When we heard the news, we could not believe it. By midnight, the existing Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes would cease to be legal tender. That left us with 2 hours – or less.
Of course, we could always return the notes we had within the time window offered. But for today (and tomorrow) banks and ATMs were shut.
I had just a few Rs. 1000 notes with me. How do I tide over 24 hours?
After I lit the candles for the rosary I trusted that all would be well.
The next day, I had to organize breakfast for the family. Lunch was a distant dream. But I did seem to remember vaguely Queenie saying we needed some fish. As I stepped out of the house, I heard the insistent screech of a scooter. It was a fish vendor on wheels. There before him were a variety of fish laid out in separate sacks. There were lepo, bangda, pomfret and prawns. He was giving a kilo of black pomfret for Rs. 400.
I shifted the Rs. 1000 I had to my rear pocket. I had to bump up the total to at least Rs. 500 to make a bid for change. ‘Take some prawns for Rs.50,’ he said eyeing my son hollering for the miniscule specimens. That left another Rs.50. ‘Could I get some mackerels?’ I ventured hopefully. He took out both with a flourish and handed the 3 packets to me.
I took out the Rs. 1000. He demurred. I pressed my advantage. I told him he was already charging so much. The least he could do was to take it offer the change.‘Aaj ke liye chalega’ he said, pocketing it and was off.
Emboldened by my success, I strode to the store and got myself 2 milk packets and a packet of sannas. Meanwhile, the store keeper was chatting up my boy. I smiled and handed him the Rs 500 note.
He was fishing for the change when a stolid lady in brown walked in and screamed ‘500 notes and 1000 rupees notes are banned!!.’ The store-keeper jerked to life, didn’t make a move to take my note, and said, ‘Please take it on credit.’ Feeling defeated, I handed him a precious Rs. 100 note, and took the change.
I tried to give the Rs. 500 note at the restaurant where I picked up idlis and channa-bhaji with bread. This was a place I usually frequent. I was amazed when he declined the note. I pared my order to make it come to Rs. 110 – that was all the change I had. He put in an extra samosa (Rs. 10) for Dwayne.
The pomfret turned out to be modso when Queenie cooked it for lunch. She also managed to use the Rs. 500 note later at the same store when she bought the items necessary to cook the fish.
And we both told Dwayne the story of a Rs. 1000 note over lunch.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 13 November 2016. Pic courtesy wenews.co.in