The Currency that Deserves to be Demonetised


The Currency that Deserves to be Demonetised

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

Acouple of weeks ago, back when cash was still a thing, I went to my local grocery store. I got myself a shiny half bottle of, I think, anti-hair-loss shampoo or conditioner. The bill was 160. I gave the moustachioed guy at the counter two crisp 100 notes, fresh from the ATM (better known these days as an NTM). He, in return, handed me four 10-rupee coins. On top of that, he had the balls to snigger at me. I gave him a what-the-fudge look. He gave me a shrug and an evil smile.

That’s what the 10-rupee coin is. It’s a communicable disease you can’t refuse. It’s the Draw 4 of real life, except there’s no reverse card you can use preemptively.

Like most sane people, I generally steer clear of currency aesthetics – which is why I’m not too bothered by how hideous the new ₹2000 note is – but I will make an exception for this particular eyesore. It’s almost like they decided to make it in silver first. But then they ran out of the material halfway through. Fuck it, they said, let’s just round off the sides with this revolting, permanent Holi-colour shade of golden. It’ll work.

It didn’t. The 10-rupee coin looks like a counterfeit, bad Photoshop parody of what an actual coin should look like. And maybe I wouldn’t rant if it were only about its ugliness. After all, many people look ugly too, but we still talk to them (reluctantly). That’s because they have other redeeming qualities. After having dwelled upon it deeply, I can confidently say that there are none here.

For starters, the very existence of the coin is redundant. Hello? We already have a 10-rupee note, don’t we? Unless that got silently demonetised too. How then, did the money babus manage to manufacture a billion 10-rupee coins without a single whistleblower pointing out the obvious, “Erm… sir, we have 10-rupee notes in circulation also.”

Maybe some sane guy did. But his bosses, a third of the way through a juicy saada paan, roared back, “NO! Make it round! Make it heavy! Make it ugly! Make it golden! Make it silver! Make it easy to lose! Make wallets fat again!” Or maybe he just went on sagely chewing his paan. We will never know.

I wonder though where all the 10-rupee coins will go to die? Waste management, already such a fragile ecosystem, is going to be a pain and a half.

But thanks to that guy, I was now stuck with four coins and I really wanted to make a big show of chucking them away in disgust but A) they were worth a whopping 40 bucks. B) people of our country take great personal offence if you “disrespect” money. It’s perfectly all right to be corrupt or Scrooge-like or extravagant. You are even allowed to invest in pyramid schemes or get swayed by internet scams in moments of vulnerability. Forget that – you can render the two biggest denominations redundant in a matter of four hours and that’s still worthy of vocal support. But if you drop a one-rupee coin accidentally and don’t pick it up in the next five seconds… well, that makes you a royal jerk, who deserves no happiness in life – like you’re to blame for starving children everywhere.

So I quietly put the coins in my pocket and they promptly disappeared. (That’s just how coins work – you put them in your pocket, and within minutes your jeans will magically absorb the coins and they’ll disappear. Or they’ll slide into the couch. Or they’ll make a glorious racket inside the washing machine.) My big form of protest was refusing to thank the man for the change, and give him a cold eye-roll instead, which I’m sure affected him greatly. Then I went home and cribbed to friends, colleagues, and family about their inconvenience until they asked me to stop.

But I just want to use this demonetisation moment in our history, as one last stab to register my protest. Since the people in power have anyway decided for us which currency we can and cannot use in a very well thought-out process that has been handled and implemented impeccably with absolutely no negative impact on the less-privileged sections of society (LALALALALA WHY IS THERE SAND IN MY EARS?), I want to suggest a solution for this angst too.

How about, instead of the 500 and 1000 notes, we simply demonetise the 10-rupee coin? It won’t reduce black money (I doubt people have stuffed ten-rupee coins inside their pillows), there will be no queues – anywhere, no longer will I be greeted with a sad smiley face by yet another ATM, informing me “regretfully” that “this ATM is currently unable to dispense any cash”, bank employees wouldn’t be forced out of their lifelong nine-to-five, ek-chai-toh-ho-jaye apathy to service angry customers looking to exchange their own money. It’s a win-win for everyone.

I wonder though where all the 10-rupee coins will go to die? Waste management, already such a fragile ecosystem, is going to be a pain and a half. There’s no dustbin big enough to hold my contempt for this coin. But there is a bigger fear. Seeing how those pink 1000 notes went the purple 2000 rupee note way, what if the silver-yellow-golden-bronze coin is reincarnated as a purple-yellow-bronze 20-rupee coin instead?

Then, I’m going to be really mad.