Musings

Paper Money

I started my corporate career with one of the telecom giants in India as a sales and marketing management trainee. As part of my training, I underwent a ‘Sales Stint’ (more information here: https://thepillionrider.wordpress.com/about/) for about 4 months. Sales, as most of my wise friends would tell you, is an ‘out-of-office’ or rather, ‘no-office’ experience. Your workplace is the retail market, on the roads, on the narrow streets, inside the malls. I think when I said I loved travelling in my interview, they took me quite seriously! I was always on the move, pillion riding across the city and trying not to doze off the vehicle.

The only place where you can show off that you even carry a company laptop is called a distribution point, which is mostly located at the epicentre of your market. My distribution point was around 10 km away from where I stayed so it entailed a travel time of 20 minutes in share autos. Share autos invariably meant stuffing with three strangers in a small space, ready change of money and haggling and shouting in some cases. Since this was my routine for 6 days a week, having loose change all the time wasn’t easy. I had to delve into unseen crevices in my bag to fish out coins while making a mental note to get change from the vegetable guy. Sometimes, I wished that the auto driver had a PayTM wallet and I could transfer the exact 12 rupees to his wallet in a jiffy! Of course, we have on demand auto services now and who knows the next innovation would be to aggregate share autos and make payment online?

I know that the day is not far when a smart phone will be as essential as water for survival. Online monetary transactions will be just a part of its innumerable benefits. Every single seller and every single buyer will a virtual wallet, paper money will become virtually non-existent. So, for a working individual like me, when my salary will be credited at the end month, the bank will auto debit my EMI, my investment fund, my recurring savings and put the rest of my money into a multi-purpose virtual wallet. No more ATM hassles; no more multiple debit/credit cards/loyalty cards.

But there is something about the feel and smell of the paper money, isn’t it? When I used to visit my relatives as a kid, my elders (about two dozen of them!) gave me pocket money, a 10 rupee note, to buy something to eat on the way. It was just 10 rupees but it was like a treasure to me! I spent about 5 rupees on fried peanuts and meticulously save the rest. I loved counting the notes multiple times a day and tucked them away carefully in a small pouch, lest it got used up in buying monthly grocery by mistake! I patiently waited for another year so that I could visit my native again, add more money to my kitty and buy a novel. Back in my school days, cash prizes were a big thing; if you won a cash prize in any competition, it was a big deal. You were not left alone unless you treated your friends with ice cream. Earning your first salary was and still, is a big deal. Ask anyone you know to describe the emotions that they experienced when they held their first ever earnings, they will not have enough words. Observe a daily wager who receives his daily allowance on his sweaty palms at the end of the day and you can sense absolute contentment in the way he straightens the crumbled notes. Notice the way young kids light up when given a 5 or a 10 rupee note and they rush to put it in a piggy bank (Valid for 90’s kids, not sure about kids nowadays).

Now, imagine a plausible future with no paper money at all…  no pocket money to stock, no cash prize to treat, no first salary to celebrate… I wonder whether I really want convenience over these priceless moments?

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