On November 8, as the world had their eyes on America as they voted to elect the 45th President, Indians looked for ways to get rid of their Rs. 500 and 1000 denomination notes before the clock struck 12.
As I walked around in my neighbourhood at 10.30 pm, the streets were unusually busy with people in a mad rush to visit ATMs to stock up on Rs. 100 notes or to spend the Rs. 500 and Rs 1000 notes they already had.
People were finding ways to spend their 500 and 1000 rupee notes in ways which were unfathomable.
In a country where jugaad is the solution to most of our problems, this situation was no different. People found unique ways to use their soon-to-be invalid notes. Here are some of the most unique ways people spent their Rs. 500 and 1000 notes.
There were serpentine lines outside ATMs all over the city. In a city where people aren’t patient enough to stand in queues while getting into buses, they lined up patiently to withdraw as many Rs. 100 notes they could get their hands on. Soon most of these ATMs either ran out of money or were out of order.
I was lucky enough to withdraw cash from a Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank ATM, while others stood bewildered outside their respective ATMs. Even petrol pumps were pumping petrol and diesel at the speed of lightening to handle customers satisfactorily, as everybody wanted to fill their tanks up to last them a couple of days until the madness subsided.
While speaking to a friend on the phone about the announcement, she informed me that one of her friend’s father was giving out a Rs. 100 note in exchange for 1000 rupee notes.
Big Bazaar, one of India’s largest hypermarket chains, put out an advertisement inviting people to shop at their outlets. The chain kept its shutters up until 12 midnight on this special day. So while some went to Big Bazaar to shop for supplies for the rest of the year, and some went to fancy restaurants to enjoy lavish meals.
Paytm had their own chance pe dance moment when they tweeted encouraging people to go the digital way for all transactions. The management of the e-commerce must be popping champagne at this move by the government.
There were people visiting pharmacies as well. Whether they felt the need to stock up on their year’s supply of medication or they felt the need to pop pills due to all the excitement and anxiety is not clear to me.
There were some who flocked to wine shops. They probably wanted to stock up alcohol for future parties or even break-ups.
While all jewellery stores down their shutters at 9 p.m., this one was open until late hours. It was clearly a popular choice for people to spend the soon-to-be invalid notes.
Another friend helped one of his friends who landed in India just last night by obtaining change from various business outlets by purchasing small amounts of products at each stop. They visited McDonalds to buy a burger, an ice cream scoop from Naturals Ice cream parlour, a peg from a local bar, one beer from a wine shop, a Dairy Milk Silk from a pharmacy. By the end of this expedition, they had managed to obtain Rs. 3000 worth of change in Rs. 100 rupee notes.
Others just took to the social media to poke fun at the situation. Even Netflix India had a creative use to all these soon-to-be invalid notes.