No one wants Indian 'kachra' in Karbala in Iraq

Updated: Nov 22, 2016, 12:39 IST | Faisal Tandel

On a holy trip to Karbala in Iraq, devotees from India got a bolt from the blue, due to the demonetisation back home, after vendors refused to take their rupees, calling it worthless

Abbad Dalal, Aarif Navsariwala and Abdullah Tambawala
Abbad Dalal, Aarif Navsariwala and Abdullah Tambawala

On a holy trip to Karbala in Iraq, devotees from India got a bolt from the blue, due to the demonetisation back home, after vendors refused to take their rupees, calling it worthless.

Speaking to mid-day, some of those visiting, from Mumbai, spoke about the hardship they had to face during their two-week trips after Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were banned. They said the vendors there referred to Indian currency as 'kachra' and refused to deal in rupees.

Most devotees, Shias and those belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community, visit Karbala and Nazaf to mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. The event is known as 'Chehllum of Imam Hussain', wherein thousands from around the world fly to Nazaf and walk to Karbala, which is around 80 km away, remembering the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his followers some 1,400 years ago.

Local embarrassment
Bhendi Bazaar resident Abbas Dalal (24), who has completed his electrical engineering and is doing his M.Com, was one of those stuck without means when he visited in the last week of October. "We were fortunate that His Holiness (Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin) provided us with food and shelter. I visit the holy place often; this is the first time we had to face so many difficulties," he said.

"We had carried around Rs 15,000 for local shopping and internal transport expenses. As soon as the announcement was made on November 8, within no time, rupee was banned there. Vendors and exchange people stopped taking Indian currency and started asking for dinar. And we didn't have any dollars or dinars on us. Luckily, we had His Holiness, who supported us and others and offered whatever help possible."

Dalal said he was surprised when he got the news from shopkeepers. "'Your government has banned the currency, we don't trust your money anymore' is what they were saying," he recounted, adding that no one was ready to accept even R100 notes, even though Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were the only ones banned.

"A few vendors even said 'if you are from India, please move, we don't want to sell you anything', which was quite embarrassing." Dalal, however, said troubles notwithstanding he supported the Indian government's decision and "looked forward" to a better India.

Another devotee, Abdullah Tambawala (32), a businessmen and a Mumbai resident, is still in Karbala. Tambawala, who went on November 8 along with six of his cousins, missed the news before leaving, and hence, wasn't aware about the currency issue. "We are happy that His Holiness gave us food and other facilities. We don't know how we would have managed otherwise. No one wants to see rupee here anymore; these notes on us are merely paper now," he said.

Aarif Navsariwala (46), who owns a gold imitation business, reached Karbala with his wife on November 6 and got the news soon after. "The Arabs here refused to accept Indian currency of any denomination. They don't know Hindi or English, but when any one of us would take out rupees, they would call it 'kachra' and ask us to move on. I had to borrow $100 from a friend to survive a week," he added. Navsariwala said the government didn't issue a proper notification and that's why people are suffering.

Voices

Hanif Bankar Senior electrical droughtsman in a Qatar firm and a Mumbai resident
Hanif Bankar'There is no value for Indian currency here. Every Indian staying abroad keeps spare cash on him/her… I have a few thousand too. But after the demonetisation, it's all changed. We went for exchange at different outlets, but no one is ready to take our notes. In fact, a few exchange vendors are giving us Rs 25-30 for Qatari riyal because they don't want any Indian currency on them'

Dave Besseling Former journalist
Dave Besseling'Working with India, most of my savings were in rupees. It's all useless now as nobody is ready to accept Indian currency. Through my Indian friends I came to know about banks giving R2,000 per day. Accordingly, at an ATM kiosk, I have been withdrawing Rs 2,000 daily'

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