Meet the Humans of Demonetisation

“The women are to blame. They save money, hide it from us and now we have to stand in line”, says Jagdish. A retired government employee brandishes a couple of Rs 500 notes in dejection. His wife passed away in January and he found the money stashed in her trunk.

31 March, 3 PM. The government’s deadline to exchange scrapped high value currency notes lapsed and with it, the hopes of thousands like Jagdish who had lined up outside the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) office at Delhi’s 6 Sansad Marg.

Among the non-resident and resident Indians who were allowed to exchange their money after submitting due paperwork were those who discovered old money in the strangest of places. Cupboards, trunks, under mattresses, in pillowcases and old briefcases. Belonging to old parents or deceased spouses, this hard-earned money of the aam aadmi is now just scrap. That is, unless the government issues another in a series of ever-confusing notifications on demonetisation.

Here are stories from some of those who were hoping against hope to get their hard-earned money back.

Rhea Dal. (Photo: The Quint)

My name is Rhea Dhal. My mother passed away a month ago. Two days ago, we were taking her quilts and some winter clothes out of the cupboard when we found Rs 70,000 in old notes. She never told us anything about this money. How do we exchange this money now? The government should give us another chance. We deposited the money we had knowledge of, but this was unforeseen.

Rameshwar and his mother. (Photo: The Quint)

Rameshwar My name is Rameshwar. How tall am I? About 6’5”. I’ve brought my mother from our home in Faridabad. She had put it in the pocket of some old sweater and forgotten it. It’s not much, about Rs 10,500. Do you think I’ll be able to get it exchanged?

(Photo: The Quint)

I have a genuine reason to exchange genuine money. Why are we innocents being punished? The money I want to exchange belonged to my mother who passed away on 4 December. Here, I have the death certificate also. Problem is we found the money only when we were cleaning her house a few weeks ago. I have been running from one bank to the other. I have all the documents to prove I’m telling the truth, but no one is ready to listen to me. 

Arpita (Left) and Prabhjot (Right) were accompanying their mother-in-law who’s an NRI. (Photo: The Quint)

Our mother-in-law is inside getting her money exchanged. We were not allowed to accompany her. She’s an NRI and lives in Canada. This is our second trip here actually. We came yesterday, waited five hours and gave up. Today, we came a bit earlier. The RBI could’ve helped by creating separate lines for non-residents and residents, but it’s total chaos here. 

Mansoor. (Photo: The Quint)

My name is Mansoor and I belong to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. My wife died of cancer recently and when I broke open her lock, I found Rs 33,000 inside. I inquired everywhere, but they told me I cannot get the notes exchanged. I’m a poor man, I’ve see some tough times and my wife must’ve scraped and saved pennies. The notes are not in a good condition, they look old, damaged by water. Here, let me show you. 

Usha Rani. (Photo: The Quint)

My name is Usha Rani and I live in Chandni Chowk. My husband died on 3 November. I thought he had deposited all our money, but when I opened his briefcase, I found some Rs 10,000. I thought I should come here and try my luck, but I was turned away. I’m still hopeful the government will come to our rescue. 

(Photo: The Quint)

I’m originally from Kerala, but live and work in London. I landed day before yesterday and told the airport officials to give me all the necessary documents I needed to exchange my money. But looking at this long queue, I don’t think I’ll make it inside.