The engineer was in the middle of his evening meditation session when a colleague called and told him to turn on the television. The prime minister was saying most of India's cash would hold no value by morning.
The objective was to rid the country of illegal "black money" for which taxes had not been paid. Money often associated with illegal activity such as bribery. Money like the Rs 48 lakh stashed in a steel trunk, under a makeshift settee, in the engineer's bedroom.
"For first few minutes I could not understand," the engineer said, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of prosecution.
The engineer, employed by the public works department in Uttar Pradesh, and many of his colleagues had amassed piles of cash by taking bribes for public contracts - a practice so common it has become accepted by many as part of the price of doing business in India. They felt confused - even betrayed - by the government cracking down.
"A bribe is not a taboo in a government job," the engineer said.
Image: A bank employee carries bundles of discontinued currency that were deposited at his bank in this November 13, 2016 file photo.
Text: Biswajeet Banerjee, Associated Press