I Am Back (We Are Back)

Back in Bombay after an exploratory trip to down South, it feels as if I have never left. But it was a satisfying trip nevertheless. We, all three of us, enjoyed ourselves, doing what we had set out to do. An element of spice (tadka) was added when demonetization was announced on the eve of our departure. All other anxieties were driven out of our minds as we scrambled to locate and count stray one hundred rupee notes to finance our cuppas and breakfasts and taxi fares. We managed to find barely two thousand rupees and I was overjoyed to find two ten-rupee packets which I stashed away as emergency money.

Suddenly everybody, rich and poor, found themselves scrabbling for change. Like everyone else, we too stood in queues to convert a pittance of four thousand each, but between the three of us it added up to a tidy amount. Repeating the exercise the next day brought us more riches, But the government wised up and any further forays were ruled out. A few taxi drivers and hotels were obliging enough to accept our old notes and we were thrilled to have saved a few hundred rupee notes. At other places we just used plastic. But we felt cheated when, after a sumptuous dinner, the machine did not work and we were forced to part with a few notes. All conversations were about currency notes and exchange/deposit. We, as a nation, cared little about who had won or lost the US elections anymore. We had more important things to think about and talk about. Everybody was secretly worried about the packets of notes squirreled away in various cupboards over the years “just in case”. Who even counted them? They worried about the money withdrawn months ago for a major purchase that kept getting postponed. And what if it all added up to reach the dangerous figure of 2.5 lakhs?

If anything, the retiring of five hundreds and thousands taught us frugality. We thought twice before buying a soda or a coffee and steered clear of magazine stalls, reading the newspaper on the phone. I realized money is money only when you can spend it. Pity those who have bundles of the stuff stacked up in lockers. They know little of joy in life.

3 thoughts on “I Am Back (We Are Back)”

  1. Yay! Finally you are back.

    I always found it amusing that a value is such an abstract and ephemeral concept. Objects have no implicit value, and only take on the value projected onto them by trade between two groups of people. They can also take up negative value if you consider inventory and risk – the value of the currency notes should take into account how much it costs to store them (say, bank account annual fee or storage locker) and the risk of losing value (say, due to demonetization). All this is not even getting started on the opportunity costs of investing in something else and depreciation.

  2. It is strange that most people never think of money in terms of the pleasure it can give them or the ways in which it can ease their lives. Instead they look at it as wealth to be stored away for a distant future. They don’t realize that they may not be around to spend it then or even to enjoy spending it. The money many people want to bequeath to their posterity may not be needed very much or even appreciated.. I am not even talking about depreciation of its value.

    And then there are those who think it right to spend vast amounts on royal weddings for their hardly royal progeny. The sheer arrogance of it takes my breath away. 500 crores on a wedding for his “princess” spent by a father whose wealth is hardly untainted? Even real royals are not entitled to such lavishness.

  3. If true value is experiential – where experience is a perishable commodity – then it behooves us to take pleasure in the “right” set of experiences. For instance, if I buy a car, I might get pleasure from the anticipation of having a car, the driving experience and occasional fleeting positive thoughts about it. Where it sits silently in the garage with no thought given to it, it is a liability; more so when it is broken into.

    One could argue that the best value is from anticipating the purchase but not buying the car, taking an Uber when needed and otherwise having a convincing belief that I do indeed own the car. Perhaps the hoarders get pleasure out of knowing that they are rich, and that is where the value of the money comes from.

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