By Nikita Mehta:
I reach home from office by 10.30 p.m, and I spend most of my time (and life) in office. When on November 8, the Central Govt. announced that notes of ₹500 and ₹1000 would cease to be legal tenders, I was left penny less, and so were my flatmates.
It was the first Monday after demonetisation and I had come back from office when my flatmate told me that she had no cash and needed some to go to the office the next day. She wanted to go to the nearest ATM, and because it was a little late in the night, she wanted me to accompany her. I avoid going out in the night but because she needed cash urgently and I didn’t want her to go alone, I went along with her.
We hopped on my bike around 12.30 a.m and started our hunt for money. It took us a good twenty minutes to find one ATM where we saw a long queue. We stopped because there was cash in that ATM. My friend and I were a little hesitant about joining the queue because we were the only women there.
The queue wasn’t moving fast as the machine was slow and people were using two to three different cards due to the low withdrawal limit. Everything was fine till we sensed the eyes on us and the comments. I picked a few Telugu words from the conversation all these men were having and I knew they were talking about us and that was enough to make us uncomfortable.
The queue had moved, but there were still three men ahead of us. We were reluctant to enter the ATM booth as the machine was taking a good ten minutes for one transaction and the crowd behind us forced us to get inside. Four other men entered the booth after us. I was feeling claustrophobic because there were nine to ten people inside that ATM booth and more than ten pairs of eyes plastered on the glass door behind us.
By the time our turn came, there was a visible amount of cold sweat on both our faces. I was getting really anxious, and I accidentally entered my PIN wrong, and the transaction got cancelled. I heard a series of comments behind me. The crowd that was waiting peacefully when other men were withdrawing started to bully us. My friend kept her cool and withdrew money for the both of us.
Coming out of the ATM was another task. We quickly got on our bike and rode as fast as we could. I still had goosebumps as I rode. It was almost like I could feel the stares following me. I was never more relieved to get home. It was 2.30 a.m by the time we got home, and those were the longest two hours that I had experienced in a long time.