Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chandra CashLess, PennyLess in T Nagar, Chennai

Chandra landed in Chennai on Friday, with Rs 210 in his wallet . He left Rs 100 at home for 'emergency'. (What can you achieve with Rs 100 in case of emergency is another discussion)

His cash in hand, as the commerce student in him would claim, remained Rs 210.  He stayed at a guest house, had breakfast and dinner there (No eating out). Facilitated a workshop at a five-star hotel over the weekend. He went around in Uber & Ola. Just as digital wallets played a big role in facilitating the demonetization initiative, these taxi-aggregators played a key role too. 

Ola fare for the one trip he took was double the Uber fare. He was unable to book Uber. Ola accepted      booking without the internet ('smart buoy'!). Was it surge-pricing or mere premium for booking without internet?
Airtel is spending a fortune promoting Open Network.  But connectivity remains very challenging. He lodged a complaint and got a complaint number. Their complaint number is like Sunny Deol's 'tareek- pe tareek- pe tareek, Your Honour' in Damini! No much hope  on that front. At least airtel should stop boasting about their network & connectivity. (After 3 days, Airtel called to confirm Chandra had exhausted his data-plan. With next billing cycle just two days away, he 'decided to live with it, as he did over last one week'!)

A haircut was overdue, no time/mood for a fancy & expensive spa. A simple, clean saloon will do. The way Chandra was losing hair, even that may turn out to be a luxury in the near future. 
He had not been at the tender-coconut seller over last few days. His regular 'outlet' under a huge tree, on T Nagar main road. 
He normally spent for some small stuff at Chennai, on toiletries or fruits or Sri Krishna sweets,  thus contribute to the local economy. 
He wanted some cash badly...

He picked up two debit cards and stepped out for his morning walk on Sunday, 14th. He could activate the runner app, but not podcast (Airtel!!)

Spotted a police van. A cop was standing next to it. He was slim, fit, dark and had vibhuti on his forehead. There was something positive about him, Chandra felt. He was on duty and looked all set to take on the day ahead, head-on. As Chandra reached near him, he surprised with a 'good morning'! Chandra responded with a 'good morning' and a  grateful, wide smile. If all cops were like him....! Cops in Chennai always had this work-ethic - they are 'at work' and diligent. Not the case in many other cities...

Chandra went around looking a clean & safe hairdresser. Found one on the main road. Checked, 'if by any chance they took card payments?' One of the staff smiled and said, 'no saar!' He spotted several other hairdressers, with simpler interiors. Hence did not even check. He was sure they may not have POS machines. 

He went around in search of ATMs. ICICI had two, shutters were down. Situation was same with other ATMs, BoB, Central Bank and others. Shutters were either half down (mourning!) or fully. As he went about searching for ATM and clocking distance on the runner app, he observed he was unable to give any help to the old, seeking help or otherwise. For the short distance, he saw disproportionately high number of old men, who seemed to need help. While he avoided his regular tender-coconut guy, being cash-less, he saw there were many more temperory stalls. Once he covered the main road and some of the lanes, he lost interest and hope of getting some cash.

He landed back in Bengaluru and was unable to book Uber. Ola confirmed 'no cars in the airport'! He went to the 3rd option of cars, mainly KSTDC & Meru. Meru rep was very helpful to look for someone with Paytm option. But it required me to download Meru app and I just could not do, even with his hotspot (Airtel!!). Thankfully, one of the drivers agreed to barter diesel at a petrol pump in lieu of cash. Of course when we reached Shell pump in Seegehalli, it was closed!! Shell used to be a 24X7 open outlet. We were saved by a HP petrol pump nearby. The Meru driver was so well behaved and cheerful, unlike Chandra who was getting restless, at 1030 PM ('Devudu Unnadu')

5 days after PM announced the initiative, he went in search of ATM & Cash. But had to come back empty handed. Wonder how others are coping with the development. Especially the poor with no access to bank account, digital wallet or variants thereof. Hope banks would rise to the execution and does not mar the initiative with poor execution.

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