I am sure that there must be a lot of people who suffered great inconvenience due to the #Demonetization drive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However there is also a section of India that has remained by and large unaffected by it. Like many other things, everything has its own pluses and minuses.
But here are the confessions of someone totally unaffected by #Demonetization in Namma Bengaluru... .
The “super” autowallah: When I got into an auto, the autowallah kept saying “Super! Super! Super!” I thought he was referring to Upendra’s 2010 film Super, more so because I caught the auto right near the Kannada film superstar’s residence.
But when I asked him, he exclaimed “Super Modi!” He was referring to #Demonetization, the burning topic of the season. He was delighted with the move and said here was finally something that would hit the rich corrupt people hard.
He told me that he had a stash of 500s at home but happily stood in the line to deposit it. It was a little trouble for people like him but big trouble for the corrupt.
He turned around and asked me if I had heard of Akshay Kumar. That caught me off guard for I was still thinking of Uppi. He went to declare that Modi was a “Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi”
and “Sabse Bada Khiladi!”
So “Super Modi” became “Khiladi Modi” and it was a surreal experience for me. This was the first time I had seen an autowallah high on an anti-corruption drive. I paid a little extra, one of the rare times I was actually happy to do so!
The evening shock:
Of course it initially didn’t seem that great for the daily routine. The news itself came as a shock for me as it did for crores of other Indians all across India. While I recognized it as a masterstroke, I thought of myself struggling to cope with day to day activities as the whole country would struggle to jettison the old notes and adopt the new ones.
Instead of moping I decided to celebrate and took my son to the nearest Cafe Coffee Day outlet to savour some desserts and use what I thought would be my last spending of the old Rs 500 Rupee note.
Late night groceries:
But it was not. I soon got an SMS saying that Big Bazar would be open till midnight and I decided to stock up on groceries for the fortnight using old Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes.
There was a reasonable crowd at Big Bazar. A group of bachelors were running around like little schoolboys with a trolley each. I overheard them and found they had come with a stash of old notes and wanted to stock up on a year’s supply of groceries!
I didn’t hang around after that for I didn’t want to be in the line behind them! India is totally ready for a 24 hour-hour lifestyle in the cities at least. If all the supermarkets, malls, cinema halls and shops remained open for 24 hours they would do roaring business.
There are enough cars and taxi services most people love late nights and find them exciting. Is the government listening? We are still stuck in rules and regulations that were built around a 9 to 5 system.
I must confess that I have a really bad habit of hoarding all manner of notes and coins. My wife hates this habit of mine. But with the surprise #Demonetization announcement, hoarding suddenly became a really prudent habit!
Coupled with the above late night shopping, we were set for a week without worrying about groceries or changing money. There must have been many people like me. So thanks to people like us, there was no addition to the already existing chaos of long ATM and bank queues in the first few days.
Surprisingly short lines: When I went out to seek cash after more than a week, I was really surprised. There were just a handful of people at the ATM and I got my cash within 5 minutes. All the people were quite patient.
I went to the ICICI bank where I hold an account and the cash withdrawal line was short and took 10 minutes. The people were patient and the teller was uncharacteristically helpful and cheerful. When I went the next day the black ink rule had kicked in to avoid multiple cash exchanges and there was just one person ahead of me in two lines!
It may also have to do with the fact that I usually go after lunch when the rush is the least.
The alarmist TV news wallahs:
In fact most of the people in my acquaintance circle didn’t face a problem. “This is so terrible,” exclaimed my mother when I called her. I asked her what her troubles were: “Nothing. I am seeing it on TV.”
The “I am fine but I can see the chaos on TV” was a common refrain among people I talked to. It is a fact that there were many people who stood in the queue for hours and didn’t get cash. But to say that everyone faced that situation is probably wrong.
The debit card shopping spree:
I’ve had my debit card for years but have refused to use it. However I had to go to Comic Con in faraway Whitefield with my son. That always proves to be an expensive affair but again there was no need for hard cash.
Booking was done via Netbanking, travel by Uber-PayTM and all the shopping and eating was done by debit card. So city folk can actually have a cashless economy. I also finished a lot of pending shopping via debit card.
Change in attitudes:
Like me, many have changed their attitude towards a cashless economy. My parents live in a small town and they told me that cheque usage has suddenly become very popular there.
The newly opened darshini (south Indian eatery) next door used to be bare and suddenly saw a rush after #Demonetization. The reason was simple. A “We accept PayTM” had been put up. Many such small vendors across India have also followed suit.
The chicken shop which did roaring business but persisted with a “No credit/debit cards” sign for years despite myriad customer appeals had taken down the sign and gone in for a brand new point of sale device.
The giggling taxi driver:
In my social media timeline, there were tales of autowallahs and cab drivers being delighted at the move and my experience was no different. In a late night trip to the airport, we noticed police checking cars thoroughly, even opening the backs.
The driver started laughing and told us that black money checking was going on and the corrupt would finally lose their money. He would giggle whenever we saw such a scene and call someone on the phone to tell them he had spotted another checking.
So it is a fact that a relatively humbler section of India is happy that the corrupt rich are squirming.
Of course these are just my experiences. There also must be a lot of people who have faced great inconveniences due to #Demonetization and their experiences should also come out.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here