By Riyaz Mohammed
I use 98% plastic money, have three different credit cards. I own bitcoins. I am part of the Blockchain ecosystem. I use three different mobile wallets. I use PayPal. I have NFC for payments. I use two different banksâ€™ mobile app. I have a consumer product EMI card from a NBFC. I have Sodexo coupons. For the little cash I need every month, I take from my friend's wallet and transfer to his account.
I hate currency and never liked to keep it. For the last seven years I don't even have an active Debit card for my salary account. I activated my debit card last week to withdraw an unusable 2000 rupee note.
I live in a virtual world more than the real world.
Still demonetisation has affected me.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on November 8, there was less than a month left for my sisterâ€™s wedding. The preparations were in full swing and I knew we were going to face problems with the wedding. But my first thought was: â€śHey thatâ€™s a bold move. Maybe some good will come out of it!â€ť
The thought didnâ€™t last for long.
At the time, the limit for bank withdrawal for everyone, irrespective of whether they were getting married or not, was Rs 20,000, which was later increased to Rs 24,000. We didnâ€™t panic too much however, and thought weâ€™d just wait and figure out what to do.
For the most part, daily life was unaffected. I made payments with cards where possible but buying a few groceries, flowers and vegetables became difficult.
To make some payments for the wedding, I had to enlist help from family and friends who would withdraw a little money each for transactions which required cash payment. I would collect that money and transfer the amounts they had contributed back into their accounts.
After the Rs 2.5 lakh limit was announced, my sister and her fiancĂ© went to a private bank in Bengaluru to withdraw their share on Thursday. They took their the wedding invite as proof, along with their IDs. They even produced a printout with the breakup of the expenses the money would be used for when asked. It was mainly for butchers, flower decorators, other small vendors, travel and so on.
Everything seemed to be in place. But their withdrawal request was turned down. Why? Because the bank officials asked them to produce declarations from each of these vendors that they could not accept the payment online or via cheque.
Now, the wedding is supposed to happen on December 4 in Arani, a small town near Vellore, and our native place. Most of the local vendors there do not transact online. We have always paid them in cash. Are my sister and her fiancĂ© now supposed to travel to Vellore, track all of them down to take declarations and return to Bangalore so close to the wedding? Even if they did, what if they were turned away on another pretext now? We have to run behind them now to get our own hard-earned money from the bank.
Just last week for instance, my mother went to a government bank in Chennai to exchange Rs 3,500. She got there fine but was turned away because the bank was out of indelible ink. Iâ€™m not saying that they should have broken the rules for my mother, but there are countless people in the country who are inconvenienced, their plans thrown into disarray because of the miscalculations in implementation.
In a Muslim wedding, serving delicious meat to our guests is an important part of the feast. But we had to cut down on that, and some other decoration provisions, and gifts for the attendees because we just didnâ€™t have the cash on hand and you cannot convince everyone to take online payments.
I was relieved that we wouldnâ€™t have to run after family and relatives to keep withdrawing money on our behalf. But that is what we will have to do again. We need at least Rs 1 lakh on the final day: to pay for the travel, the cleaning lady, the expenses for the wedding hall and so on.
The one good thing that has come out of it however, is that almost everyone is considerate of the situation. We will not be able to do everything we had in mind for the wedding, but we will have to manage.
PS: I know soldiers are standing in border and they made that choice.
I also stood in line today to get cash from my bank through cheque, I had no choice here. I had to do it again and I have to make others stand for me.
I also had that initial euphoria when the demonetisation was announced. Today, I didn't feel the pride. I was irritated.
(Written as told to Geetika Mantri)