This is a guest post by Anirban Mitra. Anirban Mitra is a molecular biologist and Science teacher, from Kolkata.
Golok (or as I call him in Bengali, Golok-da), our cook for years now, is an impoverished but clever man. In a conversation, he can give you back gun for gun. His world revolves around ideas of saving more for his family and, not surprisingly, he can be quite a fanatic about that. A supporter of the demonetization scheme, he has turned a skeptic over the last few days as banking transactions have become difficult in his native village in Medinipur, West Bengal. His increasing bitterness has a medical reason. He has to undergo an operation and his aged mother needs medical attention too. But, the cash crunch has meant that not all employees have paid him this month, putting his plans on hold.
In the midst of this, I had the trying-to-be-smart idea of telling him that we are heading for an economy where currency notes would become obsolete and we would finally have cards for transaction. Here is the conversation that followed.
Me: “We are heading for a cashless economy in the next few years…they are saying…”
Golok: “What is that?”
Me: “We will not use notes and coins; only cards….”
Golok: “card? ….I got the voter ID card, but the Aadhar had some error. They haven’t corrected as yet….then….?”
Me: “No no. not that. this is credit card….”
Me: “Havent you seen in the big shops? Reliance Fresh…? “
Golok: “Who is going to big shops? me???”
(After a pause, he asks)
“So, then bus conductor will take money by card? …even our state buses going to villages?”
I don’t have the answer. I feel bit drained.
A minute later, he launches another query.
‘‘This card….I am in city, my wife and son is in village….so, how many cards will we have?…cash is easy to divide…but, this one?…’’
I put up a dumb smile. The chat ends. I realize he has raised questions that I could not have even thought about. There is a huge India beyond our card-swiping big stores and malls.
PS: Two days of big queues finally got Golok-da the cash from his employees. He left for home this morning.