Sunday, 15 January 2017

Cash vs Cashless



Brian Mendonça

Reeling under a crippling cash crunch, many tourists stayed away from Goa this season. Christmas week in Vasco was like a deserted village, though some pockets did put up a brave front with stars and feeble music.  There was just not enough money to go around. And even if you had the money, they didn’t have the change.

As I picked up a pair of formal shoes for my son, I proffered a Rs 2000 note to the shopkeeper. His swipe machine was not working. Just after me another local tourist did the same. The shopkeeper flatly refused to take his note saying ‘Change nahin heh.’ I thought he would give me the same treatment. However, he peered into his drawer and gave me 15 hundred rupee notes he had stashed away earlier. I came away with the shoes but could not help thinking what the other person might have done. Did he not need the shoes as much or more than me? Was it also for his son or daughter?

The bravado with which a slew of measures was announced to ferret out black money is fast losing its sheen. In the fields farmers have no money to pay wages. They are borrowing at higher rates of interest so as to thresh the paddy before the rains. Harsh Mander notes while travelling in rural Odisha, ‘As in times of drought, people are learning to eat less. Most households have stopped buying vegetables. Cow owners said they were unable to sell milk as people had no currency. People in many villages spoke of gravely ill people at home who could not be taken to hospital, lacking money.’*

 ‘This Christmas, spend time with the family,’ said Fr. Gabriel Coutinho for the Mass on 25th December at St. Andrew’s church, Vasco. Inspired by his homily I decided not to be glued to WhatsApp – until the messages touched 200.  Before midnight they did and when I checked, most of them were forwards. I was glad I did not waste my time on them during the day, which was anyway frenetic with the traditional family lunch and the opening of the gifts under the Christmas tree.

Leaving things for the last minute I had 60 minutes to buy about a dozen gifts on Christmas day. Thankfully I purchased most of them at one shop which had something for everyone from 8 years to 80 years. I came away with a rich haul of gifts (including those which Santa was supposed to bring). They included mugs, a remote-controlled racer car, a ball, a craft box of Warli-inspired motifs, sweets, after-shave lotion and deos. In the evening I went to town and bought a lovely burgundy top for Queenie. I also picked up a pack of 2 boxer shorts I had been eyeing for me. I placed them both under the Christmas tree in the evening quietude. We both presented the gifts to each other amidst squeals of laughter.

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*'Crisis of Cashlessness,' Indian Express. Mumbai. The Ideas Page. 24 December 2016. Page 9. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender , St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 1 January 2017. Pix of detail of Warli painting courtesy Pinterest

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