Demonetization. The sound of this word brings on a shudder for most Indians ,and especially those who handle physical cash. You don’t even have to know how to spell it!
For, you see, just over a month ago, on November 8, our beloved PM made an announcement that made everyone ignore Trump’s win. He announced that 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes are no longer recognized as legal tender. The reason? To fight fake currency and black money in the system.
Overnight, my fellow country (wo)men were stuck with millions of currency notes that were no longer valid for use—but, we were allowed to exchange them for a limited period, or deposit them into our bank accounts by showing proof of our identities.
Easier said than done!
Now, I never thought I’d write a post about this, but considering that cash rules our lives, I thought I’d share my own experiences of how I am handling it, and what I am seeing around me. Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, and there is an app for that. But I’ll get to that shortly.
On November 8, my morning coffee sloshing around inside me, I toddled off to the nearest ATM, nice and early, and withdrew cash. My husband was traveling that afternoon and we needed money for various expenses, in addition to household expenditure. While I am a big believer of plastic, as it helps me budget better, plan my purchases and keep track, for certain things there’s no choice but to hand out cash. For example:
- Buying flowers
- Fruit sellers
- Small grocery stores
- The man who presses clothes
- Local Street vendors
And so on.
So imagine our shock when we discovered that the freshly minted currency notes we had brought from the ATM couldn’t be used!
What to do?
Oh, we didn’t panic, because we are cool like that. After I bid my husband ta-ta and happy travels out of the country, my neighbour and I teamed up to take a walk around our area to find ATMs.
And I must tell you this, our area has one, every ten steps, literally. No lie!
But every ATM we spotted had queues longer than Hanuman’s tail. (Legend. Story. Will tell you later).
After checking around 20 ATMs—seriously—we decided we may as well visit our bank, which was just a 15 minute walk away. There, the situation was even worse. We couldn’t even see the entrance of the bank! There was a sea of anxious faces.
Queues everywhere! Chaos, because nobody knew how to handle the situation. Suddenly, we were super conscious about the 100/50/20/10 rupee notes we had, and were reluctant to part with them. I admit I guarded the few I had like my life depended on it.
And you know what? The medical store opposite my place laughingly informed me that just that morning, some of the residents from our condominium had urgently requested change for their Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes! Apparently they had heard about this forthcoming ban via WhatsApp and acted quickly before the formal announcement rocked our wallets.
To cut a long story short, the next three days followed the same pattern—trying to find ATMs with cash. The news headlines were all discouraging, showing news of how people were fighting ATM queues. Some were suffering heart attacks. The elderly were unable to take the strain and collapsing. Pregnant women were giving birth, waiting in line. Moms were stressed out holding their children. Many were missing work.
To add to all this, my father in law had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. Cash was urgent!
Frustrated, I typed “Find ATMS with Cash”—because considering that there is an app for everything, shouldn’t there be one for this? It would be so timely!
The first result that came up was Money View. It said “Find the nearest ATM or Bank – with Cash on Money View App”
I had an a-ha moment, because I have the Money View app on my phone! I had just not thought of checking it, what with ongoing family emergencies and all! Why, I’ve even reviewed the Money View app—India’s largest money manager.
Well, better later than not at all, eh?
Quickly, I pinged my neighbour, my partner in the “Find ATM with Cash” project. We eagerly explored this feature on the app and here is what we learned:
- The app provides updated information on which ATMs near you have cash.
- The app is constantly updated, thanks to the feedback of its user base of 5 million
- We also found information about the nearest Big Bazaars, petrol pumps, banks, and Inox multiplexes where we could get cash. We were thrilled because we have all of these within 10 minutes walking distance.
Okay, now you’ll probably say, “I don’t use the Money View app. What now?”
If you do use the app, please update it and click Find ATM with Cash before you go trekking to find one. Save time and effort–and frustration.
Considering that most of the ATMs are shut down in our area with “no cash” signs, and with the frantic scramble to find ATMs with cash still on, one can skip the serpentine queues by using the app to know which ATM has cash.
And so, a month later, I have to say I am managing okay on the money front. With the cap on how much cash can be withdrawn per week, I’ve switched to cashless payments for most things. Even my local street vendors are using cashless payment methods and I feel happy to see them adapting to this huge change. Yes, change is always tough. If only better arrangements had been made before the ban was announced, things might have gone more smoothly.
Now–go on. Try this!
So tell me – how are you handling your ATM trips?