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12/26/2016

The 'demonetization' seen by me

One find morning, the country awoke without cash (cf this post). The notes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (about 8 and 12 euros), the biggest ones, had no more value. BOOM. And the citizens had a few weeks to deposit their ‘old’ notes at the bank. New notes, of 500 and 2,000 rupees, came quite fast but in infinitesimal quantities – which is either voluntarily or not from the Government, we don’t know). So here's what I realized when 'surviving' with 300 rupees for 2 weeks:

  • I pay my vegetables to the street vendor in cash. My only option was to go to the supermarket, cutting off a source of income to my local dealer (which would in turn have to pay his supplier to continue to receive his vegetables and we can go back up to the seeds provider like this, in the farming chain!). Fortunately, in less than a week, my street vendor had installed the Paytm app and I can now pay him via my smartphone.
  • I had to stop taking rickshaws and get only Uber / Ola.
  • I stopped tipping people – small change is worth gold. And it hurt me quite bad when I couldn't give anything to the old man in the supermarket who carried my bags and dug up a little thingy for my son.
  • I stopped paying my cleaning lady until she opens a bank account.
  • I attended a shopping Sunday evening in a fancy Mall ten days after the fateful date of 'demonetization'. And while I had heard a lot about people holding on to their money in fear of what was coming next, it was just madness in H & M and Mark & Spencer where card machines overheated, and lines were endless. The rich could still buy clothes, I was reassured ;)
  • I was told this move was a disaster for weddings (and we just entered the wedding season) which are all paid in black cash and yet it is full party in the wedding ground of my neighbourhood almost every night.
  • I had the chance to visit the bank to deposit some old bills and witness the chaos, it’s crazy.
  • I got really upset at the post office because, although it is public institution, they don't have a card reader and don’t accept cheques. (Besides Indians are not fans of cheques especially when they are on the receiving end – for example if you pay by cheque at a Mothercare shop, they deliver you the product only that once the funds have been credited because there are too many blank cheques.)

In short, it’s a mess, we hear about everything and anything about it, and it is especially the poor who have to pay (he he) but at the same time it is a new opportunity for Indians to demonstrate their resourcefulness (or jugaad as we say here) which is simply amazing.

PS: It is heard nowadays that the Government wants to go Digital. Though it is a seducing idea, let us not forget that 30% of the population still can’t read, 30% still doesn’t own a phone, 85% doesn’t access the Internet on their phone, 900 million still leave with less than 2$ per day.

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The daily view from my office, the line one hour before the ATM opens...

11/07/2016

The glamorous Indian metropoles...

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Gurgaon, in the post-Diwali cracker induced pollution fog (3 days later and the air is still hardly breathable)

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Hyderabad

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Bangalore

10/31/2016

Traveling/living in India with young children

Our little trip in Europe helped me realize a big quality that Indians have, and it is a very big one: they love children. Which means, practically, that they do not look at you like you are about to commit some crime when you get on a train with your kid (who has not even opened his mouth but is already perceived as a source of trouble).

That they don’t throw nasty comments at you when, in an airport queue, you drop your smoothie trying to prevent your child from running away, and before you even have the time to take out a tissue to clean, “ah wonderful” (I told that old German hag to relax for the love of God).

That they don’t allow you to have dinner in their restaurant only under the condition that the child will remain sited and strapped in his highchair (no need to tell you that I went to another Scottish joint to have my fish & chips that day).

That there is little chances that an Indian hostess comes to tell you, after a one hour flight, that your baby has been “particularly painful” (he just screamed for 10 minutes but that same hostess wouldn't let me get up to distract him, because of the cart and her stupid rule that passengers can not sit on the floor below his seat even if the only thing he would thus disturb is the wall) and that “next time it would be better if the baby travelled in the economy class” (You're proud of you, aren’t you, Swiss Air bitch?).

That they will certainly try and distract your child on the plane if he is unsettled, or come to suggest feeding him if he is crying (it's a bit annoying that they explain any crying by hunger, but at least they try to help rather than push you further in your distress of mother-that-bothers-people).

That they will take him with them and their own children to let you “have breakfast in peace” at the restaurant. (You’re embarrassed, you don’t dare accepting, you give in and you are forever grateful to them for this little break.)

Sometimes it also gets a little extreme: it is not uncommon to see children in bars, late at night, with their parents. Or kids at the movies, watching adult films. But well, when you see how exposed to violence young Indian children can be through Indian mythology (full of violence, sex, betrayal) from an early age (see this post), you start thinking that an adult movie is not so bad.

india,europe,children,kids,babiesI kind of feel like that in Europe – and I confess I was like that before having a kid –babies are above all seen as a nuisance, a source of noise and inconvenience and you don't want to be next to one on the plane. Nor anywhere else. And maybe it’s a little sad. Children are the life, future, energy and innocence that we all lose a little growing up and that they give us back if we know how to watch them live and let them be. It’s also a little sad that people don’t even give them a chance to behave before thinking that they will ruin their happiness. But maybe I’m wrong...