I was having my dinner at a mess in my university town, Manipal (Karnataka), when PM Modi made the announcement. The owner of the mess I was eating at, I remember, was delighted, “Here is someone, who is working for the poor!”
Two days before PM’s announcement, Prashant, my elder brother, met with a road accident on his way to Jaipur. Chances of him surviving looked bleak and the doctor advised us to shift him from Jaipur to Delhi. My father had withdrawn money from the bank for his treatment, most of this cash was in ₹ 1000 and ₹500 notes. He rushed him to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on November 8. Prashant lay unattended for a day here. The next day, my family decided to take him to Max Hospital in Saket, South Delhi.
The hospital demanded a cash deposit. It refused to accept demonetised notes. The family had to tap friends and relatives to lend us cash so that we could meet the expenses. They stood in queues to exchange the money that our father had withdrawn a few days earlier.
Meanwhile, I was facing similar problems in Manipal. The first three days after the “historic measure”, all ATMs around my university town were shut. On the fourth day, panic set in. A friend came to my rescue, asking her father to tide me over. It was the kindness of friends which helped me during this period. Like my brother, I survived.
On November 11, a few ATMs in Manipal university area became operational, many remained shut, others displayed “no cash available” signs. It was irritating, and stressful. When I returned to Delhi during my semester break, I interned with a news organisation, where I was put on the job of counting the dead in the wake of demonetisation.
When I returned to Manipal in January, the same mess owner refused to accept any card or mobile-wallet payment. Her faith in cash was still strong.