When money becomes scarce, a visit from a mobile ATM is godsend
Rahul Dass | November 24, 2016 | New Delhi
Someone breathlessly said: “Mobile ATM has come. Mobile ATM has come.” The message had an electrifying effect on the employees. Amid whoops of joy, they promptly went scurrying out of their office to find out more.
And what a sight it was. There stood IDBI’s mobile ATM van within the seven-storeyed office complex. At a time of cash crunch that has left everyone counting their pennies, the mobile ATM was like an oasis. The ATM on wheels was like a whiff of fresh, fragrant air in putrefied Noida, abutting Delhi.
People queued up quickly, with the line extending up the glazed stone steps and entering the chandeliered atrium. Then, there was a better idea. Why not queue up outside. It would be easier. So, eager people queued up on the cobbled stones that marked the impressive drive-way.
It was lunch time and for once, no one was grumbling.
The minutes quickly began to tick away, yet the mobile ATM had not yet begun to dispense cash. It was suggested that the mobile ATM be better parked. The uncomplaining people agreed, so long as they could withdraw money.
Finally, the first person clambered up the stairs leading up to the ATM. A couple of minutes later, he stepped out, holding aloft Rs 100 notes. This was stuff of what dreams were made of. That one act, significantly strengthened the resolve of all those who stood in the queue.
A few young women chatted animatedly – and they did talk a lot. Three of them decided to stand in the little shade that the van provided. The young women spoke on a host of issues. Not sure whether black money per se came up for discussion. The chatter was constant.
The atmosphere was more picnic-like. What was missing though was a big picnic basket. People smiled. People scowled. People joked. They did small talk. The seconds ticked and the minutes passed by.
Half-an-hour later, distress. A guy heaved himself up the mobile ATM and came out, saying there was a hitch. The message quickly went down the line. Faces fell. This could not be happening. “What did he say,” asked a worried woman.
As people wondered what to do next, there was good news. The ATM was working again. A collective sigh of relief.
Enterprising journalists decided to take short interviews of those in the queue. An intrepid photographer walked up an under construction building to get a better shot.
A guard locked up the main gate so that outsiders could not get in. Without any doubt, this was an exclusive operation.
As the minutes passed, patience began to wear thin. A man tried to jump the queue, but he was sternly told that he would not be allowed.
An hour into the works, there was a sudden commotion. An employee had entered the mobile ATM for the fifth time to withdraw money. There were howls of protests. He was called out and suitably reprimanded.
There was hardly any discussion on black money among the well-heeled. People were only worried about taking out ephemeral cash.
When one stepped into the mobile ATM, one realized that it was quite warm inside. An armed guard looked on while another rested.
Most of us had a smile as we stepped out. We felt triumphant. Now, we could manage a few more days as the authorities went after black money hoarders. Not sure how many bad sheep will be caught, but quite sure that demonetization has brought back the great Indian tradition of standing in queues.
We were always told that money has a certain value. That was wrong. Money is priceless. Ask those who stood in the queue.
Post-demonetisation, cash did the Houdini vanishing trick at ATMs. With currency notes playing hide and seek, life was sheer misery. Things improved a bit, but the situation is back to square one. The ATMs are running dry, yet again. Rajiv Bajaj, scion of the family that makes hugely popular
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