I love stories. There’s something about the way they build up, collect in a beautiful funnel of emotions and then trickle down into a simply amazing formula of emotions and thoughts for the world to read.
But a story out of demonetisation? Really? You knew this was coming. I mean, it’s all over the news and social media feeds, so obviously I was going to write about it.
Okay, maybe you didn’t anticipate that bit but you’re here anyway, so do stay. I won’t be going into any technical details about the demonetisation move implemented by the government. I won’t be arguing the fiscal or economic impact this may have on the country. I won’t take strong sides on the subject, from the political point of view.
But, here’s what I will do: Talk about how it taught me some home truths about myself and perhaps, the people around me too.
I’ll admit I wasn’t immediately aware of the announcement by the Prime Minister because I wasn’t watching the news when it broke. A casual message from my sister alerted me to it. Thanks to social media after that, I was rapidly made aware of various views about the situation as it unfolded.
A part of me was thrilled about the entire exercise which appeared to be a master stroke- wipe out black money in one swoop. Too good to be true? But then, it’s always worth trying something out before negating it. That’s what I did.
I lauded it and I still think it’s an extremely bold move, given its unexpectedness and the way it was announced sent shivers down the spines of many black market hoarders, I’m sure. So I also consciously read up on a lot of articles which weighed the pros and cons of the situation. It pays to be informed of the situation especially when it directly impacts you.
There are some things which should have been done differently, ideally, to ease the burden on the common man. That, in my opinion, is where the execution fell flat.
As a race, we are largely capable of adapting to circumstances. Sure, we’ll crib and moan and groan, but hey that’s human. When it comes down to it, most of us are pretty resilient and it shows in the way we manage with debit and credit cards, PayTM and online ordering items using Net banking.
It’s a different matter that a lot of the lower economic classes don’t have access to any of these luxuries so it was good to see people stepping in and doing what they could to help them out.
If there’s one thing this exercise taught a lot of us that underneath it all, we’re one and the same. Each of us, irrespective of our economic status (barring the ultra rich), did feel the pinch in various ways over the past week.
Some of our maids, cooks and drivers were at a loss in trying to figure out how to manage their day to day expenses. Some are still struggling. In that sense, I feel this move was rather ill executed. With hardly any time for people to prepare, the rug was pulled out from underneath them.
When 500 and 1000/- notes ceased to be legal tender, many people panicked and worried about what to do. I’m amazed at the number of people who came out in droves to help support their household helpers as well as people without ready access to cash. These are things that we must be proud of, every single day.
One of the best truths that came to me today was how we are capable of immense compassion. As we stood in line, I saw people making way for the elderly to go ahead. The security guard manning the entrance kept asking us to be patient with a smile on his face.
As I moved closer to the counter, I saw how the cashiers were working diligently and were patiently helping out each customer, despite being exhausted to the bone.
One of the cashiers was a lady who’d been very friendly and cordial with me ever since I opened an account at this branch. She took my call this morning and suggested that I come around 2 pm to avoid standing in line from 9 am onwards.
Her voice was cracking and when I asked if she was okay, she admitted that she was exhausted since none of the bank’s employees had taken any days off since last Tuesday. She’d reached home at 2 am last night and was back at the bank at 9 am to report for duty.
When I saw her at the counter, she smiled at me. Moved, I asked her if she’d had lunch and she nodded gratefully. I left the branch with my pockets heavier and my heart lighter that I knew such wonderful people in this world.
I didn’t rush to the ATMs or the banks the day after the move was announced. I did go to check out if any ATMs were dispensing money two days later but not with any firm agenda. I waited.
An entire week went by and today, I chose to visit my bank instead of an ATM so I could withdraw sufficient cash and keep it handy for an emergency. The queue at the bank was serpentine and I stood in line for two hours and 15 minutes. The last time I did that was when I waited to pick up my hall ticket for my final exams in college.
A lot of us were there today and we managed to stay rooted to our spots for nearly 3 hours, brought together by our common need. And yes, we bonded. Most of us did not even glance at our phones. There’s hope for the human race.
As the hours wore on, we turned to each other, complete strangers and joked about how we’d learnt to manage with the minimal amounts at home.
Sure, there was frustration and angst when things weren’t moving fast enough or when there was a last-minute request for an ID proof by the bank but we good-naturedly laughed it off.
I came back home and even put up a fun update about the new 2000/- note. *Warning: The colours of the note may cause temporary blindness.
Were there things I didn’t appreciate? Of course.
- I was a bit perturbed by how people tried to withdraw more than was necessary from the ATM when there were so many people waiting in the scorching sun. Multiple withdrawals using different cards were effectively emptying out the ATM kiosks.
- People cutting in line at the bank made me see red and wish dearly for the power of Harry Potter’s unforgivable curses.
- Some communication gaps between the banks and the customers could have been avoided. These caused some unnecessary delays (Note: Do check with your branch on documents you’d need for withdrawal/deposit/exchange of notes).
But on the whole, it was a very interesting week indeed. Some of the best stories come from the simplest of situations; the day to day challenges, the triumph of the human spirit and the way we learn so much about ourselves.
This is one such story. And I have the demonetisation scene in the country to thank for this post.
Are you affected by the demonetisation move?
How are you faring?
Here is a post by Mayuri on the subject that you may like: