Thanks for the sympathy, though I have fared a lot better than most foreigners because I was in India before demonetization and managed to change back a large amount. I also have local friends who help me but the majority of arriving visitors have no resources and are flying straight to Thailand. Foreigners have nothing to do with black money and are sadly left to fend for themselves. India has made an error here.
During the first few days of “demonetization” we were all patient and thought that this disruption would pass. Most of us, myself included, had never heard of the term but in light of what was happening, it didn’t take long to comprehend its meaning. It meant that most of the money in our pockets was worthless.
It’s been one month since Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ,announced this surprise (attack) on a nation that relies on a cash economy, upsetting a lot of apple carts in the process. Over night the bills that were the most common were now illegal and not accepted anywhere. The bills that were still legal tender were in short supply and still are. The banks and ATMs closed for 24 hours. Most of us thought that with in 10 days or so, the new notes would be in circulation and business would get back to normal.The wheels turn extra slowly in India. It’s hard to imagine that the economy of a country of 1.3 billion people would just stop but it did just that.
It has been a disaster. No one has any money for basic survival unless you are rich. It is such a complicated story. I am hardly in a position to explain it or to fully understand it but I think that it was a big mistake. It is an attempt to curb black money and counterfeiting and to push the country into a cashless direction that they are not ready for.
It’s been a month and the new 500 rupee notes are still not in circulation. Most ATMs aren’t operating. A few fill up and within a half an hour are empty and there’s been a limit of 2,500 rupees that you can withdraw daily. No banks are exchanging any foreign currency period.
No special facilities or allowances have been made for foreign tourists. Can you imagine arriving at the airport in India on your long awaited holiday in early November, only to be informed after waiting in a very long line that you can’t change more than $50.00? Enter the money changers who are eager to change your foreign currency if you were clever enough to have brought any with you and give you a very unfavorable rate of exchange. Black money lives on and proliferates!
Here are a few comments by a prominent American professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, Pranab Bardhan, …demonetization…”it cannot make much of a dent in the long – term problem of corruption or black money. …..Most business people do not keep their black income under a mattress. They keep it in the form of gold, real estate, commodity stocks and offshore accounts. Of course, they keep some amount in cash for various current transaction needs but I doubt it’s more than a very tiny percentage of total black money.”
We are all waiting, watching and hoping this mess will end soon. With it all, I am still loving India and managing to thoroughly enjoy myself. I don’t need a lot of money but I worry about how I am going to pay for this and that. Credit card payment is not in wide use-yet!
Next post will be more aesthetic, I promise.
This is my very first post created on a cell phone. It is an experiment. The photos were captured on the phone as well. Please forgive the lack of serious text but I am new at this. What do you think? Is it better than an extended absence?;
Other people’s faith and devotion has a positive effect on my vague and wavering skepticism. I enjoy being around it; as if through osmosis I may absorb some of the joy that the devout manifest. This may play a major role in the attraction that India holds for me.
All over India, Hindus converge at sacred rivers and tanks to seek the blessings of priests and to purify and cleanse their souls.
Cows wandering freely in India are as commonplace as pigeons are in NYC.
These photographs embody everyday activities; they are not out of the ordinary. Yet, what is ordinary for some is extraordinary for others. India continues as the land of contrasts and contradictions and is ever fascinating.
Soon I will be traveling without the benefit of reliable internet. Because I prefer not to travel with a lot of equipment, I will not post very often but I may post a photo or two taken with my cell phone, which isn’t a very good camera. This is exceedingly frustrating for me. I will, though, be out gathering lots of material for future posts Thanks for your patience and for reading!
There is something uniquely alluring about a man in a turban. It may have something to do with how for a westerner, they border on the exotic. For me though, it is how a turban has the power to transform the wearer from an ordinary one to a very regal one.
I have written about turbans before so I will not expound on them but will post a group of photographs of Rajasthani men in turbans for your pleasure.
I think that you will agree that donning a turban has the power to transform. Do you dare?
All over India, religious processions are common place. They are charming, entertaining and sometimes even emotionally moving. While doing errands in a small town in South India, I bumped into one such Hindu procession. I was on foot and there isn’t a lot of traffic in this sleepy town so it didn’t interfere with my movement. In fact, wherever I wandered, the anticipation was building with the preparation of gateways constructed from plants and leaves going up. The sense that this was business as usual though, helped to contribute to the matter of fact attitude of most of the locals.
Suddenly the blare and crackle of a loud-speaker pierces the lassitude of the late morning. And the procession begins.
The drummers beat their instruments with the fervor of the devout.
The heart-felt zeal and piety of the people in the procession is visible on their faces and in their purposeful stride. Their orange flags are symbolic of their faith.
I go about my errands all around town. The procession follows me as it meanders like a trickling tributary of an even bigger river.
The mood is serious yet joyful. At the back of the procession, a large and heavy idol of a Hindu deity sways precariously as it is transported with reverence on its way home to the nearby temple.
With my “to do” list completed, and the heat of the day upon me, I am now ready for a good cup of tea and a local sweet. The procession turns down the lane where the temple awaits the return of the gods and all is in order.
The dilapidated ferry that I am waiting for to cross to the other side of the river in South India is insignificant compared to all the activity taking place around me. It is morning in this small port. Boats are unloading their catch. Fishermen are hauling in their nets. Baskets are brimming with fish arranged according to size and type.
My friends seek the shade and I go exploring, camera in hand.
I watch with curiosity as these men pile dried shrimp into sacks. The smell is acrid and after a short look around, I turn away.
In the distance I can hear the put-put of an outboard motor approaching. I join my friends at the dock where the boat will unload the arriving passengers. The tide is too low and we must scramble down to the water to board our rickety ferry.
We watch the loading of motorcycles and finally the little ferry pushes off, heading for the opposite shore of the river.
Across the river, a smaller, sleepier fishing village greets us.
The locals watch us but are not distracted from what they are doing.
This village is a stepping stone to our inland destination. We have a quick look around because our mini bus is waiting. If we don’t hurry, we will have to stand as the seats fill up quickly.
I adore these outings where the scenery is constantly changing, the people are friendly and Mother Nature smiles benevolently on us with calm seas and another adventure is just around the bend.