Statutory Warning : – This is a fictitious retelling of a real life event. The arguments presented through various characters have taken place in real life only the circumstances & places have been changed.
Before you read this: It is crucial to understand that this piece was written during the initial days of Demonetization, when almost every Well-to-do Indian was under the firm grip of this grand delusion that this move is for the greater good of the nation (I was standing in queues all day long so couldn’t write & send this in time). While peoples were being ill-informed by WhatsApp (the uncrowned Indian version of WikiLeaks), they simultaneously failed to use their own logic & reasoning. People were overwhelmed by these WhatsApp groups where Bhakts posted miracles that would occur due to this Demonetization move. In a span of few days, almost everyone became an expert on Economics & used the logic supplied by WhatsApp group to defend this atrocious & flawed move.
I currently stay in Gujarat & hence this is retelling of the events that took place with me. I’m well aware that it would be unfair to paint all Gujaratis as bad people & there are a lot of good people who oppose Modi. However, this story is written in the initial days of Demonetization where most of the Gujaratis I met were in favor of Modi. I still am being harassed (mentally through Facebook & WhatsApp) everyday by my office staff, who are pro-modi (some are also Hindutvavadis). The arguments of the Branch Manager are the ones I have faced here everyday since Day 1 of Demonetization. I do understand that we have Modi Bhakts all over India & the situation is more or less the same all over (Not sure about South India). However, it is very strong over here with “Garvi Gujarat” slogan spreading rapidly.
If one has travelled to the less educated regions or less tolerant regions of India, one will realise that there is a void of cultural empathy or lack of understanding towards other cultures of India, which is also experienced by me (I look like a South Indian & they confuse me with a Tamilian & call me a Madrasi & there’s a staff from Andhra Pradesh & they call her a Madrasi too). I wanted to point out the hypocrisy of “Cultural Diversity” , the “Hindustanis” keep talking about. Dr. Ambedkar had stated about India being a collection of Provinces (which earlier were Kingdoms) and these provinces have all the elements of a distinct nationality. Dr. Ambedkar had insightfully inferred :
“History shows that democracy cannot work in a State where the population is not homogeneous. In a heterogeneous population divided into groups which are hostile and anti-social towards one another the working of democracy is bound to give rise to cases of discrimination, neglect, partiality, suppression of the interests of one group at the hands of another group which happens to capture political power.” ( Pg-103, Dr. B R Ambedkar, Writings & Speeches, Volume-1, Part-II : On Linguistic States)
It is maybe because of hence we have so much apathy towards understanding each other’s cultures. So I wanted to point out that too by using the characters.
Celebrations have started all over the nation as the PM of India has implemented the historical & luminous idea of scrapping the currency notes of 500 & 1000 Rupee notes, ushering in an era of corruption-free India. This move has been welcomed by the citizens of the “Demonetized Nation” as they have firm belief that this move will stop Black Money & every citizen of the “Demonetized Nation” will not face any corruption. Responses are still coming through iPhones via Twitter & Facebook. Citizens of the “Demonetized Nation” have never been so happy, for their leader has given them the ultimate pathway. Happiness can be seen through the pictures we have been receiving since morning, all thanks to the wonderful iPhones sent by their relatives in the USA. For the nation of the “Demonetized Nation” this is a historic decision because it can effectively root out the Black Money issue.
Common people witnessed the serpentine queues of Black Money hoarders, the very same people who had been fooling the country by possessing Black Money. These included Builders, Businessmen, Politicians, Local Goons and the ilk. People of the “Demonetized Nation” had a very clear picture of how the Black Money would be caught even before the government. Everything took place as the people had suggested. In a matter of hours of banning the Currency of 500 & 1000 notes, there was a never ending queue of people with bags of cash in front of the banks to convert their notes. When people were taking their money for conversion, the Bank officials grew suspicious & questioned them. But these people unable to answer their question were already in trouble. The Bank Manager flew into action & apprised his Branch Manager. The Branch Manager, a tall & rotund figure, being agile like never before, started grilling these men & asked some really hard questions. After grilling for a full 5 minutes, the Branch Manager was satisfied that all the money these people were carrying was indeed Black Money as it wasn’t accounted for.
Despite the claim made by these people that they were hired government officials, private sector employees & mostly middle class people, the Branch Manager, a true Patriotic Nationalist, saw through their lies. The Branch Manager obviously inspired by Great Leader Modi stated that, ” The moment these people walked into my cabin, I knew they were the Black Money hoarders. Because I had read on WhatsApp which is India’s version of WikiLeaks, that such people will come out of their homes to banks to exchange money & that is when we can catch them. They tried every trick in the book, but as we are very intelligent, I was able to catch their lies.”
He continued pointing to the male & female sitting with their mouths open in disbelief, ” Now look at them! How low can they go to get away with their Black Money!”
“This man here!”, pointing to the first person, ” He says he has to pay money for his daughter’s term. I mean this is almost middle of the term & he is paying fees now! Why now? After the ban?”
“Sir, please, I told you already, I was unable to meet the deadline as I received my salary late from the office. Please sir, understand sir. Please.” interjected the now dejected man.
“Shut Up you Anti-National!” roared the Branch Manager, “I know you lot! Always cowering behind such lame excuses! How can the term fees be 55,000/-?” “Sir, 5000 is penalty sir.” “Shut Up you Deshdrohi!”
“Saab! Please Saab, listen to me saab, my son has his examination in Kerala. I have to give some money to carry with him. Please exchange my money saab.” said a muffled voice. It was a harried woman in her late 30s.
The Branch Manager chuckled and replied “Can you believe that? Her son is going to Kerala. And that too now! All of a sudden everyone has to go somewhere or the other.”
“Why does your son have to go to Kerala now? Why couldn’t he go earlier?” “Saab the exam was announced in March Saab, he had booked the tickets since then saab. Please saab. We need to give him some money saab. How will he manage in that city for even a day without money.”
“Why? Doesn’t he have PayTM? It is the best!”
“Saab, I don’t know that.”
“Are you seeing this?”, the Branch Manager said looking at us, “In this Digital India age, these people don’t know about PayTM. It’s a very simple app to make payments. Anyone can pay anyone these days with PayTM.”
“Saab, but that is the hotel & daameeno people. We don’t eat from there.”
“Oh shut up already with these excuses. How can anyone not order food online! Lies. Simple plain lies.”
And why Kerala, that damning place. All Madrasis are crazy & beef-eaters. Why would some self-respecting citizen of the “Demonetized Nation” send their kids to such a place!?!”
“Saab it was the notification saab. They gave choice, but our home state was full so they gave him Kerala saab.”
“i’ve had enough of your lies woman!” blurted the Branch Manager.
“Excuse me, you can’t talk to her like that. For God’s sake she’s already begging you!” spoke a gentleman in suit.
“Ohh ho! So suddenly you started caring for citizens of this place, you work-stealer!”
chomped the Branch Manager.
“What do you mean?” blared the gentleman in suit.
“Oh don’t be so naive. You are obviously not from here you Madrasi!”
“Excuse me! I’m from Bangalore, Karnataka.”
“Baah! It’s one & the same, Madrasis all of you.”
“How dare you! You cannot speak to me like that in this tone & not about my place of origin.”
“Oh hello mister! If you don’t like being questioned then you can leave this place & be somewhere else.”
“What!!! Are you asking to leave this place!?!? I shall file a complaint against you. I will sue you. Do you know it’s an offence to discriminate on any basis & your statement is tantamount to a threat of desertion of place.”
“Err. No no.” the alarmed Branch Manager squealed. “I was saying this as a friend. We citizens of the “Demonetized Nation” are very friendly people. We say this all the time to our friends. You could have said that ‘Branch Manager ji, I will take you along with me wherever I go’ hahha” said the Branch Manager faking a laugh for some damage control.
The visibly angry gentleman left cursing everyone from the bank.
The Branch Manager & Bank Manager turned to us, smilingly they said, “Normal for us. This happens. But we loved the friendly talk. It was a good discussion.”
“But you cannot deny that with amounts so huge as 55,000 & 20,000 for work like payments of fees, sending money, hospital fees etc are very petty & they reek of infallible proof of being Black Money.”
“Easy to say that. Imagine being in our position.” retorted a young fellow amongst the shuffle of people.
“Baah! I would have gladly endured all of this! All of this! Anything for Great Leader Modiji. But it’s a shame that young people like you can’t tolerate or endure this little thing. Imagine the soldiers on our borders! Have you ever considered them? How long they stay at the borders? Protecting us? Protecting you? No! You only think about yourself. What is wrong if country’s Black Money will be caught? What is your problem with that?”
A young lad overhearing the cacophony interjected, “Look dude, first of all, the soldiers are doing their job. They get paid for that. And hardly a few percentage of them do it for patriotic interests. A large portion of them are from poor farming families, whose semi-literate but able son/daughter fails to qualify in the manufactured competition of jobs. Since he/she has no other option, Army & Police are his only option. It is the offspring of a poor farmer that dies out in the battlefield, not some rich Businessman’s or Branch Manager’s. The number of former group far exceeds the latter. So keep your boasting to yourself.”
Branch Manager, now all furious, said, “How dare you talk like that for our Army people? Do you even know about their sacrifice…”
“More than you, my father is in the Army! Now go and do your duty before we all trample you beneath our feet.” retorted the young lad.
Before the Branch Manager could reply anything, the earlier gentleman barged in with an old lady in tow. “What the hell! Do you guys have any decency left? This woman had fainted in this long queue & she has her daughter’s wedding in the next week. What is she to do??”
“Hahah…Look at this, they have a wedding and don’t have change money. O sir, Great Leader Modiji had asked everyone to open bank accounts, aadhar cards but they did not, so who is responsible for this mess? People themselves! They should have supported the great visionary Modiji & do as they had been told, then they wouldn’t have been in this mess.”
“Are you out of your mind? You do even understand how it works? Do you even know how many people weren’t able to make Aadhar Cards just because of lack of documents, some because of other reasons! Also were these account making service for free?”
“Free? Why do you all want everything for free? Earn your own money & then pay towards the nation. It is not the responsibility of the government to give you anything for free.” said the Branch Manager.
“Are you nuts!?!? Do you even know anything about Democracy? About State & its responsibilities??” Where the hell have you been living all these years?” Yelled the gentleman. “The state has numerous responsibilities for its citizens. The state machinery is for the people, this is not a Master-Slave feudalism.”
“It is because of you ignorant people who don’t look beyond their circle. India is not your friends, family & relatives. You are the true scum that divides India. It is because of people like you that we aren’t able to live harmoniously. Whatever happened to a United India, Akhandh Bharat? Is this woman not a part of your Akhandh Bharat? Just because your family & friends are safe & away from this discomfort, does it mean entire India doesn’t have that? And what Army Army are you shouting. Your masters have been using the pretext of Army for their own mileage & you are parroting the same! There’s a father down the line whose son is currently stationed at Siachen & you’re trying to teach Patriotism to us? What a pea-sized brain have you got that you cannot process this on your own?” bellowed the gentleman.
The Cabin went silent. The whirring of fan & clock’s ticking was the only sound that could be heard in that pin-drop atmosphere. The environment was tense. Branch Manager was shocked on such a reaction. He wasn’t expecting such an outburst.
Suddenly, a phone buzzed, like a chainsaw in an eerily cold night in a forest & ripped the silence. It was the Branch Manager’s phone. With shaking hands he received the call, “H..hh.he..helllo?”
“What!! When? Where are you right now? Okay. Did you call Bhavesh bhai? Okay, I’m coming.” the Branch Manager replied hurriedly.
He looked at the Manager & signalled to handle the people to allow him to go. However, the people now engulfed him. He now saw the rush of the queue.
The young lad burst, “Sir you cannot go anywhere now.” He was right, the entire path was blocked. The security guards were at the gate.
“But..but I have to go, my wife’s father fell off his scooter due to such a mob. Please allow me to leave.”
“Sir, think about the Army javans, they can’t leave the border where they are stationed, no matter what! So can’t you even do this. This is your job right here. Now get back to work or else we will barge the branch.” came an enraged voice which was silent till now.
The Branch Manager went for the theft alarm. The Manager leapt & stopped him. “Sir, if you ring that alarm, there will be consequences afterwards. The police will arrive in preparation & there will be an unwanted ruckus which the police will have to disperse by using force. This would mean attracting the unwanted attention of the media & press. We can’t have that.”
Branch Manager came to realise that there was little he could do. He was in an insufferable state of fear, but he had to yield.
The Bank Manager took aside this team of people & tried to calm them down. He sent the old woman to the window on priority basis. He then took the others aside & asked them to cooperate as he too was troubled but things weren’t in his hands.
To this the gentleman replied, “We should have chosen better. Now we have to deal with the issue at hand & make the best possible use of every resource that we have.”
“Yes. I wish I had voted sensibly.”, said the young lad. “I voted for development. Not this.” he hung his head back into his cell phone.
The Bank Manager said, “Honestly, I had expected a bunch of rich people & politicians or their men here, standing in queue to deposit their money & frankly I have lost all hopes that they will ever turn up here. I’m pretty sure the Selfie-Middle-Class & “Problem solving through Selfie” won’t even turn up here.”
“I honestly wish these Credit Card, Debit Card & online payment system crashes for a couple of days so that these people can come down from their palaces to see what we are going through.” cursed the elderly person who was
It was a Sunday morning & all they could see was a long queue of people waiting to exchange their money so that they can buy basic things needed to survive. Some women were there with their kids, young mothers with their kids. Old women with their life’s saving, hidden from their husbands or the little pleasures of their lives, so carefully deposited in their hidden purses, so that it could be used in emergencies. All waiting in queue, hoping to be able to provide for the daily necessities & be financially self-sufficient for the coming days.
The question throbbed the mind of Bank Manager, is this the development we were promised? Are these the Acche Din we were guaranteed? Are these people the Black Money hoarders of whom the PM had spoken to come to banks with their Black Money. A lot of questions unanswered. But he had to go back without much contemplation as duty was beckoning & he was hard pressed for time & resources.
Asantosh is a Lecturer. Trainer. Freelance Writer