Kerala – “God’s own country“, is one of the most beautiful states in India. No wonder, it is called the “God’s own country” because you will feel a oneness with nature the moment you enter Kerala.
I was once asked by another Malayalee friend of mine who is living in Kerala, while in the middle of a heated discussion about the horrendous situation of the state, if I knew the reason why the state is called “God’s own Country” and I gave him a 500 word explanation wanting to showcase my intellect and knowledge.
He looked at me and smiled and said, “You seem to be poor-read. What you said is utter nonsense”.
I was shocked at the way he said and annoyed, no doubt.
In an irritated voice I said, “Okay! then let me hear your sense”.
He calmly replied as he walked away, “It is because nobody in this state works. It’s only the Gods who are working and they don’t have so much to look at only our state. Be thankful of whatever situation your state is in and thank the Gods”.
That’s when I understood the sarcasm in the question.
Kerala has had a lot of its problems attributed to the Left ideologies – Constant strikes, hartals and bunds let to the choir industry moving out of the state. Cashew industries are also reeling under the pressure of the loss of productivity and profits.
But the state doesn’t seem to realize this even now and the state seems to be going down a spiral.
Digital Economy and Kerala’s Contribution
We had traveled down to Kerala for some ceremonies in the family. We had decided to drive down the our home town and then the next day we were planning to go to Guruvayoor for the ceremonies.
It was about 100 Kms after we had entered Kerala. We thought of refueling our cars and drove into a big Indian Oil petrol bunk.
We were planning to do a “full-tank” in both the cars.
Luckily for us, before we asked the attender to fill the tank, we asked him if he would accept cards. His reply was instantaneous, “No sir. We only accept cash”.
We were utterly frustrated but had no choice. We weren’t carrying a lot of cash since it was a road trip and hence had to manage with filling only as much petrol as could take us to the next petrol bunk.
But the experience continued for about 3 more petrol bunks before we could find a bunk which would accept cards and give us petrol.
We were horrified but ignored and moved on expecting a better experience the next time.
But the horrors weren’t going to end there.
The Guruvayoor Trip Experience
We had finished the ceremonies and the darshan at Guruvayoor and while we were returning, my mom wanted to buy a few Kerala sarees. And there was big store just outside the temple where you could get good Kerala sarees.
So we got into the store and picked a few sarees. Since the total amount was a little higher, I turned to the gentleman at the counter and asked him assertively, “You accept card, right?”
Smilingly the gentleman replied in a gentle voice, “No. We don’t. Only Cash”.
Giving away all the cash I was carrying would have meant bigger problems for us. I looked at mom and she understood. We had to compromise by picking just 2 sarees and paying for it in cash.
It was frustration again.
But we told ourselves that these could just be aberrations and we shouldn’t worry about it too much.
We were all hungry and since it was already 3 PM, we had to quickly find a good restaurant for lunch.
On the way back, we saw a nice restaurant on the road side. The restaurant was spread across a huge area and also had a couple of party halls just next to it.
We stopped and rushed inside. The service wasn’t particularly great and it was after 15 minutes of sitting there, that somebody came to ask us what we would like to have.
We didn’t have the patience to drive off and look for another restaurant and hence waited.
The food was good and so was the bill. I proceeded to the counter to pay the bill and took out my card.
The waiter looked at me and smilingly said, “No card, Sir”.
I was shocked, “What?”, I asked.
“Do you accept Paytm?”, I asked expecting a positive reply. But it wasn’t to be.
Then started the exercise of collecting whatever cash we had to check if we will be left with enough cash for our journey back home. Frustratingly we paid off the bill in cash and left.
Things were getting onto our nerves by now.
The Jewellery Experience
Our favorite gifting idea is “Gold”. And so is the case with ceremonies.
For a ceremony at home, we had to buy some gold ornaments. So we went to this Jewellery shop which is a big brand in India and the outlet was a huge one.
After shopping for about Rs. 1 lac, we started our negotiation with the store manager.
The store manager did some calculations and came back to us with a pen and paper. He then explained the deal.
If we were to pay in cash, he would give us a discount of Rs.8,000. That was a huge discount, but paying a lakh of money in cash wasn’t really a welcome proposition for us.
So we asked him about paying the money using our card.
He smiled (and that smile had an irritating similarity to each of our earlier experiences) and said,”In that case, I wouldn’t be able to give you any discount”.
That sounded disgusting.
But we weren’t ready to compromise for a discount and ended up paying with our card and losing the discount that we could have got if we had paid in cash.
On our way home, I narrated my experience to one of my relatives and shockingly said, “Who will carry Rs.1 Lakh in cash and pay in cash?”
My relative said, “You should have waited there and observed. I have seen people paying Rs.5 lakh in cash. This is nothing in comparison to that”.
Digital Economy Non Co-operation
Yeah. It is true. It felt like Kerala had adopted a “Non Co-operation movement” towards the digitization of the economy.
And this was reflecting in the state of the ATMs. All the ATMs were dry and getting cash was almost impossible. No wonder, people were complaining.
Every news channel kept showing the agony that the common man was facing because of the shortage of the cash. But not one channel showed the way the state, the merchants and shops were approaching digitization.
With so many high value transactions happening in cash, the question really is, “Is Kerala contributing to the Digital revolution or, are they promoting Black money in the system?”
The answer is obvious and I know both of ours will be the same.