A harrowing tale of a demonetisation loser

Pia Kahol
Pia KaholNov 20, 2016 | 15:46

A harrowing tale of a demonetisation loser

You had just stretched out on the bed in your village house courtyard, waiting for dinner to be served. It was 8pm. There was slight chill in the air. It was a long day but nothing unusual. The whole of that day you were planning to buy a surprise gift for your wife for the anniversary next month. An earring. She would like that. You were smiling to yourself thinking of the moment you would bring it to her. Or maybe you should take her to the store. Women like that.


You have been very happy for the past few days. Just a month ago, you had sold your ancestral land in the village for Rs 12 lakh. The seller had insisted it will be in cash. This was the way in the land. You had the cash hidden under your shirt. You had talked to a few people about what to do. You had never seen so much money in your life. But you were happy. You felt rich. You had taken your family for a big dinner that day in the nearest city. The bill was Rs 300. You had paid happily. You paid the waiter Rs 30 tip. He did a salam to you. You felt like your sahib.

You had allotted small part of the money for your wife’s gift and mother's gift. Better to buy ghar ki Lakshmi something, you had reasoned. The rest you planned to invest in fixed deposits. You had calculated. It will become Rs 20 lakh in five years, according to your brother who worked as a driver in the big city. That was good.

You will not have to worry about your daughter’s wedding. Or maybe you will buy a decent apartment in town with it. You hadn’t made up your mind. That is why it was lying around. There was still time, you thought. What about your parent’s medical expenses? They could pay for themselves. Their shanty had also increased in value. They would sell that, come live with you in your new apartment, and will use that money to help them in their old age.


Everything was under control. The pressure cooker was whistling. Soon you will have dinner. Life seemed to working out well. You have done well and you deserved this. You smiled to yourself. You slept well.

Next morning your neighbour woke you up and said the Prime Minister came on TV in his new dress. How is he always dressed for a wedding, you wondered. The Prime Minister was a charming man, a common man. He spoke with his heart, your neighbour said. You listened. Then the neighbour said, your money was trash. You are a criminal. You will be persecuted. Your neighbour had a wry smile and a celebratory gait when he walked away.

Your world just came crashing down. Your brother from the city called and said, be scared. You saw taxmen coming to your door. With it, your hopes, your dreams crashed. What if you went to jail? What about your son and daughter? What will your wife do? You felt frantic. You tried to think of a friend who could help. Maybe that cousin’s son who works in the credit card company call centre. Maybe. No hope, he said. Then he called again, said he knows someone who will take 50 per cent for changing your money to the new valid notes. Think about it.

You feel like a fool. You feel angry and insulted. (Photo: India Today)

Your brother’s sahib has a CA. He has a lawyer. He tells you to deposit the money. He says something about “rural income”. You thought what is the difference now. Yesterday my income was income, today it is called rural income. You don’t understand and TV talks about more persecution. The more you hear, the more nervous you feel. Your brother tells you the money will all be taken.

The banker will ask you questions. You may even come on TV. They have cameras. Your brother is like you. You feel the fear rising from within. You sold the land, what is your fault, you thought? You call the buyer, ask him to take it back and give the land back. He say bugger off… you cry, you beg. He says get lost. Get lost. Brother calls, calms you down, suggest that you at least put some money in the bank.

The bank is 2.5km away. It’s a small rural bank. The big one is in the city some 20-odd km away and you hope you don’t have to go there. There they don’t treat you well. They call you names and think you are scum. So you go to the rural bank and you stand in the line. Men push you from behind. There are war cries. An old man stands next to the line clutching a bundle of notes. He is partially blind. He pleads with you to do it for him.

He needs it for his disabled wife at home. You hesitate but don’t agree. You are told to get a photocopy of your card. There is no electricity and now everybody including the bank is suggesting that you go to the dreaded city. Here you will anyway after standing in line get only Rs 500 and not the media-promised Rs 4,500. You think you will go to the city the next day for your new cash.

But the neighbour with radio says the government announced that you are dishonest. It is on to you. It is making new rules every day. The government is convinced you are a criminal. You feel bad. You love your motherland and your family. Who will believe you now?

The Prime Minister once again came on television and this time you are in the city to see it in the neighbourhood TV shop while waiting in line. Three dresses in one day, you count. You feel the small hole in your pyjama. You, the criminal. He promises to the world that you will be persecuted. Thousands of men and women clap their hands. They all wear white caps.

You try to calculate the number of caps and money per cap. Who spends on such things, you wonder. It reminds you of a school function. Children in blue caps of the same colour. You feel sombre. They laugh. At you. Your family. You worry for your parents. Their shanty will never sell now. The Prime Minister promises he will hire thousands of sahibs to hunt you down. You don’t feel life is worth living any more.

Your son’s teacher had warned you not to vote for this man. He is a fascist, she had said. You didn’t know what that even means. You had smiled politely. Others said you were being misled. You made a choice. You wanted a common man on the seat. Someone who would understand your pain.

Now you feel like a fool. You feel angry and insulted. He mocks you. You feel scared. Not just for yourself anymore. But for your country. And your countrymen who are watching him in thousands of small houses. They are waiting for the authorities too. Tiny men in a powerful state. Just like you.

Last updated: November 20, 2016 | 15:46
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