R.K.Narayan's stories have south-Indian setting. "Half a Rupee Worth" describes the rise to prosperily of a rice dealer in the forties and his death, crushed under his own rice bag.
Subbiah was a rice merchant at the market gate in Malgudi. He have a great love and respect for his profession. As a small boy, his father kept him chained to the shop. He discourged all his other interests in such a way that he always dreamt of rice, thought of rice and talked of rice. He took over the busibness when his father died.
Business prospered. Subbiah kept five cows and buffaloes for his wife and five children. He owned thirty acres of land, a dozen houses and an unlimited quantity of jewels. He also lent money to the needy people at an exhorbitant rate of interest and amassed wealth. In short, he was swollen with money. His money minting went on till war came and food control was brought in by the government.
At first Subbiah was shocked. He get his shop registered as a fair price grain depot. He began to stock rice. He bribed the officials who came to inspect his shop and godowns. He sold rice for very high rate. He sold in small quantities only and he always took money in advance.
One evening when he had just closed his shop, a person came and requested him to give atleast half-a-rupee-worth of rice, as a children and old months were very hungry. Subbiah agreed to give only half a seer of rice and asked him to wait in the street corner. Taking the half-a-rupee coin he went to one of his secret godowns.
The man waited for a long time and then went to Subbiah's house and informed his wife. Early next morning the godown was opened, they forund Subbiah body crushed under rice bags. There was by his body, a half-a-rupee coin. His death was attributed to accidental topples of rice bags.
Subbiah tragic end is the fate that awaits hoarders.