It’s been over 10 days since the economic ‘Modi’fication began with an attempt to overhaul our system to a more colour conscious one. White is what we, Indians adore. The fascination for all things white ranging from the sparkle on the clothes, to the glint on our teeth or the colour of the skin has finally petered down to something that should have mattered long ago.
Hard cash. If it had, the cash crunch and scrunch to polish the black till it sparkled to a golden white would never have happened. All of us know of the serpentine queues to withdraw our own money, people taking ill and a few unfortunate ones even losing their lives on account of a well-intended move-demonetisation. Enough has been said on this front and this blog post is more about how we are an epitome of ingenuity. How good we are at dodging, that we can slink smart even when cornered. Impose a tax and we know how not to pay it. Take away an amenity of life, we know how to circumvent norms and attain success. Take for example the currencies of 500 and 1000 suddenly losing value. Those who had stashed them away chose to float them down rivers or stuff them in the drains to avoid being caught for hoarding.
Inventive ways of getting rid of the extra wads are being used- dumping them in water bodies, cutting them into bits or even abandoning them like the unwanted girl child close to a rubbish dump. Disowning it in a manner that shows complete revulsion to the crispy colour green, denying parentage. But we outclassed ourselves when we created an acute scarcity of a spice that we cannot think of cooking without. SALT! The most insignificant yet valuable addition to our meals, the cheapest one that we sprinkle on salads, toss into dals or again add as a pinch to the gargling water, simply vanished. Puff! Just like that, causing us to react in a way that would make every Tanzanian stare at us in bewilderment. (they do not add salt to their national delicacy, ugali , boga-boga or even delectable kasava) They would wonder why we are making a song and dance about something as unnecessary and insipid. Why we were ungrudging and willing to fish out four, crisp, much valued hundred rupee notes from our pockets (made shallower), to stock up on snowy packets. Perhaps, the idea that never again would we set sight on this white necessity made us press the stress button. This white we clamoured for, disappeared from the shelves across states! Common folk as is wont reacted with the usual buying spree, filling the coffers of the grocer, who laughed his way to the bank, despite the long queues. After all, a regular packet costs nothing beyond a couple of 10’s and we ended up paying in hundreds! My domestic help arrived to inform me of the market rage that particular evening- salt. She herself had paid higher than the normal amount and watched it slowly vanish from the shelves. Hence, she shared with me. The times were good to practise anything which would further aggravate the stress of the people. Rumours spread quicker than forest fires and traders chose to push stocks underground, helping to raise the prices further.
Unwilling to pay a penny beyond the requisite amount for salt, I proudly walked to my regular, friendly neighbourhood grocer (let me share that my middle aged memory had stopped me from buying a packet when I had gone on a routine visit to the super market) only to be told in front of several other customers that there was NO SALT anywhere. I refused to press the panic button though I had arrived at scraping the bottom situation of my jar! It wasn’t worth its salt! Absolutely. So, I picked up the other stuff I needed and was about to exit the now vacant store when a whispering voice queried, “Which salt do you use?” Stating the obvious I reverted, “Why, the regular one, umm Tata.” He instructed one of his boys to get me a packet while I gently and laughingly declared, “At the usual cost! Can’t pay anything extra!” But the packet did come. I felt like a magician who knew no mantra and was still able to pull out a rabbit from the hat!
The packet was quickly slipped into my sling bag along with other goods I had bought, but that’s where the deviousness ended. No extra money exchanged hands, no sly, furtive looks. Nothing. No drama. Just the plain, white as snow, packet of salt. is what a fortunate me received. I looked upwards and thanked the Almighty like a cricketer who had just scored a century, or in this case a double ton! Got the salt, worth its salt in money!