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   Now that change is available in any quantity... (February 28, 1986)

Now that change is available in any quantity, currency notes have gone out of circulation. I realised this when I boarded a bus this morning and gave the conductor a 100-rupee note for my ticket to Opera House.

The conductor took the note, very happy, carefully folded it and put it in a wallet in his breast-pocket, issued me the ticket, then gave me 50, 25 and 10 paise coins as change for the rest of my 100 ruppe note.

“Would you please give me my change in large denomination currency notes,” I said, refusing to collect the pile of coins that he was placing on the seat in front of me.”

The conductor scowled: “Everybody wants 50-and 20-rupee notes, where do you expect me to get them Print them myself! If you don’t like small change, complain to the governemnt, don’t tell me.”

“Look, I am not complaining, it is just that I cannot carry so many coins around with me. I don’t have enough pockets,” I said.

The conductor said: “You should carry a bag with you to put the coins in oike everybody else is doing. Now then, you either accept the small change or get out.”

“I refuse to accept the small coins and I will not get out,” I said. “And don’t tell me what I should carry. All my life I have carried a neat pigskin leather-wallet to put all my notes in, I am not going to replace it with plastic bag.”

The conductor picked up the small hillock of coins from the seat in front of me, grabbed my ticket, returned me the 100-rupee note and rang the bell, thus halting the bus with a loud screech and making the standing passengers fall on top of one another. “Get out,” he said.

“I will not,” I said, feeling in a slightly defiant mood.

A gentleman sitting next to me said: “Why don’t you get out so that the bus can get moving. You are delaying everybody.”

Another gentleman from the back reciprocated his sentiment (come to think of it, I do not think either of them were gentlemen).

“If you people do not mind conductors bullying you and passing all their unwanted loose change on you that is your affair,” I said. “I refuse to accept change. For all we know, he is selling our 100-rupee notes in black.”

This made the conductor very angry and he threatened to have the entire bus drive to the Gamdevi police station. The other passengers persuaded them not to and made me get out of the bus. I got out, but only to uphold my principles.

So when I reached the office and the chief asked me why I was late, I explained that a conductor had made me walk because I did not have the appropriate fare.

“Strange,” said the chief, “I thought the coin-shortage problem had been solved.”

 
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