If time is money, the demonetization drive has ensured that many Indians are already very rich because they have suddenly been taught the virtue of patience.
A crossing near my house got to be very busy and a new signal was installed to help regulate the flow. Every single day, I see people break the signal from all sides without paying heed to their safety or anyone else’s. The people who break the signals glare at you for following the rules. You feel guilty for being patient.
The signal is red and people behind you are honking as if there was a reward for it. People shout the choicest of epithets at you for not moving and standing your ground. Either that or I need to go for an eye check up and see if I am colour blind. In another part of the world, orange maybe the new black but as far as I know, red is not the new green.
Stand in a queue at the railway station, in the petrol bunk, airport check-in counter ,or to pay a bill, and there will always be that one asshole who tries to get ahead of you and pretend like it was the most normal thing in the world. I haven’t gone to a bank or an ATM since the beginning of this fracas and I am sure there are innumerable people looking to push and pull and make their way to the Promised Land.
If time is money, the demonetization drive has ensured that many Indians are already very rich because they have suddenly been given a crash course in patience. Purchases are being put off, trips being postponed, shopping deferred, all because people are sitting on a pile of money that has been rendered as useful as Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote. They are rediscovering cooking because they can’t go out to eat, they are realising that they haven’t worn the jeans and the top they bought from some e-commerce site that promised a sale that would never ever come again. What if this is the last time we can shop for a pair of jeans at this price? After the purchase made up for a bad day at work, it found refuge in the corner of the cupboard and was made to feel like an illegal immigrant.
There are many things that are considered virtuous in India – being religious, being fair, being mama’s boy, not eating non-veg during sharaddh, being a virgin before marriage among others. But there is an underlying sense of impatience to everything. From the time we are born to the time our last rites are completed, we are egged to get on with it.
Is it a boy or girl?
Is the baby dark or fair?
What are you going to study?
When will you get married?
Why aren’t you married?
When will you have children?
Do you have any good news?
Have you found a school for your child?
The list is never ending.
Many things are virtues in our country, everything except patience it seems.
Life is supposed to move like clockwork – study x, get a job at y, marry z and procreate and produce a and b. If the set trajectory of life misses a beat, everyone from your nosy neighbour to your long-lost relative who spews unsolicited advice like people are giving away their 500 and 1,000 rupee notes dive in with a solution to your predicament. What drives our economy isn’t black money against which a war is being waged. It is impatience. If an alien were to look at India from above, it will look like a country that is always running towards something and continues running towards some unattainable goal that no one can really define.
When you see people standing in queues outside ATMs like they are waiting to get their hands on the latest iphone, a part of you feels their plight. People with no ID cards to exchange their notes in the bank have been left in the lurch with no one to address their problems. We grew up hearing our parents tell us about life during the emergency and this may very well be the emergency of our generation. The generation that calls the uber driver if he is two minutes late, waits with fingers crossed for the package to arrive, decides they are dying of malnutrition if the pizza is a minute late finally realises why their parents kept cash at home at all times. “I have a card, I can use it when I want” we told our parents who just shook their heads. Now the revenge of the parents has arrived in the form of Modi’s surgical strike that has seen many people humbled and forced to find patriotism in the act of waiting in line for cash. In a country that is anyway obsessed with fairness, this is another chapter o the war on anything kala.
There is a silver lining. E-wallets are having a field day, mocking cash and making hay while the sun shines.
At least someone got their money’s worth.