Cash is ash

Cash is ash

When he thumbed through the notes, he made sure to damp his first finger and thumb with the saliva in his mouth so that no single note hugged the other to escape the counting.

"Money is pelf," said our forefathers. Certainly, they did not know the nuances of currency and banking. They believed money was worth its intrinsic value only.  

We have come for ahead since. Our money has no intrinsic value but it can fetch any comfort of the world. The paper currency – or for that matter our coins—are intrinsically bereft of value that they represent or fetch in exchange. 

Anyway, on November 8 we came to know that all that glitters is not gold. When the announcement came that they have to go, a character of my story— a simpleton, a gullible or a buffoon, whatever you think of him, was overcome by a certain inexplicable feeling – not love, not hate— for his dear Rs 500 and darling Rs 1000 notes. Not much in number, but he had earned them with the sweat of his face. He never wanted to discard them so scornfully, but they had suddenly turned fair-weather-friends or too worthless to be kept anymore.

In his predicament, he began to recollect how carefully he would keep them away from neighbour's gaze— deep inside his wallet close to his chest. He had been rebuked many a time by his friends for not trusting the bank to hold his money. But of late they had to eat a humble pie in the face of a massive financial data breach that had jolted every bank customer in India. Reports had said that 3.2 million debit cards were compromised in the country. He had bragged that day with all pride and command, "Now tell me who was right?"

He had never believed in the ancestors' advice that money is "the root of all kinds of evil." His hard life had taught him that "money supports when others leave you alone."

Meet another character of my story— the miser, the wiser, the thrifty, whatever you may call him. He had an awkward, but intense, liking for the money, particularly the big notes. The sound the fresh currency notes created during counting would amuse his ears, warm the cockles of his heart. He would never part with them. I have not even the slightest inkling about when he last time had given a rupee or two to a needy. Among his friends he was famous for "merciless haggling". 

Throughout his life, he had never allowed anything to burn hole in his pocket— no matter how irresistible the thing would have been. He would close his eyes to every iridescent attraction that could entail spending. He had not even let a note slip by chance off his pocket, perhaps not even a coin. How could he have?  

He took care of his money like a pigeon-fancier handles his doves. He believed the money like pigeons is vulnerable to all kinds of predators. If pigeons need protection from the neighbourhood wildlife or loose cats and stray dogs, money, he would say, perhaps needed greater protection and even more from those you know, not to speak of strangers.

When he thumbed through the notes, he made sure to damp his first finger and thumb with the saliva in his mouth so that no single note hugged the other to escape the counting.  

The other day when he had heard burglars were on prowl in some Srinagar locality, he had placed all the hard-accumulated wealth under the pillow before going to bed for weeks.  "But why? Why I did it when I had to finally part with my dear Rs 500 and darling Rs 1000 notes?" he had asked his friends.  

His friends had unsuccessfully tried to pacify him, placate him with the assurance that Rs 2,000 notes—crunchy, crispy and fresh that he had his penchant for– will soon come his way. But it looked to him like a dream— a mere assurance that according to him had no basis. And even if he tried to forcibly believe in it, his lips uncontrollably muttered: "What about my dear existing notes? Do you think I can bear their separation?"

When he had finally given up his money at a bank, he had advised the cashier: "Please handle them with care. Don't hurt them. Don't mistreat them. They are not simply the pieces of paper, they are my dearest doves. If you want to bury them, don't inform me. I won't bear it, I will simply go mad."

Meet the third character of my story. He was preparing for election in some state. Fighting elections, you may know, is not everybody's cup of tea. Don't know about the mind, but it needs money and money power to join the fray. 

Election is a virtual industry. And, by the way, it has so advanced that many win money in this industry on bets alone. Probably, gambling on election outcomes is "fair game" in the UK. Back home, many say money power is "the only unsolved problem in Indian elections."

Anyway, he had accumulated big notes for election rallies. What would happen to such rallies when the notes have ceased to exist? "Democracy at stake," he thundered.

He immediately convened a meeting with his counterparts, colleagues and likeminded. Some top notch executives and business tycoons too participated. 

While suggestions were conjured up in the meeting, some lessons learnt were first recorded for future use: Gold has proved itself to be the best investment; dollar the best currency; lower note denominations the best hedge. 

Finally, the meeting unanimously resolved to find money mules and small time goldsmiths to deal with the problem in the short term. And, in the long term, it was resolved that full cooperation and support of Swiss banks will be sought so that the mistake of keeping big amounts within country that was committed this time around, is not repeated in future. 

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