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Stories of Delight and Distress From an ATM Queue

Demonetisation: What started as a pulsating movement has quickly turned into a twitchy cat-and-mouse game.

Prerna Mittra |

Updated:June 6, 2017, 1:04 PM IST
Stories of Delight and Distress From an ATM Queue
(Image courtesy: Rajkamal Aich, Network18)

10:17 am
1,2,3,4,5,6,7…..24 women in the queue at the bank!
And the line of men? 1,2,3,4,5….okay I'll pass.

Shoot! Two twentysomethings have sneaked in ahead of me…

10:21 am
The FB statuses of my friends are now getting eerily familiar.

'...feeling frustrated at XYZ Bank'.
Switch to WhatsApp. Haha, these memes are a riot.
Keep scrolling. It’s going to be a loooooong day.

10:30 am
A boy of five stomps about, as his mother gazes ahead inattentively.
"Why are we here? Are we leaving soon? Is dad around? Where is he?"
He has a barrage of questions. The woman clutches his arm and pulls him forward.
The little one has no business at the bank, but his restlessness resonates with many.

10:54 am
"Do you have a xerox of any ID proof?" asks one bank official.
But I have 'PRIVILEGED BANKING' embossed on my cheque book right here!
"Sorry ma'am, but rules are…(daft chuckle)"

11:07 am
Yes! Finally located the boyfriend in the queue for males.
Send him off to xerox our PANs

11:10 am

He returns super prompt.
There's another queue at the photocopier!
Plus, he will not shell out Rs 10 for a photocopy which otherwise costs Rs 2.

11:16 am
Debate with boyfriend brought to peaceful end by a 50-something pro-demonetisation uncle who assures me that I just need to flash the proof.
No photocopy needed.
There are papers that are far more important — they come in pink and brown.

11:32 am
Have made some headway. A painstaking 5 mm.

11:45 pm
Stray (but potential ice-breaker) comment from Lacoste polo-clad woman behind me.
"I’ve never been to a bank alone. And now I am in the middle of madness."
Comment met with non-interest from the majority section.
But dolled-up girl weighs in. "I have to enter office by 11:00 am. Have been standing since 7:30 am."
I keep calm and put on headphones.

12:02 pm
Forward! 6 paces.
Collect cash, do not pass Go.
Man, this feels so MONOPOLY.
Will anyone GO TO JAIL?

12:17 pm
Bank officials further dissect the queues, based on business.
Withdrawals—separate queue
Deposits or exchange—separate queue.
Journos seeking soundbytes—separate queue
Jobless onlookers—separate queue.

12:40 pm
Stomach grumbles.
Should have had the extra paratha mom insisted on.

Network 18 creative (Judhajit Basu)

12:55 pm
What if the bank announces they've run out of cash?
The whole exercise is futile?
Keep calm and watch sadda Dilli munda click selfies with friends and a new 2000 note

1:10 pm
50 days seem too little a time to cater to the needs of 1.252 billion people
And too long a time to maintain resilience and equilibrium.
Let senior editor at work do the data crunching.

1:23 pm
Just let grandma in yellow salwar through to the head of the queue.
Morally feels good.
Reality dawns. I'm back to 12th position. That sucks.

1:32 pm
Call from boss. "Why aren't you in?" he thunders.
I explain.
Reverse firing.
"You should have told me. I could have sent some notes over with you!!"

1:40 pm
Funny sight in parking lot. BMW unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a host of bicycles parked behind it.
What a leveller this demonetisation is!
Do you remember when you learnt how to cycle?
You tumbled, fell, flayed yourself, before you started pedalling with élan.
Well, demonetisation is somewhat similar; only it's been more than a week and the country has not learnt to cycle yet.

1:56 pm
A notice? Bank official pastes a piece of paper on a makeshift notice board.
That's it. They aren’t issuing any more legal tender for the day. They've exhausted their supplies.

1:57 pm
WAAAARRRR! All hell breaks loose.
The serpentine queue hisses and envelops bank official.
Tempers rise with official’s nonchalant explanation that it was a given, and that the bank regrets it profoundly.

1:58 pm
Six new insults/cuss words learnt.
Bank official announces refilling of newer notes at 4.30 pm again

2:00 pm
Burly 40-something man mutters predictable 'What a waste of time'.
Did Gandhi’s grin on my sole Rs 100 note just get a little wider?
Nah, it’s the hunger effect.

2:15 pm
"McD?" asks boyfriend.
Surely they'll never be a burger crunch. Or will there be?

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