Goodbye, my beloved Rs 500 note: An ode to the dearly departed - Firstpost
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Goodbye, my beloved Rs 500 note: An ode to the dearly departed


When it comes to kaala dhan, I have nothing to declare, except my regret. And, unlike the famous Oscar Wilde quip he probably never made, I really mean it.

I wish we had known and taken the bazaar gossip about demonetisation seriously, believed all those rumours about the new nuke-resistant, self-destructing, GPRS-enabled new Rs 2,000 notes. But, then, we suspended disbelief only for surgical strikes. I wish I knew, like Mikhail Gorbachev dismantling the Berlin Wall at Ronald Reagan's plea that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be dismantling the black economy to Baba Ramdev's applause.

I wish I knew — I could have kept a piece of it, like a piece of the Berlin Wall. I could have buried it in a book like a leaf to look at wistfully in old age.

But, the last note went, without a warning, without a goodbye, without looking back even once, without a farewell. Like, well, you know the feeling, don't you?

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A wise man and his money are soon partying. It is their deserved destiny. So, the last Rs 500 note went wisely. It just left a hangover of nostalgia. A fool and his money, though, are soon parting.

And Modi has delivered the parting shot to all those who were foolish enough to miss the signs, to laugh at everyone that wears a khadau and wears bhagwa dhotis.

Banking transaction tax, the Baba chanted with every outgoing breath of his anulom, vilom before the 2014 General Election. We laughed.

"Declare voluntarily," exhorted Arun Jaitley and his team till September. We laughed again, asking, "Who pays a 45 percent penalty?"

Now, par 200 percent. A fool and his black money are soon parting.

Let's cooperate, build the nation, calls up my enthusiastic friend GP Goenka. He is a part-time trader and a full-time bookie, what we north Indians call a satoria.

After having accepted bets, managed betting books on the odds against anything — from who will win UP to how many dead bodies will come to a crematorium — for a lifetime, he is livid with the air of levity around Narendra Modi's action on black money. "Everybody with black money should suffer," he says. You bet!

Newspapers are flooded with adulatory advertisements from builders the next morning. Having built their business on the '70 percent kachcha, 30 percent pucca' philosophy, they are now ecstatic India is turning 100 percent white.

"What do you have to say about Modi now, ab bolo?" taunts an architect friend who takes a flat five percent commission on Rs 10 crore houses made by those with declared income of Rs 2 lakh.

With Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, irony also died on Tuesday night. (As did the great American dream).

When they burn all those gaddis, will they call it bonfire of hypocrisy?

You can't withdraw money any more from banks, but there is no end to withdrawal symptoms.

I am stuck in a Mumbai hotel, three Rs 100 notes in my pocket and a debit card no ATM will accept till Friday, listening to the cawing of black crows.

No kaali peeli driver will take kaala dhan any more. Bars, markets, theatres have all, like in the WH Auden poem, decided to stop the clock, stop the dog from barking with a juicy bone, pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. For nothing now can ever come to any good with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Until a few days ago, I was looking forward to the tamasha of the Uttar Pradesh polls. Now, they will become such a low note affair. What will Mayawati do with all those garlands she gets on choosing the right candidates? Maybe she has a valid reason to choose candidates afresh. Start her poll pitch on a higher moral note, so to speak. Perhaps this is the end of the tiff in Mulayam's Parivar. With the root cause gone, they too can start on a fresh note!

On a serious note, it belies convention, money market logic to rush in where economists fear to tread.

You just can't suck 86 percent or so of currency in circulation out of the market and turn hard-earned cash into pieces of scrap. Abracadabra, gone.

What then is the idea behind statutory liquidity ratios, repo rates, reverse repo rates, rate cuts that are debated, argued for months? What then is the rocket science behind monetary policy?
How many people in rural India have easy access to banks, plastic money, ATMs? How many have enough valid notes to go through their lives with weddings, medical emergencies, constructions? Is this the return of tax raj?

In the long term, a lifetime of savings parked in real estate and gold will suffer. Who will buy those big expensive cars, build those lofty buildings, buy those expensive flats? Many traders who rely on cash circulation will just keel over. Consumption will fall, discretionary demand would vanish.

But, that, perhaps, is momentary pain. Some day, with the black economy, it will also be gone.

Only one regret will remain forever: You left without a goodbye. Now, I don't have even a piece of you.

First Published On : Nov 10, 2016 13:56 IST

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