March 3, 2017

What Waiting in a Queue taught me about Expectations.


On November 9th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

On the same day, the Government of India announced the demonetization of the 500 ($7.50) and 1000 ($15) rupee notes. It was an effort to crack down on the use of counterfeit cash,but  instead it cracked the economy.

Demonetization is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender. It occurs whenever there is a change of national currency: The current form or forms of money is pulled from circulation and retired, often to be replaced with new notes or coins.

By definition, it sounds as if it should be an organized effort. In reality, the notes were pulled before the new notes were available. Each individual was limited to withdrawing only 2000 ($30) rupees per day from the bank.

Let me paint you a picture of the chaos that ensued.

One Saturday, sensing opportunity, I tried my luck at my local bank.

I got up early to make sure I got inside the bank premises to improve my chances of being able to withdraw money, but I accidentally dozed off. By the time I woke up again, I was already two hours late.

When I arrived at the bank, I was greeted by about 50 people already in a queue. As this was the norm, I went ahead and got in line behind everyone.

Let me clarify, I absolutely hate wasting my Saturdays with such matters, but I desperately needed cash along with the rest of India (India is a cash-based economy). As I was sulking, I looked around for some excitement or something worthy of my interest.

It was then that some music starting coming from the adjacent mechanic shop. As the background volume rose, I started to feel the beat and I indulged in it. Trust me, good music can cheer your heart anywhere and anytime.

As the beat got louder, the sulkiness soon wore off.

Shortly after a Government vehicle, adorned with posters of eminent leaders and lotus symbols (the logo for the BJP political party of India), arrived at the bank. A couple guys stepped out of the car with seemingly aggressive attitudes.

Much to everyone’s surprise, they took out some trays laden with what seemed like some packaged food (as we generally are provided on trains and for school functions).

“We thank you all for your cooperation and patience.”

And then, they went to every individual distributing lunch (rice, spicy chickpeas and some salad). [

The meal lifted everyone’s spirits and the ambience changed completely.

The crowd began to chant, “Hail Prime Minister. Hail Narendra Modi.” 

Soon there were political discussions, sports discussions, army strategizing and whatnot. Everyone was having a discussion and enjoying themselves. And for me, the best part was that the music was still playing.

As usual, the bank ran out of money, so most of the crowd, including me, left empty-handed. But somehow, the day didn’t feel wasted.

I left the bank thinking I had a good experience, and I wanted to share it with everyone.

And then I thought:

Maybe if we can keep ourselves away from expectation, and try to make the most of every moment, a memory of a lifetime is not so far.   


Author: Akshay Pathania

Image: George Lubikowski

Editor: Deb Jarrett


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Akshay Pathania