My auto driver asked with an annoyed face, "Aaj ke time mein kaun online payment nahi rakhta hai, madam (who doesn't keep an online payment option at this time)", when I handed him a fresh, just-out-of-the-ATM note of Rs 500 after my ride. I was standing just outside my office and recalling how Karma had come for me, given that I generally was the one who doled out free advice to all my cabbies to open a bank account or start accepting online payments.
But here I was, contemplating the days of hell that were about to come for me, now that I had no access to online payment.
Before you wonder how I ended up in this situation, let's just say it involves a drunken night, a lost phone and a SIM card that couldn't be renewed easily. Hence, I had to do all my transactions in cash for a while until I was able to trace my SIM back.
Data says that 10 years ago, there were 0% online transactions in our country. It has now risen to 45% of the Indian population, and I sure was one of those 45%. In fact, I was one of those who would walk out of home with Rs 12 in my purse, hoping nobody would ask for cash. Well, to be honest, nobody did.
But after these few days of only cash transactions, here are a couple of things that I have realised:
1. Getting change from people is a luxury: "Change toh nahi hai mere paas, aap online kar do (I have no change, please pay online)."
Everyone around me and the people I deal with in my everyday life of living alone, from grocery vendors to the nearest panwari to bartenders; I have never heard a single statement repeat itself so many times than this.
And what next? there were only two escape routes: Either run here and there to always make unsuccessful attempts to find change from somebody nearby, or call someone (usually my mom, who is in another city, btw) to make an online payment and rescue me from this awkward position.
2. Out of budget: When you are making payments through a third-party app like Paytm, GPay or Phonepay, you always pay the exact amount as asked. Not a little more (which was not the case with cash payments); and weirdly enough, these apps did help me keep a track of my money. Mostly because they had the 'your transactions' option right in front of my eyes and helped remind me to stop overspending (it never worked but at least I had an idea of where all my money was going).
However, when I spent cash, I was no longer able to keep a track of the expenses and in most cases, I was not even able to recall where I spent my money. Hence, I ended up visiting the ATM far more than expected.
3. Going out with friends was a real nightmare: My friends and I, like any other bunch of 20-somethings, had year-end plans which involved, in sober terms (which I was in most cases), a lot of cashless transactions. My friends sure were annoyed when I had to ask them for help paying my part or, worse, when I paid them back in cash.
Splitting money the next day after our Christmas and New-Year parties was a real pain by the way, mostly because I couldn't remember where I spent my money the previous night. IYKYK.
I've still got a few more days of this nightmare. Wish me luck (and if you're reading this, please, please do not lose your phone)!