Just the way I enjoy my evening tipple, I savour my morning coffee. It is usually around 10.30am that I walk from my house to the coffee shop in Sector 11, Chandigarh, for coffee and writing.
This Wednesday or 9/11, was different. Both at the brasserie and the Chandigarh Golf Club bar, where I usually go at 8pm if not invited out. They had a more than usual buzz. Their patrons, including men and women from across fields, were trying to soak in the two big economic and political developments that had struck India and the world: The demonetising of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and the triumph of Donald Trump as America’s next President.
Since the American result was yet to be formally announced, the coffee shop conversations I could overhear were all about the flutter Prime Minister Narendra Modi had created the previous night (Tuesday). Was his decision right or wrong? Was it simply a political move? Was it a surgical strike on political opponents? The possibility of an inside information scam was also up for discussion. Barring these minor concerns, there was excitement and elation all around that this move for once will break the nexus of the politician, bureaucrat, and businessman.
“Bhaji, how will this affect the Punjab elections,” asked a voice from another table. It’s interesting how people keep asking me this question without realising that I’m equally at my wit’s end with what’s happening at the ground level. I, however, don’t disappoint and pose as Mr Know All.
“For now, I’m looking for some good gaddi that may go cheap since the kurta-pyjama clad kakas may not be able to sustain the installments,” I respond, asking the gentleman to keep a lookout.
There is laughter followed by a discussion on how someone had sold a property and was now running helter-skelter to change the currency colour. “Everything is moving towards, white,” I said, pun intended. “Exactly,” said someone from another table. He announced the going rate to change colours, which was Rs 800 for 1,000. “Yaar dassi,” exclaimed someone from another table.
Enter a financial consultant. He was on the phone trying to help a couple sort out the kitty money enigma. “This woman has three kitties, and her husband had no clue that she had Rs 20 lakh in her locker,” he said sending everyone into another round of laughter.
“I should also check with my wife,” yelped a coffee drinker, who had overheard the conversation. His concern soon took a global dimension when one coffee regular announced, “Trump jit gaya.”
It is 8pm and time to head for the Golf Club bar. By now people have soaked in the day’s developments and are ready to share their experiences over a
drink. “Sir, what a rough day I had without cash,” said a member. “Bai ji, I had to go to Babaji’s room to get a change of Rs 1,000.” “That’s smart,” I replied. And while we were still deciphering the cash crunch, a restaurateur shared a crazy experience. Of how people were overeating after Modi’s announcement since they wanted to rid their purses of big denomination notes. “Oh gosh! People,” I said, only to be informed that how Chandigarh retail and fashion shops did brisk business on Tuesday night.
“Forget luxury items, my neighborhood karyana store went out of stock as folks bought groceries for the next six months,” said another member.War contingency?
“Sir, the new notes have a satellite tracking system,” said a club member as if providing a serious intelligence update. Thankfully, a Happy Singh came to my rescue and countered this ridiculous statement with the following line: “In the new ones, Gandhiji will slap you if don’t take it in white.”
Yes, it’s Whitelash all the way. One good. The other worrisome.