I can’t face Rajkumar anymore. He has been servicing our locality for many years now, setting up a small stall of fresh vegetables on the pavement every morning. This weekend, I won’t be walking up to him for my weekly quota of vegetables. We got them online yesterday, as we didn’t want to tell the world that we have just Rs 400 left at home in cash. That is if we don’t plunder out five-year-old’s piggy bank.
As I walk past his cycle-cart, trying my best to avoid eye contact, Rajkumar has no idea that his business, or at least his customers, has gone online one fine morning. My middle class locality in East Delhi can afford to shift to e-commerce to tide over the cash crunch. For Rajkumar, the closest he comes to e-commerce is when someone orders vegetables on his mobile phone and he asks his teenage son to deliver it to their doorstep. His concept of cashless transaction is when a regular customer ask him to pack a list of veggies which he will keep ready by the time the person returns from the grocer or barber shop. He might even attempt an overnight credit. Rajkumar can’t afford anything more.
This week, I can’t afford to be Rajkumar’s customer, neither can most of his regular customers, usually a bunch of salaried employees or former salaried employees with a single source of income that usually sticks to a similar size and frequency. They usually keep credit cards for contingencies, not cash. They can’t afford to buy homes in Delhi, because they can’t pay even a small percentage of that amount in cash. So they prefer pre-bookings in the Capital’s wild east or south, hoping that the houses will be their at least by the time their kids get married. Most of them can’t afford to pay anything other than weekly staples and maybe a monthly indulgence in clothes by cash. They would rather swipe their cards, and silently convert them to EMIs so that no one knows they are buying things for which they don’t really have the liquidity.
If they have learnt one thing in the past week is that cash is really overrated. You can well do without cash these days, at least a lot of us can. We don’t get paid in cash and don’t really need to pay in cash most of the times. But then India doesn’t work like that. Cash is still the go-to way for most Indians to transact. They have never known a better way. Even those with card tucked away inside mothball filled steel almirahs are now trying to remember their PINs. They would still want to go back to cash, once they get hold of some. Hope they do. Otherwise, what happens to Rajkumar?