Where on earth are the 10-rupee bills? And the 20-rupee bills? Why is it that nobody ever has change in this country? How come at the end of a day, the shopkeepers are not flooded with small change? The coconut man around the corner who sells them for 20 rupees apiece never has change, even for a 50. The big Hypercity store, which is roughly the equivalent of Walmart never has change. The photographer I like makes you pay with a credit card unless you have exact change. I just don’t get it.
Originally, I had assumed it was because we are white and get rooked. It’s our station in life as foreigners to get overcharged in India. My first “No change Madam” was last year, when I paid 50 rupees to a kid for a coconut that should have been no more than 30 (it was a touristy place, so it’s more expensive than Bangalore, and yet cheaper than the 35 in Mumbai, where I won’t buy coconuts again, that’ll teach them to cheat me!!) But then I saw the store owners argue with Indians. So it’s not just me!
At the ATM, we don’t withdraw 1000 rupees. We get one time 400, then another 400. This way, we have a grand total of 8 100-rupee bills, yippee! After that, we scramble for smaller notes. You want to avoid 500 and 1000, which is what ATMs spit out. And we have started stealing money from each other’s wallets! The person going shopping takes cash from the other spouse, that’s how bad it is! There are some things you need cash for: haircuts, coconut water and watermelon, my favorite tailor who doesn’t speak a word of English, puja flowers (the flowers you put in a bowl in front of your house to make it all nice and inviting, though it has a religious significance that I know nothing about, they’re just super pretty), so basically anything you buy from street vendors who obviously won’t take a card. Everything you’d buy is under 100 rupees, yet, they never have change. Ever. And the funny thing is that they get mad!
On many, many occasions, I have left “tips” where you shouldn’t be tipping people. Last night, I wasn’t about to leave the banana man a 35% tip: I get 4 bananas, which is usually 8-10 rupees. He weighs them and says 13. Ok, prices fluctuate and with the Festival of Holi a few days ago, it’s possible (banana prices go up around religious holidays since they are used as offerings, or so we were told). I give him the 10 and run a few feet to E. and get a 20. I come back, my 10 has mysteriously disappeared. So did his English skills! After the nice lady next to me translates that I would like my 10 back in exchange of a 20, he relents. But still has no change. Right!!! You don’t have change Buddy, but you still have bananas, so I would like 20 rupees worth of bananas. He was not overly pleased.
You know what I had for breakfast? Three delicious mini bananas!