I turned 20 this year, which to me, is like a Netflix trial account for adulthood. At the insistence of a dear friend, however, I decided to not waste my trial run and instead use it wisely to try out things I normally wouldn’t have. Like deciding to spend money I withdrew from the ATM – after waiting for an hour under the scorching sun – on an auto ride as opposed to taking the advice of experts – my roommates who are way better at finance than I’ll ever be – and boarding a bus.
The auto ride to Egmore station from college cost me two hundred rupees, and after I had painfully loaded my huge trolley case into the vehicle, we set off. The auto driver told me that he was going to take me to the station via Alwarpet instead of the normal Little Mount route like I asked him to, because of traffic. I shrugged and turned on Google Maps, just in case.
Ten minutes into the ride, we passed an ICICI bank ATM with a large queue of men and women yelling at each other to rush up. I absent-mindedly commented to the auto driver, “Wow, this is like those water lorry fights.”
He slowed down slightly, a little confused and said, “But there is no reason to fight, is there, madam? The PM is only doing this to get rid of corruption.”
I wanted to talk to him about everything I have read in The Logical Indian and Huffington Post about how demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes won’t do much in the long run as most of black money is not in circulation, but converted as assets. However, I also wanted to know what he, and by extension the working lower middle class who aren’t a focus for media interviews, felt about this issue.
“Really?” I asked him, affecting wide-eyed innocence.
“Yes, madam,” he seemed overjoyed at the prospect of airing his views, “For so long we have had ministers and leaders overlooking corruption and pretending it didn’t concern them. Those who raised a voice against corruption like Arvind Kejriwal are powerless and inefficient when it comes to acting in the interests of the common people. It is really good that Modi ji is taking such steps to eliminating corruption.”
Thoroughly baffled, I asked him, “Don’t you think it is affecting people like you when your passengers don’t have the correct change or only have old 500 or 1000 notes? Have you ever given a free ride to a person who didn’t have the correct change?”
“No, no,” he said, “I always accept even old notes, because there’s a bank near my house. The cashier helps me change all the old notes in hundreds and fifties. Only yesterday, I asked my wife to change her savings as 10-rupee notes so she can use them at the local grocery shops and flower stalls. This takes us time, but I feel happy that by bearing these small difficulties, we are helping our PM in his job.”
By now, I was thoroughly embarrassed at my previous comment. He wasn’t finished yet.
“My elder son is in college and my younger is in twelfth standard. I think of how nice it must be for them to live in a future where their tax money is used for them instead of filling politicians’ pockets. It really is a good feeling.”
I didn’t have anything to say in reply except to nod my head vigorously when he implored me to study as hard as I can so I can be a good contributor to the country. Minutes later, my phone’s screen lit up with a Twitter notification. One of the people I follow had retweeted an article that reported almost 600 jewellery shops across the country have been asked to submit gold sales reports along with gold tax details. When I shared with him this news, he grinned at me in the rear-view mirror.
“This is great! If they regulate gold tax, even we can buy gold too!”
The auto ride ended way too soon, in my opinion, and when I got down, he told me to be careful as I was travelling solo on the train. I smiled, and said he was a good man and wished him the best.
“Thank you,” he said, his eyes shining, “I love my country.”
I was in high spirits for the rest of the day.
You may have conflicting opinions on Mr Modi’s ban on 500 and 1000 rupee notes and the resulting chaos that the government hasn’t stepped up to resolve. But whatever issue you may have against the Supreme Court verdict, you cannot help but agree that this strike against black money seems to have greatly boosted the morale of our nation. For millions of people across the country who are hardworking without seeing the benefits of their bruised palms, this seems like justice. For the younger population of the country, this is hope for a better future where honest work will be rewarded.