Cash, baby, cash

December 7, 2008


India, except maybe for a few major cities, is a cash-only culture. Most payments, even TVs and computers, are made in cash even though everyone earning more than $150 a month now has a credit card. Ask if you can pay by card and the shopkeeper will look at you as if you have just asked him whether he’d like to come home and clean your toilets with his shirt. Most of the time he’ll have to pull the credit card machine out of a drawer, dust it and plug it in. Then he won’t know how to use it. Very often, I swipe my own card.

However, you can’t not get affected by the customs of a country you have lived in for years. Just like I have become a sucker for spicy food, I now think cash. Even in France. When I lived there, just like everyone else, everything that cost more than ten euros, I paid by card: metro tickets, grocery shopping, movie, etc. Now I pay as much as I can in cash, to the utter dismay of salespeople. They think I am a drug dealer.

I guess Indian cash-obsession is typical of an economy where black market is still paramount. It is also the sign of a country that doesn’t trust the Establishment. And could you really blame them? In a country where the police is so useless, brutal and greedy that nobody in his full mind would ever call them even if they had just witnessed a hit and run, a country where everyone rather settle their cases privately than wait seventy-two years for the courts to do so, and where government jobs and school entry exams are for sale: in such a country, of course, cash prevails.

Little man, fend for yourself.

Bring on the cash.