I know the government has it coming. My grandmother has been hurling Nirupa Roy-style curses on the chai king of our country for a while now. Loosely translated, this is usually the direction her swearing takes: “Damn him! You will see the power of an old woman’s curse when that cruel codger trips off an escalator at the airport one of these days. Forcing old women to switch to oversmart-phones, taking our cash away, stuck with empty shagun lifafas in our hands at the peak of wedding season… You will see, Mineli!” She always fancies the fall in an aviation setup.
Prophetic as they may sound, I’m not one of those counting on her words to come true. I’ve made my peace with demonetisation and all its side effects. In fact I’d rather follow the better-informed prophecies of Kerala’s dearest civil engineer. It wasn’t easy. You know how, on your first day in a foreign country, you stare at a note in your hand and try to gauge just what its value might be? Well notes of 100 have of late achieved the same effect better than pounds ever did.
Although I hear that we’ve entered this glorious February with all limits lifted. That we can stop clutching notes like pathetic Crystal Maze losers. There will be cash! And still, the neighbourhood ATM to my left has its shutters down and to my right the ATM still has a placard with, well, something written on it. It’s hand-written, which can only mean negative.
My advice is to go zen. How, you may ask, to adopt the Middle Path when standing in a winding queue of cranky office-goers, desperate rikshawalas and the servants of snooty witches? You’d rather show the middle finger, right? But there are benefits in taking the Buddhist route to cash. Try the following in your next trip to the cash machine.
1. The Middle Path as the Benevolent One intended is one of moderation. Accordingly, make sure you dress moderately. Not so dandy that the door-to-door salesmen and Aquaguard repairers in the queue feel rage, and not so modest that the pretty thing gets to cut the queue past you.
2. Keep Laxmi out of this. And everyone else you know, because each person/god lesser means much higher chances of cash inside the machine.
3. You want to look mildly desperate, so leave the car home and walk to the ATM. You want to look acceptably dignified, so don’t cast beggarly glances in the way of those before you in the queue.
4. Avoid mornings—they are too busy. Avoid nights—they are too prone to thefts. Try taking a round of your block just before dawn instead, when the world sleeps and a few notes in some blessed ATM await exactly a crafty freak like yourself.
5. Do not curse the government. Not until the withdrawal limits have lifted enough for you to afford a lawyer out of a potential sedition case.
And even as I continue to preach this to my grandmother, with a vain hope that she switches from Nirupa Roy to Aishwarya Rai tactics, I know that sedition be damned. She is fearless. At the conveyor belt or the helicopter steps, one way or the other, the backlash over cashlessness is going to catch up with him. The hope, for this once, lies not in the youth, but the sound of the disgruntled past.