What next, Modi mama?

Oh mamaji, it was the most unforgettable as well as poignant day in our lives when news of demonetisation flashed on TV.

Paupers we all became in that minute despite the many Rs 500 notes withdrawn from the bank just the day before for monthly expenses. Alas, we had absolutely no Rs 100 notes. Hitherto regarded as poor relatives, these very notes had gained eminence overnight – even Rs 10 shone like gold!

Like all others, I did not believe the shocking news at first, too; must be some preposterous joke, I thought! Slowly, as the weight of the situation seeped in, we fumbled listlessly as if our lifeline had been snatched away without warning.... Phones began to ring, making us aware that we all were sailing in the same boat.

A midnight treasure hunt began in right earnest — all Rs 500 notes were bundled neatly and Rs 100 and Rs 10 notes searched for desperately in every nook and corner. It was a wrench to see the bundle go! “Cheer up, it won’t vanish anywhere, but will be in our accounts only, exchanged for the good money,” my husband soothed me. “Can’t we do this much for our nation? You understand, no?” No, I didn’t. All I wanted at that moment was good money for my coffee powder. But where to get it from?

For the first time in my life, I requested a loan, that too from my maid servant! Unaware of demonetisation, she was only too happy to oblige, and was overwhelmed when a few stray Rs 500 notes that had escaped our notice were proffered generously. And when the next flat also paid her salary in Rs 1,000s instead of the usual Rs 100s, she was elated! But the euphoria did not last long, as she got an earful at home from the husband who had got wind of the new measure.

So, when she refused to accept Rs 500 notes from the other flat, she was royally handed a cheque. My, wasn’t she bewildered, having no account, and not knowing a thing about it! Finally, that memsahib had to take her to the post office, and help her with the savings  account.

God! Can you comprehend, Mamaji, what a tiring task it was for us old people of frail health and no help to stand in long queues, both to deposit old notes and get new notes? So many unforeseen disasters took place, wearing our patience and patriotism thin!

Even for young housewives, the travail was no less. And all for a mere Rs 2,000 which proved to be a bugbear with no takers. Everyone was flaunting these notes and begging for change, reminding one of Coleridge’s poem: “Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!”

Autorickshaws would ask us to show the desired change before a trip, doctors refused to treat unless given new money, and so on. Unable to withdraw their own money from the banks even for emergencies, everyone were at their wit’s end. So much so that, when I fell ill, my husband plaintively requested, “Please don’t die now, postpone it; I have no money even for the crematorium van.”

While marriageable girls bemoan the prospect of losing a good alliance, retired old men dependent upon house rent and investment interest shudder with apprehension as rumours about more stringent rules are hinted through the media. So, what next, dear dear Modi mama?

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