It was November 8th evening when I switched on the television to watch my favorite business news channel CNBC Awaz Samachar at 9pm IST. The program began with a sensational news that PM had announced the demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1000 currency notes w.e.f midnight, less than 3 hours away, while I was hearing the news. SMS started popping in from opportunists such as Big Bazaar that decided to let people shop at their stores till midnight. Though, I am an honest tax payer, and have nothing to hide, the news still jolted me. It was because I hardly had any INR 100/50/20/10/5 notes, me being a big fan of INR 1000 note. My fancy for INR 1000 note came to an end with the sudden announcement. As days passed by, I started looking for INR 100 and other allowed denominations to manage my daily affairs. With every new announcements made now and then, I decided to try currency exchange at a nearby bank branch. I did succeed in the attempt, but all I got was INR 2000 notes. It was a fantastic feeling to see the pink currency for the first time, but hopes dwindled for its use was very unlikely in the cash crunched Indian market. After many trials and errors, my INR 2000 note got into business at Big Bazaar outlet for a bill of INR 500. I can still remember the feeling of gaining INR 100 notes and that too 15 together, it was awesome! I had never felt so rich before. I had been eyeing my favorite south Indian dosa at Kutty’s since the past 3 days, with failed attempts since they did not accept Paytm/card, and nor had a change of INR 2000. It was time to enjoy the fruits.
As weeks passed by, the struggle to deposit and withdraw cash from banks became tougher. One fine Monday morning I decided to give cash deposit and withdrawal a try. I reported at the bank branch sharp at 8:30am, though the bank’s opening time was 9:30 am. I was happy to see 40 people standing in the queue, earlier than me (it was expected)! So, the chit chat began. Some openly opposed the move and expressed their discomfort, while others said it was necessary. We discussed the loopholes, the economic impact, our profession, and plans, and so on.. The so called online social media addictive population started interacting offline. It was 10:30 am, after standing in the queue for around 2 hours when I gained entry into the bank. I managed to accomplish the task at hand, and returned home. All I lost was 3 hours of my time. I missed client messages in these hours, and could not respond to them on time due to connectivity issue. All I lost was some business which could have been saved, if there was no compulsion of going to the bank. However, I did not lose hope, and decided to make a comeback next week, to meet new people, and get some hard cash.
It was another Monday morning, and banks had reopened after two consecutive holidays. My family, friends and media constantly warned me about the expected rush. Discarding these attempts, I still decided to report to the bank, but at 8:00 am this time. As expected, I saw 20 people standing in the queue already. The discussions again started, this time about how black money was being seized, and what could be done next. We discussed about “when will our turn come,” and chances of getting INR 24,000 withdrawn in a cash crunched economy. Some of my fellow queue members heard that no more than INR 10,000 were issued the last Friday, and decided to fill the same amount on their cheque. After waiting for 3 hours, my turn came at 11:00am. On reaching the counter, I was told I could get INR 24000. On hearing this while I smiled, my queue friends began asking, “can we make a correction in the cheque please?” To this the bank official politely replied, “No sir, cutting is not allowed.” After collecting the money, and went back home like a warrior, who had won a victory!
One week has passed by as I approach the next Monday tomorrow. I do see long queues of people outside banks, ATMs and Big Bazaar. Yes, Big Bazaar has seen a large inflow of customers since they accept paytm, and debit cards for grocery shopping! My joy of shopping at Big Bazaar has become a struggle as well, but thanks to Profit club membership, I manage to surpass the queue there.
I do not know when this revolution/transformation of currency will end, but it has certainly been an eye opener, and an unforgettable experience. People have committed suicides, and tragic deaths have occurred while waiting in long bank queues. But, life goes on.