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 They worried about the money withdrawn months ago for a major purchase that kept getting postponed.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.