Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Nickles and Dimes

One thing I think I’m noticing is how protective people in Bangalore seem to be of their small notes, especially 10s and 20s. Basically, most items will only require you to pay in the tens of rupees. This means that unless you find a way to break up your bigger notes, you’ll always run out and have the inglorious task of looking round for a kindly soul willing to provide the change you need, or attempting to force some shopkeeper to come to your aid by providing change when you pay for the 20 rupee packet of crisps with a 500 rupee note. It’s a wonderful little dance.
Case in point: I was charged about 130 rupees for a journey back to my apartment by auto rickshaw. Now, I did have 30 rupees in small bills plus a hundred-rupee note with which to pay the fare. On the other hand I also had very large notes that I wanted to break up: 

"Do you have change for five hundred?" 

"Sorry, sah. No change." 

This dude drives auto rickshaws for a living and obviously knows what’s up. He clearly suspected I was trying to bluff him out of his small notes, which I’m guessing are just as precious to him as they are to the Bangaloreans I’ve observed*. However, it was evening. So I was pretty certain that after a whole day of driving my man had some dad-burned change. 

"Seriously, mayn?" 

The driver had now developed the slightest hint of a shit-eating grin. His whole demeanour said to me: I hope you brought your dancing shoes, son. 

My position was significantly weakened by the fact that Bangalore shuts up shop early. Street vendors tend to stay out a little later, but it was far too late in the evening to find one. Even if one were around, there was every chance they’d refuse me change, especially for five hundred rupees. Refusing to pay the auto rickshaw driver until he coughed up change would have been, it seemed to me, a serious breach of acceptable dance etiquette. 

"Very well", I thought, and gave the man two hundred-rupee notes. And I received a 50 and a 20 in return. Well played, sir. Well played. 

*Moreover, as I was to learn after discussion with Indian colleagues, he was worried that I might give him a fake note and scam him out of his takings.

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