I'm taking over your headache, Mumbai jeweller tells SoBo woman

Updated: Nov 16, 2016, 19:01 IST | A Correspondent |

A week after jewellers make an overnight killing with demonetization, a SoBo customer opens up

Here's what a SoBo customer acts over demonetization
Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

The news of demonetization unfolded different realities for different folks. My circumstance was fairly square. Having carefully collected cash from freelance projects, and remaining remarkably foolish, I was left with “mere paper” to dispose.

Panic, crowds and rumours kept me away from banks. A trusted friend suggested investing in gold to enhance the value of my modest savings. So, one afternoon after gathering courage over three cups of home-brewed espresso, I ventured to the old part of town, Zaveri Bazar, where my currency had yet not attained crap-dom status. My bag gripped tightly under my arm, I juggled a phone in the other to operate Gmaps. And, there it was, my destination.
"Please take a seat, we are attending to a customer," said the jeweller.

Two female attendees stood before vacant shelves that would otherwise have glittered with trinkets. "Only coins and biscuits. We are not selling jewellery until the market settles,” he added. Since Modi’s surprise announcement, the enterprise had sold three dozen biscuits. This out of four tidy walls of a room kept cool with air-conditioning and comfortable seating. A cup of chai that I was offered seemed like a distraction. I had a job to do. In front of me stood two elegant middle-aged women. The kind you’d place in a five-star coffee shop sipping on Orange Flush, and inquiring about scones. Not a strand of hair out of place; the lipstick now faint since having left home to complete a mission. One was wearing flared cotton-polyester mix trousers with an oversized printed blouse.

Each carried matter-of-factly a nylon bag presumably picked up at the market outside. They managed to haul the bags up to the counter, and empty them. R50 lakh in cash. "The sale of an old flat came through right before the announcement,” they confessed to the jeweller. Now, we are stuck with the payment."

For him, it was business as usual. At Rs. 5,50,000 for a 100 gram biscuit, he had already sold 10 pieces that morning. He was making twice as much per piece. Not a total loss for the customer who could slip in a nightly wish – please let gold prices appreciate! “The price of gold is always on the up. But these notes, paper now. I'm taking over your headache,” he announced. A man walked in through tight security, untucked shirt over pants, a dowdy plastic bag in hand.

Customer? No, contractor
Here was a convenient channel to route the cash through. "Make sure the water proofing is well done," the young jeweller's father threw the civil contractor an instruction while son and mother counted. I sat with the little bills of hard-earned cash still firm under my arm. Legal tender, suddenly illegal, now is paying for someone’s refurbished South Mumbai apartment.

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