With the holidays just around the corner, we are reminded to count our blessings, to be grateful, and to give to others. It was Election Day for the United States, November 9th, 2016 and for India it was the announcement of rupee notes being pulled from circulation with new notes on their way. Two weeks into my trip to India, with no given notice the Prime Minister discontinued 500 and 1000 rupee notes from the economy. Imagine waking up and Obama saying that $5 and $20 bills are no longer valid, that's the translation of what happened here.
Two reasons, the black market and Indian money funding terrorism. If this rollout were to be effective in eliminating the dishonest, there could be no notice given. Patrons will not lose their money as old notes can be deposited into bank accounts through the end of the year to receive credit. There are limits on deposits and withdrawals to assist with “catching the dishonest”.
The chaos, the lines to the banks are hours and the ATMs are sold out because they did not print enough new money before roll out. Additionally, the new money is a different size and density from the old money so it was not considered that now the ATMs cannot dispense the new money properly.
As an American traveling in India, this wouldn't be so bad if India took credit cards but most establishments do not. Unless it's an Americanized company like a Starbucks, or a larger chain such as a movie theater or food market, this country operates on solely cash. Experiencing first hand this change really does give eye-opening insight as to how underdeveloped the Indian infrastructure is, and in general a glimpse of how poor countries may operate.
I realize more than ever how much I love that I get to live in America. While I love to travel and experience culture, at the end of the day I get to come home to my country. With a couple weeks left here in India, though I have little access to money, this is still turning out to be the most beautiful trip. Indians are the most loving people I’ve ever met. I say this not as a one-time thing but in all of my five trips to India, this has been my experience. Their welcoming way, the way they bless you on the street and invite in a perfect stranger, me, into their home for food and tea. I’ve come to know that this is just their way.
Yesterday I was at my friend Chandrakantha’s house. She is 80 years old and one of the most beautiful people. Every time I see her, she insists on feeding me so now I know to say “yes” or I come across as rude. I couldn’t get over how loving she was so I kept saying “thank you” clearly to ad nauseam because finally she said, “How many times you say thank you? That’s all you say. Can’t you see this is our duty? This is who we are, we are here to serve.”
As you enter the holidays you may find yourself sitting in more traffic, longer lines at the shopping malls, and be surrounded by family or friends you generally don’t have the patience for. Remember what you do have in those moments is perspective and your offering of love. At any given time you have the ability to see something different. You just have to choose it. Your mother who drives you crazy, be grateful you have a mom. The agony of traffic, be grateful you have a car and two eyes to drive with. The annoyance of long shopping lines, be love, say hello and make a friend while standing in line.