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Thank you Mr PM, for showing my daughter pre-1991 India

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: November 17, 2016 17:44 IST
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But for the PM's decision, my teenage daughter, a child of the post-economic reforms generation, could never have imagined the Socialist India that remains so much a part of my growing up years, says Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

As a child growing up in the early 1980s, I always stood in queues. So much so it was a way of life for me and for millions of other Indians at that time.

We stood in long queues for railway tickets.

We stood in long queues for the month's rations.

Why, we even stood in long queues to book movie tickets.

My teenage daughter, an offspring of the post-economic reforms generation, could never imagine the Socialist India that remains so much a part of my growing up years.

"You are too privileged to understand my childhood," I tell my daughter whenever the urge to dole out parental advice overcomes me.

"You are born with a silver spoon and don't understand what it means to not have the bare necessities in life," I tell her.

For her, the consumption lifestyle all around her is normal, and nothing I said could have brought home the message of careful spending as forcefully as the aftermath of Prime Minister Modi's demonetisation did.

A quick check of the household finances on November 9 revealed that there was hardly Rs 100 at home. The rest of the money were in a few Rs 500 notes. I knew life would turn hellish if I didn't quickly get my hands on lower denomination notes.

When I rushed to the bank the next morning and saw the long queues outside, I realised with a shock that I had not stood in a queue for more than 20 years, or even seen one this long anywhere. And never outside a bank.

After a long wait at the bank I extracted Rs 10,000, and thus began a spell of austerity.

I told my daughter firmly that I would not spend a single paisa until the cash flow was restored in the economy.

She is very bright, but still young to understand the nitty-gritty of economics. I showed her the queues outside banks, which made her understand that there is a severe shortage of money in the country, and therefore the need to be careful while spending money.

The first victim of the domestic austerity regime were her pens.

When she asked for a new pen I told her to check how many pens there were at home, telling her that I would only buy her a pen if there were no pens around.

We discovered about 30 pens at home. Surprising, because whenever I need a pen, I can never find one.

The search for pens also unearthed 12 pencils.

"As a child," I told my daughter, "I never had more than two pens and pencils. Look at you!"

Result: No new pen bought, no cash spent.

The next victim was the canteen at my daughter's school. Until the nation's cash flow improved, she was told she would need to carry a tiffin from home. No eating at the school canteen.

The money at home had to be spent carefully; the only unavoidable expense was paying the dhobi.

For everything else, there was the credit card.

The paperwallah was told he would be paid by cheque, no cash. He agreed meekly.

But why spend by credit card or cheque at all on unnecessary expenses when everything is so uncertain in the economy?

Over the weekend, when we visited the mall to buy groceries, it was the first time in our family's history that we did not snack.

We had made plans to watch Rock On 2, but told ourselves that in these times of austerity, entertainment is blasphemy.

No movies, we have decided, till India's cash problems are sorted out.

When I look back at the week gone by, I realise I have changed a lot.

I used to spend Rs 100 a day on tea, chicken shawarma, kebabs... Poof! All that has vanished now.

I live by the philosophy: Cash is king.

I haven't spent a single rupee on myself this past week, all thanks to Mr Modi.

This weekend, the Ashraf family -- well known mall rats -- will stay home.

We won't do a thing that involves spending money.

So sorry to all the waiters who I tip, to all those restaurants where we splurge on food, to all the bookshops that found me an avid customer, to all those clothes and food chains who valued our custom.

Narendra Modi has made my daughter realise what I could not: Austerity is a way of life, folks!

Bye bye Consumerism!

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