Bohni (Hindustani: बोहनी or بوﮨنی) is a social and commercial custom of North India and Pakistan that is based on the belief that the first sale of a day (or other selling period) establishes the seller's luck for subsequent transactions during the remainder of the day. In practical terms this means that sellers try to ensure that the first (or bohni) sale happens on a cash-only basis, and ideally without any discounts (i.e. at full-price), though the social protocol associated with bohni sales varies by region. Unless the price is egregious, it is considered good manners for customers to be generous if they are engaged in a bohni transaction with the seller. If the buyer is trusted, the seller will sometimes allow the buyer to state a price that is binding on both, with the expectation that the buyer will demonstrate generosity.
Variations in the custom
Although sellers have a daily bohni, the concept also applies to sales at the beginning of a calendar year or at the launch of an enterprise. Often, for a newly launched business, family or friends of the seller will make a bohni purchase in an attempt to secure luck for the new business. Depending on individual beliefs, some sellers may pass on smaller transactions until they secure a large-enough bohni sale, while others may lower prices in an attempt to complete a bohni sale as soon as possible. In some areas, it is considered rude to ask the seller to make change during a bohni sale, as any outflow of cash during the bohni can spoil the seller's luck for the remainder of the day.
In some regions, it is considered inauspicious to allow the first prospective customer to walk away with a sale being completed. To prevent this, the first potential buyer that engages with a seller may receive special treatment, such as being offered a seat at the shop and a cup of tea, or a freebie being included with the sale.
Treatment of bohni proceeds
Some regions and communities in North India and Pakistan have developed specific practices in how the money made in a bohni transaction is treated. Sometimes the bohni money is spit upon, which is a custom believed to ward-off nazar (evil eye). Alternatively, the seller may apply the bohni cash to each eye in turn, which denotes reverence and thankfulness.
- The Panjab past and present, Deptartment of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, 1986, "... The first sale of the morning was bohni. A good bohni was always regarded as auspicious ..."
- Central Asia, Issues 5-7, Area Study Centre (Central Asia), University of Peshawar, 1980, "... customer called "Bohni". They do not give goods on credit early in the morning thinking that if they do so, all the day only customers buying ..."
- Khushwant Singh (1990), Delhi, Penguin Books, "... Give me whatever you wish; a taxi would cost you over ten rupees. You are my first customer, so this will be my boni ..."
- Pramod Kumar Sinha (1970), The depiction of folk-culture in Vidyapati's prose (विद्यापति पदावली में लोक-संस्कृति का चित्रण), Kalpana Teerth, "... at the time of bohni, prices are low in the market so that sales can begin and luck is maintained (बोहनी करने के समय शुरू में ... )..."
- Mubashir Nazir, Travel of the Hijrat (سفر ہجرت), retrieved 2010-06-16, "... In our part of the world, special consideration is given to the customer that does the bohni (ہمارےیہاں بوہنی کروانے والے کو خصوصاً رعایت دی جاتی ہے) ..."
- V.N. Kakar (2005), Over a cup of coffee, Pustak Mahal, ISBN 81-223-0916-X, "... "Don't you have a rupee?" he asked angrily ... "Early morning," shouted he, "is the time for my boni (first sale), and here you come asking me to part with nine rupees." ..."
- Sundeep Kapur, How to get the First Sale of the Day, EmailYogi, retrieved 2010-06-16, "... The first customer was thanked, even given a freebie, offered a cup of tea ... a bad omen if the first customer walked away without making a purchase so merchants were very careful to not let that happen, this practice is called Boni ..."
- S.W. Fallon (1879), A new Hindustani-English dictionary: with illustrations from Hindustani literature and folk-lore, Medical Hall Press, "... bohni ... the first money received during the day, or the first ready-money sale ... no credit being given as a rule for the article first sold ... many superstitious people will spit on ... bohni thoni, rad bala ..."
- Kripashankar Sinha (1978), Readings in Hindi-Urdu linguistics, National, "... Cash received from the very first sale of the day (bohni) is greeted by applying the same to the eyes of the salesman/ shopkeeper ..."