An interview with Mr P

Yipee do! I did it!  I interviewed a celebrity.  A seasoned veteran in his field, highly regarded and trusted for his capability and integrity.

I am talking about the security guard of the apartment complex I live in.  15 years back, when we moved into the suburb of Mumbai that we still live in, he was the security guard of this same complex (or society as we call it in Mumbai).  Now, I have taken up a house as a tenant in this society for the time being and he is still the faithful and reliable gatekeeper to paradise. Believe me, we have gone through maybe 15 security guards (or not quite) in 10 years at my parents’s place also in the same suburb.  So this is no ordinary watchman that I speak of.

So..I came back today evening from a small errand and greeted him.  We exchanged pleasantries and he got talking about, what else, demonetisation.  It was an interesting conversation which gave me an insight into the way the working classes look at this decision (in contradistinction to the middle and upper class view of it).  It is not for me to judge if he is right or wrong and I also confess that I do not have the means to thoroughly fact-check him.  But I am sharing his insights in the form of an interview where I play the part of intrepid and unprepared journalist who fields one blow after another as a very different view of things is presented to him. Let’s call him P, the Protector.

A note before I start.  The following is written to stimulate a conversation, not a diss-cuss-ion. So I’d highly appreciate if all of us can step out of our preferred echo chambers and consider the views (not mine) being presented with an open mind.  That out of the way, ready, steady, po!

P:  Sir, what is Modiji’s latest?

Me: I don’t know, you tell me.

P: (Laughs)

Me:  We have to spend our time either standing in the queue for cash or watching the TV set to track his latest surgical strike.  (shakes head)

P:  (Amused, but silent)

Me:  I wonder what people in the villages must be doing to get cash.  It must be so difficult, standing in never ending queues.

P:  Who told you that!

Me:  Pardon, you mean there are no queues in the villages?

P:  Sure there are.  Who told you that we never had to stand in queues before?

Me:  Oh!

P:  Once two years ago I went to the bank branch in my village to withdraw cash.  We stood in the queue all day and had to return empty handed.  Standing in queue for cash, for rations, we are all used to it. It’s nothing new.  We’ll have to wait 3-4 days to get cash, big deal!

Me:  So I guess it’s more of an inconvenience for people who live in the cities and are used to easily obtaining cash.

P:  So let me tell you one more thing that you may not know.  There was no cash in the ATMs in UP for 15 days. 15 days.  But nobody rioted.  Nobody protested.  Politicians tried their best to provoke the people but everybody knows what’s happening.  When Modi is going to transfer money to our bank accounts, why should we do something silly at the instigation of opposition parties?

Me:  So you mean it’s people like Mayawati and Mulayalam Singh who are affected.

P:  Absolutely. I was paid to go to the village and stage protests so I know what I am talking about.  They did not bite the bait. Why should we trust Mayawati who loots people in the name of poverty upliftment when Modi is trying to do something for us?

Me:  So what do you think will happen in the UP elections?

P:  Sir, it will be a landslide for BJP.  They are going to win very easily.

Me:  By the by, won’t the rabi crop be affected by this step?

P:  Again, that is just propaganda by those who don’t support this step.  Farmers don’t leave it to the last minute.  Everything is planned.  Why would they wait until 8th November to withdraw cash?

Me:  But what about the old notes?

P:  Sir, I am telling you, they would have already bought whatever they need.  In villages we can’t keep huge amounts of cash at home.  We don’t have security guards like in the cities.

Me:  Ouch!

P:   (Decides to move on as interviewer is speechless) Daily wage workers…..you know, they get paid in cash everyday.

Me:  Right! (Says duh within)

P:  And then when they come home, the wife wants to spend on this and that, they purchase liquor and in no time the money is gone.  In this way, we remain in poverty. Sir, after so many years of living in Mumbai, what do I have?  Nothing!  Everything has been spent. Whatever I send to the village is spent.

Me:  But if you put it in a bank account, you may not spend everything.

P:  Exactly!  They will ask you to maintain a minimum balance.  So if you get ten thousand, you will keep at least thousand in the bank.  In this way, you save money and get paid interest and the government also benefits.  And once the savings habit is inculcated, they will keep putting more and more money in the bank.

Me:  One thing is for sure.  Nobody anywhere has attempted something like this.  Thanks so much for joining us but I am afraid we are completely out of time.

P:  My pleasure.

P.S:  The tone of the actual conversation, laced with lilting UP Hindi and with myself deferring to Mr.P’s age and experience, was very different.  So don’t take it too literally.  Also stuff I omitted, like when I told him about how the big fish will transfer everything to offshore accounts and can bear losses on their limited cash hoards.  Didn’t seem to shake his faith though, not one bit.  Will Modi keep his  very tall promise to his loyal voters, though, is the question.

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