The time when bankers got popular and their Twitter following surged
Life came to a standstill with everything being swept aside and under as our city, just like every other Indian metro, was sucked into the greatest existential question – ‘How many `500 and `1,000 notes do I have?’ Organisations and public places, politicians and economists, media and common folks – everybody had only one thing to discuss – is this a great move by Modi? Was this a horrible mistake by the Prime Minister? And did our neighbours know about it beforehand?
For a city renowned for its creative juices with a Hyderabadi twist, we cracked our jokes, shared the shares, liked those posts, retweeted the tweets by everyone else, and gave a view about it wherever it was asked, whenever it was asked, hoping whoever will listen to us, too.
The politically motivated, and indifferent, both joined the war dividing us all into camps for or against it, with hashtags as our principle weapon. Roads became less busy, traffic reduced, pollution fell; but it was the queues outside ATMs that held our attention.
“There is indeed some such thing as 15-minutes of fame for everyone,” said a little birdie. “Normally, we enquire with each other – do you know any politician, any bureaucrat, police officer – to seek a favour. When movies are released, we wonder if we can get someone in the theatre to get us tickets, passes for events, or tickets for cricket matches. After over a decade of internet banking, phone banking and mobile banking, credit cards and debit cards, we are looking around for friends who are working in banks. We don’t even know our banker personally anymore.”
Bank employees are getting more Facebook friend requests than ever before. Their number of Twitter followers are increasing. Anything that can help us get some notes exchanged without having to stand in a queue.
I called my bank friends, and each one texted back – “Let us meet up for New Year’s party.”
The big wolf, however, spoke of his long experience in a queue. “Imagine, I don’t have more than `5,000 in all, in the form of big currency. But if this great period of time passed without me having selfies in a queue outside the bank, what would I tell my grandchildren some day?”
Who will benefit most, we asked. Mobile wallet companies? Credit card companies? When will a chai bandi go on to become fully digital money-driven? Food delivery companies and cab services made hay while cash businesses wore a sad look. The debates raged on meanwhile on social media, and over chai. If you had cash to pay for it.
My online story in July this year, advocating demonitisation and the way forward including the PM’s nnouncement of currency declared null and void from midnight, and the idea of only bank-counter deposits and exchanges, came in for lot of discussion. Interestingly, when I paid `100 at a tea shop, a young man joked – hey, how come you have `100. Ha, ha, ha! I knew this was happening since July, I replied. He gave a sad look and I moved on.
(Sriram Karri is author of the bestselling novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation. He writes for international media such as The New York Times and BBC besides organising debates at Hyd Park.)