When was the last time you looked at the 100 buck note in your wallet with some love or even admiration? I admit I have never done so until last night after Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes off the legal tender list. I scrambled off the chair and pulled out the wallet, and noted the existence of the two Rs 100 notes in the wallet apart from the two Rs 500 notes that occupied prime space with the 500s occupying the full length of the billfold. Unlike the 500s, the Rs 100 notes were folded and shoved in with multiple charge card slips, sundry cards, parking stubs.
All this until 8 pm on November 8. I am sure I am one of the many millions who dealt with 100s only when they broke the 500 or the 1000. It isn’t as if I rolled in the cash, it’s just that the 500s and the 1000s had become such mainstream currencies that would be accepted and turned into change easily. Anyone saying they didn’t do the same are lying through their teeth.
In 2016, what can one do with a 100 rupee note? In Delhi, I can buy five 500 ml pouches of Mother Dairy cow milk or 3 loaves of plainjane brown bread and keep some change or some vegetables or 20 Rs 5 eggs or some a dozen of Rs 8 eggs, etc etc. Note that all the items listed above are provisions for the kitchen. Or buy 12 Rs 8 tokens of the lowest Metro fare and go nuts, going up and down the Metro one station at a time. Just a coffee at Coffee Day or Barista, leave alone Starbucks doesn’t come within Rs 100. The same with sandwiches, though stale samosas are very affordable in the 100 rupee budget, along with enough Eno to digest it peacefully. People got used to carrying the 500s and the 1000s since the 100 notes were of no immediate value. An IndiaSpend article (http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/rs-14-lakh-cr-cash-junked-what-that-means-for-black-money-13911) notes, “While bank notes increased 40% from 2011 to 2016, Rs 500 notes increased 76% and Rs 1,000 notes increased 109%, the finance ministry said.”
With inflation leaving the Rs 100 note in the realm of change, the Rs 500s and the rs 1000s became the normal notes in the scheme of things. The Rs 100 note was kept only for sundry things like parking fee, change for loose cigarettes (a full pack of kingsize cigarettes this writer used to smoke costs Rs 235, imagine the trauma and unease of carrying 2 one hundred rupee notes, the three tens and one clunky 5 rupee coin or the permutations required to have 1s and 2s to make Rs 5), auto fare, metro fare and for small quantities of provisions as detailed above, etc.
The hundred rupee is the king of the wallet until the new Rs 500s and Rs 2000s come up. But in the recent past, there haven’t been many 100 rupee notes in my wallet. And am sure many will agree on the strange qualities of impending stardom that like the lull before the storm, the Rs 100s stopped circulating consciously. It is as if someone knew what was to happen on November 8 and vacuumed the 100s. That leaves room for interpretation of all kinds. Maybe all the black money guys have hoarded up the smaller notes way ahead of the announcement. And laughing their way home with the rest of India running helter-skelter. Work out a credit deal with your grocer now, to last the long weekend ahead (remember Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 14, and the banks will be shut 12 and 13). Await hard, bad days and get used to people drawing Rs 2000 over and over with multiple debit cards on November 11 and ahead. Black can turn grey but never can it become white.