What Is Stopping Us From Spending Cash?

Posted by Shivani B Jha
December 8, 2016

It has been almost a month since demonetisation was declared and if there’s anything good that has come from it, the lack of cash has checked my habit of spending unnecessarily.

I remember having an interesting conversation with an ATM guard in a market in Sector 41, Noida. He was complaining about how fear and insecurity has gripped the nation.

He told me how one day he was relaxing around 2 am while a ‘No Cash’ board hung on the ATM, and a man knocked to ask, “Paise hain?” (Is cash available?) to which he responded, saying, “Nahi! Ye board kyun laga hota phir?” (No. Why else would this board be hanging?) He was actually furious.

He continued: “Roz hota hai Madam ye.” (This happens every day.) To mollify him, I said, “Theek hai, log bhi pareshan hain.” (It’s okay, people are also troubled.)

To my wonderment, he got even angrier and said, “Nahi madam, pareshaan hum hain. Pareshaan aap bhi hain. Ye log to kuch zyada hi pareshaan hain.” (No Madam, we are troubled; you are troubled. But these people seem really troubled.)”

He then narrates having seen women and men come with as many as four ATM cards to withdraw cash and repeat the same the next day and the day after that. His analysis was nothing short of what an economist would have said. He expressed his worries of not seeing a stable market anytime soon because people who have been withdrawing money were too scared to spend it and because of this, cash won’t get circulated in the market smoothly. And all of us will be terrified of our very own Frankenstein’s monster.

What he said next left me flabbergasted. He said, “Madam, paise thode na chabaata hai insaan.” (Madam, one does not eat money.) And this was it. All I had for him was respect. We shared nods and smiles and then he went on his way.

Madam, paise hi thode na chabaata hai insaan.”

In one sentence he brought economics and spirituality together. In what quantities do we need something? How much do we spend in a day or a week? Most people standing in ATM queues regularly, are nothing but scared. Fear grips them so badly that all they want to is to be on the ‘safer side’.

Practically, in a technology-friendly world, how much cash do people belonging to the middle and the upper middle class have to carry? You can travel, eat, buy food, clothes, juice, medicines, cosmetics, etc. from all kinds of apps available to you. We have Paytm, Mobikwik, Freecharge, Grofers, net banking, debit/credit cards and what not.

The other day, I had a long discussion with a fruit vendor about these cashless methods of transaction. “Hum bhi shuru karenge madam. Cash kam hai to kya hua, duniya to chal hi rahi hai.” (I too will start soon, madam. What if there is less cash, the world hasn’t stopped moving.)

Honestly, I do have a hundred rupee note in my purse that I borrowed from a friend, and it stays right there. It has no use but to give me a sense of security. We must ask ourselves, is that not what we are running after? A sense of security?

I remember at our bookstall in Sector 12, where I was volunteering for the Prashant Advait Foundation, it was the day right after the PM had announced demonetisation and cash in ATMs were to be made available in a couple of days’ time. What I could see on people’s face was not discomfort; it was fear. Those books that would have been picked by people very quickly on other days were lying abandoned in our stall.

All I could see was different manifestations of fear; all I could hear was shrieks from a scared mind. What we call a healthy society is a mask we use to cover all the nasty wounds inside. And in situations like this, the wounds get undressed. Probably, to let the wound open will help it heal quickly.


Image source: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images