My name is five hundred and this is my story. For those of you, who do not know me, who are not from India, I belong to an economy which has rapidly grown since the late 1980s and currently is leveling off to attain maturity. Ever since my older brothers and sisters were born sometime in 1997, our family had smooth sailing, without any major crisis, until November 8, 2016, when the government of India in a fit, threw me and my family out into the garbage. We felt betrayed. We felt like orphans. I remember my uncles’ faces- they were tensed as they did not know their future. I can still hear my aunts and little cousins wailing as they were being pulled out from every nook and corner of safe havens and hurriedly scrambled, bundled and tied with those brown rubber bands and taken to be slaughtered. Oh my. It was a sad day for us.
I remember that day vividly. I was cozily relaxing in between the well-respected Thousands, who had seen many downs and ups in their lifetime. The leather purse where we were staying was an expensive one and I must say, this was one of the best places I have been staying off late. It seemed life was finally going to be ok, though I would have preferred to be in the ATM, where I know I would be safe. I don’t know what happens to these stupid people and why they draw me out of that machine. They tend to spend recklessly and keep exchanging me from people to people. I was told by my relatives that India is a cash-oriented economy and I will never have a permanent residence and must be ready to be a nomad, hopping places. I was mentally prepared, but this place seemed to be cozy and I never wanted to leave.
Anyways, at 8 pm, there was loud cheer in the pub, where my keeper visited often when the hugely popular Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi appeared on the TV screen. There was going to be a huge announcement, is what I overheard my filthy rich keeper say to his friends. I had always heard good things about the Indian PM from this man. I have heard pretty nasty things from others too. You know, when you have changed hands, 1768 times since your birth, you are bound to be with people with different opinions. Anyways, coming back to the pub, it was a lively evening, but the mood suddenly turned sombre- or I would say rather shocked. The Indian PM had put me and my family out of circulation. I could feel the tears from Thousands eyes, as I was right beside her. “Not again” she exclaimed. Well, this was the first time for me. I did not know what to do. Will I be returned to my birthplace in Mysore? Will I be burnt alive? Will I be somehow made to look legitimate? I had no clue. My keeper hurriedly got to his car and drove. I was alone in the purse, with a few other thousands and the mood in the purse was not great is what I could say.
Well, I have travelled the breadth and length of this great nation. From the cool mountains in the north to the sandy beaches in the south to the wilderness of the east, to the bustling west. I have seen it all. I have lived with rich people, where a guy like me is relaxed as life is pretty stable here- rich people do not spend as often as you think. When most of the country struggles for day to day needs, these people have different worries. They are more worried about taxes, investments, and holidays. More often than not, if one is a rich person’s purse, he ends up in another rich person’s purse. My life wasn’t a big struggle, as most of my life, I have been lucky to be sitting under a carpet in one greedy man’s house.
I have also lived with middle-class people, where I was tossed and turned to strangers almost every day, especially on weekends. These new cinemas and malls, I tell you are a pain in the ass. I remember on a lazy Saturday, I was exchanged in the same cinema hall for about 10 times to end up in the same house, I had started from. My keeper, a young lady had kept me in folded, in between a lipstick and I guess a foundation box. My back hurt badly and the fragrance was so strong that my head was stirring. I desperately wanted to get out and was relieved when she pulled me out my misery and handed me over to the ticket guy, who stretched me to check on Mahatma Gandhi’s tattoo on my body. Oh, what a feeling that was. It was the best stretch I have had in a long time. From the ticket counter, I had made my way to the food court, the overly expensive nachos counter, back to the ticket counter and ended up you know where- in between a lipstick and the foundation box- crumpled. Would you believe it? I had never felt so unwanted in my life- of course until this day, where my whole family was declared useless. The only consolation was I ended up catching the first bit of the movie and then the last bit. I don’t even remember the name.
The worst place to be is with the poor and people below the poverty line. Well, I have heard there are plenty of them in India. All they talk about is what to eat in their next meal and where to find work. Well, a big guy like me hardly finds his way to a poor household, the hundreds and fifties are the unlucky ones who get there most of their lives. If my memory serves me right, the longest I have been confined to a place was a poor man’s house somewhere in Mangalore. I was neatly rolled in a plastic wrapper, tied in a thread and bundled into a corner safely inside a tin. I think I was there for a good six months. By the time I got out, I was stinking of fungi and felt disgusted. Luckily I was saved for one of the kid’s college. The feeling when one is used for a good cause is something which I cannot express. It is amazing. Try it next time. Alas, I am no longer available. But you can try with my new shorter and ugly extension of the family.
I would like to narrate a little bit about the way people have treated me over the years. I don’t know if people even realize we have a body. We are abused over and over again. I have been rolled, folded once, folded twice, would you believe, folded even four times once to fit in an old man’s pocket. To these abusers, I would like to say only one thing- Be a bit gentle. We have a back, we have a nerve. It pains. Once, I was in such bad shape, that my owner had to put me under a handkerchief and give me a hot therapy- I think it was a steam iron. We love to have massages once in a while, especially in that new counting machine. The whole body feels so rejuvenated. You must try this once a month at least. Might help.
I have also lived in all kinds of places. From a man’s underwear, I have shifted my address to a woman’s blouse. From the innerwear, I have seen tins, plastic covers, fridge, lockers, bank lockers, ATM’s and many a time I have been orphaned over my short life so far. I have had to endure many fragrances and also many stenches. I would prefer to be in the hills, where the air is crisp and cool than the coastal belt, where the air is humid. I was once stuck in a fisherwoman’s house for quite some time and all I was thinking about was the escape plans amidst the overpowering stench of fish.
Well, I think my life is over now. It was a nice ride. I was born as a crisp paper and now turned into an old hag with creases, pen marks and even a few tapes all over me. I have no regrets in life, but I still feel, the reasons given for our premature death were simply stupid. I think the honorable Prime Minister had a wrong set of advisors or a set of wrong advisors, whichever way you want to read. During the last few days of my life, during my wait in the long winding queues, where I heard over hundred people lost their lives, I overheard many people argue about the reasons given by the government. Initially, when the shocker was announced, we were held responsible for being black, then we were branded as terrorists, counterfeits, and finally, we were wiped out of the equation by saying that we had to make way for newer, technology related money to come in. Well, I have seen this nation end to end- People will take time to get adjusted to these gadgets. Well, there are no toilets in many homes for crying out loud. Give them time to adjust for these rapid advancements.
Anyways, I have finally come to terms to it. Since November 8, I have exchanged many hands again and I am finally resting in a tight metal box along with my family to be put away. It finally, feels good to be with family. I even met many of my batch mates. I am not sure, how we will be executed- but anyways, as I said I have lived a good life. Goodbye for now. I hope you treat my newly minted cousins just like the way you have treated me. Thank you.
(This article is inspired by a chapter from the bestselling book “My name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk).