay campus. Thirty-two-year-old D Udaya Kumar, who has just submitted his PhD thesis and is poised to join IIT Guwahati as assistant professor next week, is as proud of his green babies as he is of giving India its currency sign.

There are coconuts, jamuns, neem and what-have-you , sowed and nursed by Udaya Kumar during his nine-year stay at hostel 7 on the Powai campus of IIT Bombay while pursuing his masters and doctorate degree at Industrial Design Centre (IDC). He doesn’t have favourites but likes to design the world around him in green, preferably with a football ground and a river nearby. The two predominant forces that drove him to apply at IIT Guwahati, not the usual choice of most of his ilk, were the impressive sports stadium on the campus and the “beautiful’ ’ Brahmaputra river flowing alongside.

In fact, his proven design talent is just one facet of his personality. Udaya Kumar is an accomplished gardener, a passionate nature lover, sports enthusiast, and fitness freak, all rolled into one compact package.

Though he has superb organisational skills, he is soft-spoken to a fault, usually managing two-and-a-half words per minute. On Thursday though, he outdid himself by repeating his rupee design story from afternoon to midnight without a break on TV channels of all hues.

But he was not complaining. Nor did he make light of the prize money of Rs 2.5 lakh, as some advertising experts did on television channels . “Had I been working for a corporate, I would have made much more money but wouldn’t have earned a fraction of the honour,” he says, head firmly on his shoulders even in his hour of glory.

Flipping between television interviews, he was pumped up on a diet of warm water provided by a ready battery of roomies and hostelites as tea and coffee are off limits. A vegetarian by choice, Udaya Kumar is a man of simple needs and food habits. Unlike most IITians who dream big, his dreams command merely communion with nature. Again, unlike most of his ilk, he’s not really into soaking up pirated versions of the latest Bollywood release in his hostel room. He’d much rather play cricket or volleyball on the field or spend time in his garden.

The second of four children, Udaya Kumar was born to N Dharmalingam , a contractor, and Jayalakshmi in 1978 in Chennai. He credits his boarding school, La Chatelaine junior college, for honing him into a well-rounded person. “I spent almost half my life there - from Std 1 to 12. They laid the foundation for my interest in sports and design.”
While doing his Bachelors in Architecture from Anna university, he designed posters and publications that helped him define his calling - visual design. “I realised Indian scripts don’t have their design repertoire . After two years of trying to create something new in Tamil typography , I realised that I shouldn’t work on my own. I needed expert guidance and hence, came to Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay,” he says.

Designing the simple-looking Indian rupee symbol did not come easy for Udaya Kumar. “I spent endless nights on trial and error. The symbol had to have universal design features while staying Indian in spirit,” he says. That explains the propensity of his symbol towards the Latin letter form, ‘R’ for rupee, and the stroke across the top curve, parallel to the ‘shirorekha’ , the line heading the alphabet in Devnagari script. “Most international currencies have double strokes such as the Australian dollar, Korean yen, the Euro or the Lira. The features pronounce its identity as a currency,” he says.

Experts say the next step of assimilating the symbol into the keyboard will be a challenge. Unlike the dollar, which requires hitting a single key, most international currencies are either unrepresented on computers or are expressed through a complicated algorithm of keys which often inhibits users.

Today, not even the Euro, in spite of being a dominant currency, finds a ready place on keyboards. After Unicode, an international standard for incorporation of individual codes, gives the glyph code for keyboard integration , keyboard manufacturers will engrave the rupee symbol on their products.

That doesn’t bother Udaya Kumar though. Having done his job, he’s looking forward to his new innings at idyllic Guwahati.
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