A resident of Thane in Mumbai poses with the new 2000 rupee note -- Photo/Anusha Venkat
A resident of Thane in Mumbai poses with the new 2000 rupee note -- Photo/Anusha Venkat

The frenzied queues that assaulted the ATMS on the night of November 8, 2016, after Modi made the announcement that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would become defunct after midnight, moved to the banks on the morning of November 10.

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By now the panic had died and people were concentrating on what should be done to make life easier as the Indian economy moved through historical transition.

On the night of November 8, I had picked up considerable cash from the ATM which promptly coughed up Rs 500 notes that became defunct at midnight. I needed to change all the cash at the bank but the queue outside was daunting.

But as I went inside I realized most people were standing to change their notes. An easier option would be to deposit all the cash I was carrying, in my bank account and pick up the same with a cheque, since the ATM was closed. It took me 10 minutes to get that done. All this while the cash exchange queue hadn’t moved an inch.

With denominations of Rs 100 stashed in my purse I hadn’t felt so rich in my life. But I realized that people were not as lucky as I was.

The fruit vendor from whom I buy fruits regularly looked dejected. “You are my first customer today. My business is terribly down. No one is spending,” he said.

Did he have a bank account? No he didn’t. Neither could he read or write and fill up forms at the bank to exchange the Rs 500 notes he had in his cash box.

What would he do? “If I pay some extra money there are people getting it done for us,” he revealed.

At work people were pouring on their mobiles checking their Paytm accounts checking how much balance they had and some were trying to figure out how to install Paytm on their mobiles.

That’s when a colleague pointed out, “Paytm had an advertisement congratulating Modi for his efforts on the morning of November 9. Even if it is possible to get the creative done and the ad published after the announcement at 8pm on November 8 is it possible to have the PM’s photo too? Don’t you need permission to publish the PM’s photo in an ad? You mean to say they got it all done in such a short while or did they know beforehand? Were they prepared?”

Pertinent question indeed.

That’s when a friend called. “Would you mind keeping Rs 2.5 lakhs in your account? The government has said that no questions will be asked and no tax levied up to Rs 2.5 lakhs (Rs 250,000). ”

I asked her, “Is it your money?”

There was a pause. “Not mine but a dear friend’s. He’s stuck with Rs 5 crore in cash.”

I almost fell down from my chair.

Then another idea struck me. Maybe this was a great opportunity to make some money. What if I never returned it? What would the friend do?

But then again people who sat with Rs 5 crores (Rs 50 million) at home could do anything probably.

It was  towards these people that Modi’s move has been targeted at. It’s only the honest tax-payer and the poor vegetable vendor have been caught in the middle.

Most of the shops remained closed on November 9 and 10 because transaction was almost impossible. Some cashed in on the situation though. I got a message from a spa and salon saying that they would accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes if I walked in and the lady who sells her designer clothes on a Whatsapp group said that she would accept cash in Rs 1000 and could even pick it up from customer homes. And the fish vendor in the bazaar went to the extent of giving my father change for Rs 500.

But suddenly the Rs 100 and its poor brothers Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10 have become the new heroes of the Indian economy.

The security provided by these denominations is, at the moment, unbelievable.

But something hilarious happened when I fished out Rs 50 from my purse to buy some masala puffed rice (muri) for Rs 15. A colleague said, “Are you crazy you are spending like this now? Keep away the money you will need it. I walked from the metro station today because I did not want to spend Rs 10 on autorickshaw fare.”

Amrita Mukherjee

Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist and author. She has worked in esteemed publications in India and Dubai and she blogs on women's issues at www.amritaspeaks.com.