“Mrs. Nandini Agarwal is still on the operation table. Her bones are indeed in very bad condition due to advanced osteoporosis and thank God you didn’t delay any further. The procedure should not take more than an hour and a half. Hope everything will be fine.” said Dr. Balkrishnan solemnly as he entered the OT. Meenakshi remained standing there. Even her mother-in-law was by her. Finally she was successful in her long cherished desire to get her mom operated. But still the announcement of 8th November was fresh in her mind.
“The government scraps Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. A revolutionary decision by Modi government…indeed a step that no previous government ever dared….” All the leading TV channels showcased this news as Meenakshi and her husband Arvind were having their usual evening snacks and tea at Sharjah, Dubai. The news had left Meenakshi flabbergasted. She just didn’t know what to do. So much was brewing within her and she was simply at a fix. Arvind was an assistant professor at BITS Pilani, Dubai. He was a Bong intellect hailing from Kolkata and his M.tech from IIT kharagpur had acquired him a job miles away from his homeland, in the tax free country of Dubai. Meenakshi was a Marwari girl. They had got married after five years of courtship and planning. It had taken very long for the Agarwal family to accept Arvind Banerjee as their son-in-law.
Meenakshi’s family was the Agarwal’s of North Kolkata. Every year it was around Diwali that Arvind and Meenakshi visited India. Their homecoming was a big fanfare for both the Banerjee’s and the Agarwal’s, though Meenakshi hardly got time to be with her parents. This year too the same revelation was witnessed in their families. Being the youngest daughter of the Agarwal’s, her cousins gifted her with heavy cash and she saved every bit of it in her safe. Every year while returning to Dubai she used to give the keys of her locker to her mom-in-law. They both shared a beautiful bond. It was only in her that she confided her secrets.
She remembered her excitement when she had told her mom-in-law, “Ma, I have almost saved two lakhs now. Next year I will get my mom’s knee operated.” It was not that the Agarwal’s had dearth of funds, but priorities were different. Spending lakhs for knee replacement of the wife was not acceptable. Moreover they believed, it was just a sign of ageing. Her father would say, “Whose legs don’t pain with age? Why such a big drama about it?” Meenakshi’s money would never be accepted as she was married and pride of the family was in dying rather than to live on daughter’s money. However Meenakshi’s mom-in-law understood her sentiments and was with her in her decision.
Next day as she was leaving for Dubai, her mom-in-law had accompanied to see her off to the airport. There she realised to her horror, that she had forgotten to give the keys. She had even said “Mom, I think I should go to the airport authority and get the keys out and give it to you. How silly of me to have forgotten.” Her mother in law had assured her- “Nothing will happen. Every year you keep the keys with me, and I never have had any need to open the safe. So, don’t panic. We will do everything once you are here next year. No need to take all such trouble now.” She too had agreed to the suggestion and unwillingly had to carry the keys with her to Dubai… and now this news… It was shattering her. She had no other option but to confess her plans. She was wondering how to begin.
Arvind was still busy munching the samosa and watching people expressing their views on this historical decision.
The weight of those keys was growing heavier with every passing moment, as again and again the reporters insisted how these pieces of notes would soon turn non- functional. The country was celebrating the new move. Arvind too was one of those who was wallowing in the patriotic spirit. He too felt that demonetisation would relieve India of corruption. Days went by and the panic within her kept rising. The news went on repeating the facts on the availability of new currency in the banks. They implored the people to exchange their old notes and deposit all the cash they had in their accounts. She could see people flocking to the banks, ATMs and everywhere on the TV… still her secret was buried in her heart. She knew well how Arvind would interpret her bringing the keys as not trusting his family members and as an act of deceit. She blamed herself for being so forgetful. Her mother-in-law too didn’t know what to do. Rather than suggesting some solution, she too was panicking at the sudden turn of events. The situation in the country was growing worse as enough notes were not there at the ATMs and banks. The withdrawal limits were further confined and queues went on increasing in front of the banks.
Meenakshi couldn’t understand what could be the solution. Breaking the safe was not possible as it was inbuilt in their bed room and it would be too cumbersome. Moreover it would become a big news. She had almost decided to fly to India to exchange her money. But still she had to say something to Arvind. It had been just four years of their marriage and within these years how smoothly had each of them receded to their set roles. He – a male chauvinist who never spared passing scathing remarks at the culture and background of her parent’s family and even didn’t mind letting her know that she was not the bride of his parents’ choice. He seemed to be repenting the stooping and wooing he had done during their courtship.
Demonetisation was definitely a great leap for the economy of the nation. It would perhaps free the nation of all the black money and help boost India’s economy. All the economists, political parties and leaders were busy opining about the impact it would have on finances. Many politicians even stood in the long queues with the commoners showing their empathy and exchanged their notes; hardly anyone had time to bother for women like Meenakshi who had saved the money from their household expenses, from the gifts they got from their brothers in raksha bandhan, or on festivities for fulfilling their cherished dream. These dreams were definitely not something that would affect the sustenance of the nation, nor would anyone die if such plans were never fulfilled… but in miscellaneous households there are so many such “Meenakshi”s sulking alone!