8th November 2016
It was an extraordinary day for me in many ways
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Morning phone call made me to stop all my work and proceed to Chennai. The reason for this urgent travel was the sudden demise of the Father-in-Law of my daughter. Like any other middle class person I was waiting to take the next available train to Chennai and that happened to be Kovai Express Train No. 12676 which starts from Coimbatore at 2.55 pm and reaches Chennai at 10.25 pm – I travelled in Second Class Sitting (PNR No. 4225612787).
I never quite realized the speed with which the smartphone reaches the information across the country until this day.
My daughter, my son-in-law and my grandson live in Bangalore. My grandson had already left for school, my daughter had reached her office and my son-in-law was about to leave for work when they got the news. They started their journey to Chennai by car.
Considering the expenses that may be required for the funeral, I carried with me all the cash I had – about Rs.14,000, with Rs.13,500 in 1000s and 500s.
It was a normal journey and with not much interaction between fellow travelers – most of them including myself were engaged in either reading or fiddling with the Mobile and browsing the net.
All this changed suddenly at about 8.10 pm with many of them receiving messages of demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. I never quite realized the speed with which the smartphone reaches the information across the country until this day.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]uddenly everyone was talking to everyone – an affinity that was brought about by the message of demonetization had to be seen to be believed. Many groups formed within the compartment and soon some groups grew large and the topic was demonetization and its effects. The euphoria was unbelieveable. I have not seen such euphoria for any event or announcement in my life yet (I am 62 years old). Everyone wanted to make a comment, to be heard by others, yet everyone was patiently waiting for their turn to express their thoughts. Even the cafeteria persons who were selling dinner, tea, coffee, water, etc. joined in the discussions even though some could not understand Tamil. Some were looking for Hindi translation and the person who could speak Hindi was their choice to be with. Every one, young and old were totally excited, unmindful of the fact that when the train reaches Central Station in Chennai at 10.30PM they needed currency in denominations which is 100 and below to use for either Auto, Taxi or for Dinner. Some who banked on taking out from ATM were also in the crowd. Most of the comments were that this was The Best thing that has happened yet in India. And many wondered why it did not happen during the last 10-15 years despite huge talk about corruption, black money and fake currency fueling terrorism.
Some also opined now that 1000 and 500 are banned, Government should not issue any higher value currency beyond 100 and encourage citizens to use cashless payments.
Opinion on the perceived benefits varied – real estate prices would crash, rent would come down, cost of essentials would come down, salary hikes would be less, corruption would come down, taxes will be lower and many more.
Some wondered as to how they will be able to go to their destination in Chennai from Railway station. However the dominant opinion was that a Doctor needs to vaccinate a child without minding the pain it would cause to the child as it is in the larger interest of the child. This opinion summarized the public mood – they are willing to take the pain for the larger good that is expected to accrue over time.
Some also opined now that 1000 and 500 are banned, Government should not issue any higher value currency beyond 100 and encourage citizens to use cashless payments. Their argument is that this would drastically decrease corruption and hence black money. I am one of them.
Some spontaneously exchanged their additional currency of 100s/ 10s/ 20s/ 50s with fellow travelers who did not have but needed them to proceed further. It is heartwarming and overwhelming to see such unified public reaction in the larger interest of the nation. When I got down from the station and started walking towards the exit gate, I was recollecting how the reactions were almost uniformly positive. It appeared to me that ordinary citizens were waiting for something like this to happen, waiting for a messiah to take the country out of corruption, black money and fake currency. It is widely opined that black money and fake currency are fueling terrorism.
It was expected to be a tough day for our family in view of the demonetization. The general mood of the public was such that it became a non-issue to us. At the cremation ground, they accepted 500s and also accepted online transfer. The caterers accepted online transfer. The Pundit accepted on-line transfer. 95% of the expenses happened thru online and rest in small change which we could manage. The hotels (like Annapurna) in Coimbatore have started accepted debit card for even payments as low as Rs.24/-. Unbelievable understanding and accepting of an action taken by the Government.
November 12th and 13th
I ventured out with an intention to draw some cash if the bank counters are less crowded. However there was good crowd on all ATMs as well as Bank counters. I decided against taking cash but wanted to experience reactions of the fellow citizens for having to stand in the queue to exchange the currency. I travelled from Thondamuthur to Sulur (both are suburbs of Coimbatore, from west to south) in my scooter, a stretch of almost 30 km – comprising of somewhat rural to semi-rural to urban areas and some posh ones too. I could see in many banks the staff went out of their way to be extra courteous to the public. The volunteers (there were many in most of the outlets) were helping the people with water, tea and in some cases offering to stand in the queue instead of them. Many youngsters and/ or healthy people were offering their place in the queue to senior citizens. Of course I got to hear a few irritated comments as well but these are mostly directed towards why did the Government not pump adequate cash to bank quickly and not why it was demonetized. The overwhelming opinion was that the Government has taken the right decision and citizens would cooperate and accept some discomfort.
In a nutshell, this reinforces my belief. The dominant percentage of citizens of India are generally pious, good natured, well behaved, and patriotic and would cooperate fully if they believe that the actions of the Government are in the right direction. While the Cash for Vote is a terrible proposition on the one hand, the reaction to demonetization conveys the strong feeling that all is well and India is moving forward.
Proud of my fellow Indians.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.