Garland maker Mohammad Mehtab of the walled city is in a fix these days. He has been having a host of new kind of customers. They want to buy garlands made with Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes, though there is no wedding in their family.
“They want to pay using a mobile wallet or by credit card. I think they are just looking to get currency notes for their daily use,” says the garland maker who strings together crisp money notes for bridegrooms to wear in weddings.
It may seem like a good business opportunity in the face of the Centre’s demonetisation move that has left residents looking for unconventional ways to get their hands on low-value notes. But he is forced to turn away most of them. “They do not understand I am as cash strapped as anyone,” says Mehtab, who has a shop in the walled city.
He has been in the business for over 30 years, but has never had customers pretending to get married just to buy currency garlands.
A lot of customers want to buy garlands of Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes and offer to pay in banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, says Fahimuddin. He and his elder brother Saleemuddin run a money-garland shop in Old Delhi.
“They suggest I can charge Rs 15,000 in old notes for a 100-rupee garland that costs Rs 10,000. I refuse,” he says. “I am a garland maker, not a currency exchanger.”
No one is more hit by the currency ban than money garland makers like him, Mehtab claims.
Usually, the wedding season—November to February— means brisk business for Mehtab. But this year, sales have nosedived, he says.
Other currency garland makers in the walled city are also out of business as their craft entirely depends on the availability of crisp currency notes.
“If there is no currency, there will be no currency garlands. Before demonetisation, I used to sell note garlands worth at least Rs 10, 000 every day. Now I am lucky if I manage to sell garlands worth Rs 1,000,” says Mehtab. “Nobody has the cash to buy the cash in the form of garlands”.
Garland maker Saleemuddin says business is down by almost 90%. “People do not have the money to buy other essentials for weddings. Now, they make do with garlands of flowers,” he says.
Before the demonetisation announcement on November 8, a garland was usually made with at least 100 notes of Rs 50, Rs 100 or Rs 500 denominations.
A garland made of 100 notes of Rs 50 denomination was sold for Rs 5,800. “We have made garlands that cost Rs 1 lakh a piece. It takes a minimum of 100 notes to make a good-looking garland. Now, we make garlands with only Rs 10 and Rs 20 notes that cost buyers only Rs 1,100 to Rs 2,200, respectively,” says Fahimuddin.
He rues that these days he gets just Rs 100 on a garland for all the hard work they put in to get crisp currency notes and make the garland, which involves folding the notes into beautiful patterns and stringing them together.
His shop is adorned with a few garlands of Rs 20 and Rs 10 notes. The shelves have a couple of wads of crisp notes of Rs 10 and 20—which he says he got from dealers in Chandni Chowk with great difficulty.
“Earlier, garlands made with 100 notes of Rs 100 denomination were the most popular. We paid the note dealers in Rs 500 notes to buy Rs 100 notes. Now note dealers have run out of currency and we do not have currency to buy new notes of any denomination,” says Saleemuddin.
The garlands come in various designs and take an hour to make. “We have not had a single customer for a note garland in the past three weeks. This business is finished,” says Pradeep Jain of Prem and Brothers, a century-old shop in Kinari Bazaar dealing in wedding adornments.
NO MONEY IN CURRENCY GARLANDS?
It is customary for bridegrooms in many north Indian weddings to wear garlands made of money.
There are over two dozen money-garland makers in walled city
A good looking garland requires at least 100 notes, they say
Before demonetisation announcement on Nov 8, garland makers used notes of Rs 50, Rs 100 and Rs 500
Now, traders say business is down by 90%, even though it is the wedding season
Garland makers say they do not have crisp notes to make garlands
A lot of customers offer to buy garlands made with Rs 50 and Rs 100 notes and offer to pay using banned notes