Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 24, 2016 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment


The women of the world. Doing the heavy lifting.

“ What is the biggest problem facing Canada? “

This question was posed by a grade 10 student from a high school in a rural Indian village. After being lobbed some really easy questions about where I was from and how was I adapting to the food, this young man at the back of the room caught me off guard. If I would have been quicker I would have responded, “ The United States,” just to see if they would understand the nuance of a remark like this.

My answer?

Canada’s shameful treatment of its First Nations people. I didn’t go into a great amount of detail nor will I expound in this space. Those who read my articles regularly know that my purpose in writing is primarily to entertain. There are enough other forums for people to express their opinion on weighty matters. I’m sure if I polled 100 people, I would likely get 100 different answers.

I promise (?!) that this will be my last comment on the demonetization crisis here in India. If you haven’t been following this, here’s a quick primer. Approximately 85% of all the cash in India ( and this is still a predominantly cash economy ) was held in two rupee notes: the 500 rs and the 1000rs. Our equivalent in Canada would be a $10. and $20 dollar bill. There are billions upon billions of rupees that people stash away ( including the Black Market – the primary target of this move ) avoiding the eyes of the tax man. On November 8th. the Indian government declared these currencies worthless… overnight. You could swap them for newly minted notes but only in small quantities and for a set amount of time.

I will give you one concrete example of the magnitude of the problem. The bank machines will only dispense the new 2000 rs note ( $40 ) on a daily basis…. if you are prepared to stand in lineups for 3-5 hours ( in 30 + degree heat ) with NO Guarantee  that the ATM will have any notes left when you get there.

So, you finally get your first 2000 rs note and for lack of a better example, you want to buy some bananas from a street vendor who deals in small rs notes ( 10 rs is common ). So, he gives you 10 bananas for 50 rupees ( $1.00 ) and he is expected to give you back 1950 rupees in small bills? Not happening. These small merchants can’t sell their product. And the big guys are feeling it too.  Can you imagine going to Tim’s with every customer handing the clerk a $50. billl? They would run out of small bills very quickly…. which is exactly what’s happening at the local McDonald’s where I go for coffee. They have been turning away customers in droves although they are luckier than most because they take debit and credit cards, but only a fraction of the population has these.

Enough. It’s a complete mess and will take weeks if not months before the economy gets back on track. It is quite fascinating to watch it live. I was down to my last 90 rs ( $1.80 )  last Saturday before getting my hands on a fresh 2000 rs note. It was a very surreal feeling to not be able to get cash or buy anything at my local restaurants or from street vendors.

After considerable contemplation, I have decided to enter the convent. Now you stalwarts know that I never lie. Oh yes, I am a master of embellishment when telling a story but I refrain from outright lies. At the end of December, I will be relocating to a convent in the most southerly town in India called Kanyakumari. You old fogies can go look at your weather beaten atlases or an old globe (!) or simply Google it.

The pollution in Hyderabad has taken its toll and I’m going somewhere that has much better air quality… and it’s a five minute walk to the beach. I will be volunteering with a non profit organization run by an order of Catholic Sisters who still wear the traditional garb. I am hoping not to develop any bad habits. ( I can hear the collective groan! ). I expect that this will be a completely different experience. Hyderabad has been a wonderful education but my health comes first.

How many of you have ever watched Animal Planet? It is the only English language channel that I can get on my T.V. I am just about an expert on the animal kingdom!!!

Have a great day.

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One Response to Thursday Tidbits

  1. Alex MacPherson says:

    Len, I will take “Animal Planet” over CNN…unless they switch Trump to the animal show which is where he would fit (with apologies to the animals). Safe travels.

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