Banks without money are redundant. In Delhi these past 48 hours have been a telling experience. We are an incredible people that despite the fiscal architecture being compelled to collapse like a condemned building, life goes on with very little change. The cab driver is stoic. The traffic is no less than it was in October, somehow, the social fabric is holding on.
A fellow passenger coming in from the US is carrying a few thousand one dollar bills. Says, it helps him avoid hassles and queues and everyone takes dollars as tips and payments and he will pay his hotel bill by card and he doesn’t need a single rupee in the capital of the country.
I tell him it is illegal to give people foreign exchange. He laughs at me. He has brought in below the legal limit and he will take back the rest. And no one rejects his bills.
Imagine if you will, thousands of NRIs swarming in to India with one dollar bills...we could be like Zimbabwe, kill the local currency and use dollars. I jest but the kernel of possibility is a thought.
I go to the bank and I am told the money for the day has not arrived. It finally does and is greeted with cheers like one of those UN Relief convoys. This is a decent branch where they are not rude — they just cannot give you Rs 24000 because they divvy up the Rs 10 lakhs allotted to them for the day into maximums of Rs 10,000. This is a fortunate bank. Many others have got zilch.
Ironically, the right hand man of a BJP politician tries to cash his cheque and then moans about the limit and the bank manager tells him it is his Sarkar and there is nothing she can do. Good for her.
The crisis thickens as people complain they cannot pay their staff and that new cheque books will take ten days to get delivered.
One man has lost his father and has to feed the ‘baradri’ for three days. He is seeking loans from neighbours. History is kicking in. The collective spirit of helping each other and giving and taking to put it simply is what is keeping this nation’s morale at least at half-mast. Everyone is giving him a little…that is our magic potion Getafix.
Yes, indeed, the patience is impressive. There is still this over-riding belief that something magical will happen and this sacrifice will not be in vain.There has to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or moral rectitude. The rich have been unseated and poor will inherit the earth. This sentiment permeates the average man who firmly believes that the comeuppance of the wealthy is a wonderful thing.
Then why are the wealthy not unhappy. I know of people whose lifestyle stank of ill-gotten gains. Over seventy years of half open desk drawers and shady premium payoffs surely there have been several thousand colossal 'victims' of this cleaning up. None of them seem perturbed. Hasn’t anyone lost a fortune, aren't there folks out there who had cupboards full of now pointless high denomination notes who should be in agony and writhing on the floor. Nto one of the few you would suspect had illegal hoards is batting an eyelid.
Either they are damn fine actors or they know something I don’t.