About the Author: “Mr K. C. Verma is a close friend, author of “Stories I wouldn’t tell my mother” and ex-chief of R&AW.
J’Accuse the Prime Minister of creating havoc in my life with the bombshell that he dropped on November 8.
Sir, you must have had your reasons for doing so and I am sure somewhere, sometime the economic pundits shall arrive at some consensus about the genius or the folly of demonetization. But Mister Prime Minister, please don’t expect me to berate you or praise you in highfalutin verbosity. Such wisdom comes from airy fairy discussions in the rarefied atmosphere of the drawing rooms of page three people. I am not an economist, nor a political commentator. I am the Gangoo Teli, the Tom, the Dick, the Harry, the Average Joe. To make it crystal clear, let me add I am the Aera, I am the Gaera! I am the hoi, I am the polloi!
And you, Sir, have shifted the Earth from beneath my feet!
You are probably aware that the equation between a husband and wife evolves over time. Most couples arrive at a kind of a detente, a state of being in neutral equilibrium, with each holding the other in a perpetual state of distrust. All of a sudden, you have upset this delicate balance between the missus and me.
She always did suspect that I was ferreting away money and I was convinced that she had hidden a king’s ransom from savings of household expenses. Well Mister Prime Minister, on the 9th of November, when the two of us sat across the dining table to take stock of our finances, we both were shocked to learn that neither had any money stashed away! Mister Prime Minister, you have destroyed our mutual distrust, the very foundation of our relationship. Now we flounder around, not knowing what to believe and what not to believe. Disbelieving everything was so much simpler.
J’Accuse the Prime Minister of laying bare my pretentious of being well-off.
No one suspected my financial precariousness but now I stand starkly exposed for what I am – a pathetic lower class pensioner pretending to belong to the middle classes. And might well you enquire how my unmasking came about.
It was at the bank.
I had sidled up to the manager and whispered, “I have a lot of demonetized currency!”
“How many petis is it? Or is it in khokhas?” Quite frankly, PM Sir, I did not think bankers would use such terms that I had heard only in gangster movies.
“So? How many khokhas?” repeated the banker impatiently.
“Oh well,” said I somewhat abashedly, “It’s actually not so much. But it’s still substantial.”
The banker looked at me quizzically. “Less than a khokha and still substantial?”
“Well,” said I, “It is almost 7,000 rupees.”
“What do you mean almost 7,000? Either it is or it isn’t!”
“It is 6,500 rupees,” I whispered, my throat suddenly dry.
“And you call that substantial! You actually came to the bank for that?” He seemed to imply that I had grossly misused my status of being a senior citizen for preferential entry into the bank.
As a face saving tactic I backtracked. “Actually I came for the formalities connected with providing my ‘Life Certificate’ to the bank for my pension,” I said.
Again he looked at me pityingly. As if to ask – a la Amitabh Bachchan – “Ye jeena bhi koi jeena hai, Lallu?” And I had no answer. To have in your possession the sum of Rs. 6,500 when others think you have as many in crores can hardly be called the high life.
I tell you Sir, I was mortified. The mocking laughter of more than fifty people in the bank, queued up inside and out, chased me all the way home.
Further, J’Accuse the Prime Minister of making me feel stupid!
Mister PM Sir, every day the newspapers carry stories about the impact of your demonetization. It is reported that holiday bookings are down. Expensive wedding ensembles are not being sold. The bottom has fallen out of the jewelry and automobile markets. And here am I! Like a fool I have been paying for my holiday travel, my daughter’s wedding dress and the small earrings for my wife from my meagre pension. Pension from which tax is deducted at source! I pay about 33 percent income tax and now, Sir, you propose to bring in something called the GST, which shall be a “reasonable” 18 percent! I shall be effectively paying 50 percent of my income as tax!
All this while, the others have been purchasing ‘lehangas’ and splurging on weddings and going on cruises with tax free money! Their wives flaunt the biggest solitaires while driving past in cars that cost obscene amounts. I just can’t understand what this kind of expenditure has to do with availability of cash. Do these guys keep the petis and khokhas as pin money?
Oh how stupid have I been, Mister Prime Minister! You have left me with no option but to accuse you of making me appear a fool in my own eyes. I have lost whatever little self-esteem I had. You, Sir, have reduced me to a cipher. I have been demonetized by you!