Much ado about money

Sakal Times
Tuesday, 7 November 2017

After months of planning, scheduling and rescheduling, my friend and I embarked on a rather long and ambitious trip from Mumbai, and reached Delhi, halfway through our trip. We were joined by two other friends from Delhi for a road trip to Kasauli, a beautiful mountain village in Himachal Pradesh

November 8, 2016 will be forever etched in our memory. Coming to terms with the note ban, some of us did wait in endless queues at banks or ATM machines. But some managed to laugh and see the lighter side of things. Today, on demonetisation anniversary,  Team Sakal Times catches up with a few of them       

Cashless to cashless

After months of planning, scheduling and rescheduling, my friend and I embarked on a rather long and ambitious trip from Mumbai, and reached Delhi, halfway through our trip. We were joined by two other friends from Delhi for a road trip to Kasauli, a beautiful mountain village in Himachal Pradesh.

Having left Delhi on November 26, we were quite cash-strapped, given that demonetisation was an 18-day-old baby. That didn’t stop us from taking the road trip though, rather we smartly planned to use the last few old Rs 500 notes at toll booths, and for paying road taxes while changing three states — Delhi, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. With that feeling of accomplishment, we reached Kasauli and expected to find ATMs without queues there, because small-towns-less-population. Hardly did we know that it also meant lesser facilities, as a result of which all the four ATMs in the town were cashless. Somehow managing the two days in Kasauli, we began our journey back to Delhi. Around 12 km away, we found an ATM with some four to five people in the queue. We were overjoyed. All four of us withdrew Rs 2,000 each since that was the withdrawal limit then.

Driving with joy, we met with a minor accident shortly, and were left stranded in the middle of nowhere at around 8 pm, with four muscular guys whose car we had crashed into. It was our fault, by the way. We were trying to reason with them, but to no avail. Being four girls stuck in the mountains at that hour, and hardly any traffic on the road, we were quite scared, honestly. The guys wouldn’t budge. “Laakho ka nuksaan hua hai hamara (The damage is worth lakhs),” they said. With no other option, we called the police, who came pretty soon, and facilitated a golden mean between us. “Pay them some damage charges instead of getting into legal hassles,” he suggested, and there went all the money we had just withdrawn. Cashless once again, we returned to the long ATM queues of Delhi.

— Archana Iyer,
Communication professional, Mumbai

It rang a bell in London too

The minute I heard the note ban announcement, the cup from which I was sipping tea fell from my hands, quite literally. While family and friends living in India thought that those living abroad would not be affected by the currency ban, NRIs had enough reason to panic.

Every year while visiting India, I would get pounds and convert them to rupees. However, I would never convert the leftover Indian money to UK currency while returning home. So I would have almost Rs 50,000-60,000 every year. Since I never got them exchanged, in a span of five years, I had around Rs 2.5-3 lakh and of course my husband wasn’t aware of my savings. I am not too sure if it is illegal to keep currency of other countries, but I knew the concerned authorities wouldn’t be too happy to learn about it. So the minute I heard that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were no more legal tender, the bundles of notes stashed away in my cupboard flashed through my mind.
Although I was crying my eyes out secretly in my bathroom and at work, I didn’t  have the courage to tell my husband. Every time he saw be sulking, he thought I was PMSing and overreacting. After three days of failed attempts at secretly getting the notes exchanged, I had to reveal my secret. He first blasted me, but then he tried requesting his friends travelling to India to get the money exchanged, visited the Indian Embassy and currency exchange points at the airport and various other centres, but nothing worked. I knew by the time, I would be visiting India, it would be too late for me to do anything. My husband still teases me by calling me the ‘real currency hoarder’.

—Rekha Kumari,
School teacher, West London

Kaun Banega Crorepati?

Usually aunts shower affection and pamper their nephews and nieces. However, my bua ji (father’s elder sister), despite being married to a filthy rich man, has never pampered me or brought me any small gift. Hence I hardly bond with her. So when she landed up at our place in the middle of the night on November 8, travelling all the way from Jamshedpur to Dhanbad, we were shocked to see her completely baffled and soaked in tears. We thought her husband had taken ill but what she disclosed took us by surprise. We hadn’t noticed the two big suitcases she had been carrying or rather hiding. When she opened them we could see the bundles of Rs 1,000 notes. She pleaded with us saying that we take the cash, get it exchanged and deposit it in our bank accounts. The amount was Rs 1 crore! It was a good opportunity to become a crorepati without sitting on the ‘hot seat’, but who would take the risk? What if the CBI would raid us? What if we visited the bank and then after standing in the queue for hours and finally reaching the counter, they would call the police? Thousands of emotions ran through my head. It was too hard to say ‘no’, but we knew we would end up in a soup if we accepted it. My mother and bua ji tried to reason with my dad and me to get the notes exchanged, but we overcame our greed. This ended my dreams of becoming a crorepati and further ruined our relationship with bua ji.

— Sanjay Singh

Making friends  

Like everyone else I too was cash strapped and ran helter-skelter to find an ATM machine from the moment demonetisation was announced. After standing in serpetine queues for three days, I finally managed to get some crisp new notes. But the good part is that I also made a few friends while waiting in queue. After our little adventure with the ATM machine we even made plans of grabbing coffee at a nearby cafe. Thanks to demonetisation I found two amazing friends. I still meet them and laugh at how we became friends in the first place.

— Ujjwala Shinde,
Architect, Mumbai
Computer engineer, Dhanbad (Jharkhand)

A surprise party

We were at work when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation on TV. Some of us did not know what had happened, we got to hear from our colleagues. While some of us believed it, others thought it was a hoax or a rumour. It was not until a few hours after the announcement that we realised what was happening. A colleague of ours, who had some connections with a political party in the Hinjewadi area had a couple of old notes which would be useless. For some dubious reasons, he didn’t want to go and get it exchanged at the bank. Someone came up with the bright idea that he should give us a treat, so that the notes which were then banned, would be well spent.

Post midnight, after out shift, about 20 of us went to a local bar. Some would call the place shady, but hey, it was an all-you-can-drink party, plus a buffet. The person who paid the bill in the banned currency notes wasn’t happy about the demonetisation, but at least he emptied his pockets knowing it was the most fun way to lose the money.

— Ankit Deshmukh,
BPO professional, Pune

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