Last night Abhijeet and I went to watch a film. Given his paranoia about getting late, we reached almost 40 mins before time and we decided to spend those extra minutes sipping roadside coffee. We stepped out of our car and collected our parking ticket from an old, frail man … Tanned once upon a time fair skin, small frame, small but twinkling eyes and flat nose with a bright smile handed over the parking ticket. I was tempted to start a conversation with him when Abhijeet started conversing with him in Nepali (my husband is extremely fluent in Nepali and has spent a substantial part of his life in North East where people predominantly converse in Nepali … Without a doubt, Nepali is his favourite language) … That small brown guy was called Suraj. Suraj came to Delhi in search of work in the year 2001. He started working as a watchman-cum-cleaner in Vasant Kunj, after which he took employment with this theatre where his only job is to distribute parking tickets. Suraj has a son and a daughter and upon him is the responsibility of his ailing mother … He has a total of 4 dependents.
Suraj was badly hit by Modi’s demonetization and he has been surviving on 200 rupees since that dreadful ill-fated night. But … Here’s the catch … Suraj wholeheartedly supports the measure. What he revealed was astonishing and at the same time annoying … “Memsahab … Bahut achcha kiye Modiji. Humare yahaan border pe roz bora bhar ke nakli note aate hain jo check post pe khada policewala check nahi karta. Woh har bore pe 1000 rupay leta hai aur bore ke bore nakli note andar aa jaate hain” (Modi did the right thing for he stopped the influx of counterfeit currency through the borders of Nepal) … Abhijeet offered him coffee which he gladly accepted … It was after all a cold December night. After taking a sip of the hot, extra sweet liquid, he started again … “aaj poore dinn mein aap hi ki gaadi hai jo yahaan aayi hai. Yahaan sab ke pass ATM machine hai (he refers to the EDC machine as the ATM machine) par sab log note hi dete hain. Pehle Nigerian Hapshi roz paanch hazaar ka khana khata tha KFC se … Ab pichle do hafton se teen sau rupay pe ji raha hai! Uske pass itne paise drug Bech ke aate the. Ab uske pass bilkul paise nahi hain. Bataiye iss mein kya galat kiye Modi ji” (You are the only ones who have come since morning. People aren’t spending any more because they will have to use their cards … Nigerian drug peddlers who used to spent 5000 rupees on food everyday have to live on 300 rupees. They have no money since people aren’t able to buy drugs anymore). He stopped to take another sip and I looked at Abhijeet for we were getting late when Suraj began again … “Ration ki line mein bhi toh khade hote hain. Meri patni 4 ghante tak khadi rehti hai aur phir pata chalta hai ki cheeni khatam ho gayi … Toh jab Ration ki line mein khade reh sakte hain toh bank ki line mein kyun nahi?” (People have to stand in a queue in order to buy essential commodities from government approved dealers. They stand in queues for hours only to be told that those shops have run out of sugar etc. So when people don’t mind standing in a queue to buy cheap rations why can’t they stand in queues for a good cause).
Since Abhijeet and I were getting late, we finished our coffees and left. But what Suraj said stayed with me. He could rise above the inconvenience caused to him and his family and look at the larger picture; he could understand the harm caused to the economy by the circulation of counterfeit currency; he could understand the consumption pattern of those who came to watch films and the reason why those who once flocked cinema halls weren’t spending on films anymore. He is someone who hasn’t had the benefit of a post-doctoral degree in economics from Harvard but he has an opinion which is rooted in reality unlike most economists’.
Suraj impressed me and I am glad we have people like him who can go scrape the surface … the obvious and appreciate the finer nuances of political decision. He could understand the need of the hour … His opinion might be uni-dimensional and ill-informed and extremely myopic but the fact that he could see the merit and the thought behind it made me smile with satisfaction … It was satisfying to know that not all is lost … That my country is not exactly beyond salvage and that my countrymen are capable of going beyond the divisive forces and think as Indians.
Indian Sugar in Sugarsatchet!!