I had an examination in my college the other day and realised in the nth hour that my pen had run out of ink. So I walked into the neighborhood stationary shop to buy the pen and offered to pay digitally, like any other honest, law-abiding citizen. The shopkeeper could have just told me that he doesn’t accept digital payments, instead, he gave me a lecture on how poor and honest shopkeepers like him are being taken for a ride and how upstart kinds like us should be packed of participate in surgical strikes across the border.
So I did the next logical thing and headed for the ATM to pull out some cash for the day. Six ATM’s and an hour later I realised that they were all, either “out of cash” or had such long queues before them that I had more chance winning the jackpot in the lottery than being successful in withdrawing my own cash.
Thoroughly chastised, I didn’t hop on to the next bus as I normally do, for, it had dawned on me by then that the bases, like the grocer in my locality, will not honour my digital wallet, whatever may be the origin of the company that is tickling our pride as a Nation and urging us the go cashless.
Naturally, I was late for the exam and the college refused me entry so I headed for the canteen, where my ability to pay for the samosa and chai from my mobile phone didn’t work either. My appeal to have a “chai pe charcha” on my inability to pay for my chai digitally, fell on deaf ears; while my invoking the name of a visionary in colour coordinated outfits, who dreams of a caste-ridden but cashless society, was greeted with abuses from both corners, irrespective of colour and creed, but still bought no chai.
Tired, hungry and at my wit’s end, I went back to the PG accommodation I share with four boys of my age, only to learn that the landlord has demanded the monthly pound of flesh – in cash. The maid who cleans up for us too, was there standing with a menacing look on her face. The fund that the four of us had created for paying for the monthly necessities were in currency notes that had gone bad and neither the landlord, nor the maid would have anything to do with them.
We tried palming off the notes in the local shops. Not only did they refuse, but most advised us not to fall into the traps laid by the money launderers, who were apparently using young morons like us to convert their stash, one thousand Rupee note at a time. Either the kale-dhan walas are very poor, or there are too many PG’s like us in the city. The lines to get inside the banks were getting longer by the hour even as we were encouraged by a constant stream of messages that stoked our Nationalistic fervor in whatsapp. Some people at least, had enough cash on them to be making fun of our hapless and helpless situation.
To cut a long story short, all four of us missed our tuitions for the day (no they hadn’t gone digital either) and were successful in getting our cash “converted” in a dark alley behind the hooch den, at a thirty percent discount on the face value. I, a student, who had been brought up with a heavy dose of right and wrong, stood helpless, as I witnessed how my friends were forced to take the first faltering steps into the parallel, black economy – victims of a move that is paradoxically enforced to curb the growing menace of the same unaccounted cash.
Sanjay is twice perturbed as his sister is slated to be married the next month and the Government in its wisdom has clamped down on the amount one can withdraw for such events. Akshay, who hails from a small town in Orissa, where his father runs a shop selling electrical appliances, is equally disturbed – without cash, their business is sure to grind to a halt. How will his family survive? More importantly, how will they pay for the expensive drug cocktail that has to be injected into their cancer infested grandmother at regular intervals?
Now there is no money for dinner and we have all been hungry since morning. But not to worry, we will walk into the swankiest restaurant in town – the one that we have all secretly dreaming of dining in – and have our fill. They are sure to have integrated themselves into the digitized dream of the rich that our leaders dream of and accept cards.
Then, on a full belly, in between burps, we will talk of the long term – how today’s pain will translate into tomorrow’s gain, how this revolutionary step will translate into lesser pellet injuries to our misguided friends, you-know-where. And then we will spend the night in the queue before the local ATM’s. Hopefully, a new dawn will break on a prosperous, righteous, corruption-free, proud India – the ATM’s will be full of cash and everything from terrorism to fake money to ostentatious weddings to unemployment to religious brinkmanship and secessionist tendencies will end.
Viva la Revolution! Tweet that to technology!
The piece was originally written for the Financial Express BFSI @Kolkata.
Vidit More is doing his graduation in BESC – a leading educational institution in the city. He has already completed a course in Corporate Communications from the college, which, he feels will help him articulate his thoughts better apart from giving him an edge in the life ahead. While Vidit is a keen watcher of events shaping the world around him, he is often amused at the way they play out and are, as he puts it “ridiculous to put things mildly.” He has a keen sense of humour which, again according to him, borders on the wrong side of sarcasm, often landing him into situations that he cannot do anything but laugh about. The whole imbroglio about the sudden decision to take the demonization route to economic nirvana, being another example a cruel joke, as he sees it.