I am a millennial. One of the loathsome, entitled, rebels born in the ‘90s. And in the Indian context, I’m the most conniving, self-indulgent adult-kid (one who’s not allowed to make decisions but is expected to decide and not be taken seriously all the same) who knows not to respect people, let alone money. According to my parents’ generation, I know not money’s worth.
Thanks to PM Modi’s decision to make Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes illegal tender for all transactions, today, I’m demonetised. The same as every other Aditya, Kavitha, and Aarthi (excuse the Indian cliché of Tom, Dick, and Harry).
As we raid our boss’s piggy bank for coins to have the ceremonial evening chai, little do we notice the underlying nervousness in each others’ laughter. Laughter that acknowledges the absence of big money- anything between Rs 10 and Rs 100- and that which also acknowledges the possibility of an empty wallet tomorrow.
Chatting and giggling, just like yesterday, I stand in a long queue for some money. Yesterday proved to be unlucky. Today, I still hope and as do the two friends who stand along with me almost penniless. We got lucky.
Today, I have Rs 2,110 at hand. But I cross the road hoping to be able to take my usual bus, for the ticket costs me Rs 13. The new and crisp magenta 2,000 note is merely a security blanket; the 100 a luxury as much as the 10. I miss the bus and it’s time for the next hope.
Now, I hope the share-auto wala has change for the last green note of 100 bucks I hold dearly and managed to keep for five days without spending. As I hesitantly part with it at my destination, he grins and hands me the change. Phew! 80 bucks should be good enough for the next few days.
For an adult-kid who doesn’t even have herself a postpaid cell connection, this is the most amount of cash I’ve ever held in my wallet till date. Two thousand rupees: it slowly sinks in as I hold on tight to my bag.
What value does this money hold? I can’t buy a glass of tea with it for the poor roadside teashop will not have change to supply. Even if he is kind enough, what does it hold for him? How’d he use it? Maybe for a wholesale transaction?
Entitled, you say?