Demonetisation blues

When November 8, 2016 dawned, Indians could have never imagined that they would be in for a big surprise and shock by the end of the day. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on the 8 pm news that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would no longer be legal tender starting midnight, it was a real jolt to many.

Though most people belonging to the middle-income group, who honestly and regularly pay their taxes, were not perturbed by this measure, the other restrictions placed on the withdrawal of money from banks and ATMs dealt them a huge blow. Their main worry was that most of them were not in possession of enough money in smaller denominations for their inevitable day to day expenditure.

The announcement that all banks would remain closed on November 9, and that ATMs wouldn't function for three days only compounded their worries further. How were they going to manage the situation in the absence of sufficient small denomination notes until normalcy was restored?

By the time the chill of the night set
in, nobody was accepting or exchanging Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes; even establishments like petrol bunks and hospitals refused to oblige. Men and women living alone in the city away from their homes had to remain hungry as eateries, too, refused to accept the demonetised currencies.

Demonetisation left no one in peace. Vendors selling essential items like groceries and vegetables were off the roads. Government employees, office goers and students, who commute by public transport, cab services or autos had to face the same hurdle. The entire city came to a standstill.

At home, we too ventured to take stock of the small change available with us. Alas! To our dismay, we found that we were left with just Rs 390 in loose change besides a few Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. We prayed that no other immediate payout should crop up until the situation had been sorted. But that was not to be.

Only the previous day, our domestic help had taken an advance salary of Rs 2,500 for her daughter's delivery. Upon learning the news about demonetisation, she rushed back with the five Rs 500 notes we had given her and requested us to help her out. We were perplexed and wondered how we could help the poor lady at a time when she really needed the money most.

Just then, my wife went into the bedroom. When she returned, she had a sum of Rs 2,500, all in crispy, new notes of Rs 100 and Rs 50! She told me that whenever she found new notes, she would collect them and keep them aside. Though there was a small ray of sadness in her face as she parted with the new notes, nonetheless, we both were happy to have been of help to the distressed woman tide over her contingency.

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