Money Matters

Amit Chaudhuri in The International Literary Quarterly:

Money The poet C P Surendran once gave me an insight, in Delhi, into why the situation as we know it exists. We’d arrived in Khan Market late in the morning; we had to pay the fare; not a single auto driver, though, among the line of autos parked in the front, could give us change for a hundred rupees. My old puzzlement came back: ‘How can not one of them have the money?’ C P said: ‘These people don’t bring the last day’s earnings when they return to work. They begin each day afresh.’ And this was the first time someone had said something illuminating to me on the subject, and opened my eyes to the most common sort of employee around us: the daily wage-earner. This person goes back home at night, possibly having spent part of his money on beedis, gutka, or drink, possibly giving some of it to the family, or part to an employer to whom he owes a species of mortgage. The next day he’s back, like a migrant, to whom the business of livelihood is old and inevitable, but to whom money is always new. He could be anywhere. Having money doesn’t mean owning it; it means to relentlessly make or break the makeshift rules of exchange. Change isn’t hoarded for the purposes of saving or spending, but because it constantly needs to be earned. Others, in the salaried middle classes, or in trade or business, have to deal with this person in their own manner: by outwitting or outwaiting him, or – what’s more common – by mimicking him.

More here.