Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Credit Worthy vs. Credit Worthiness

Having lived and travelled across a large part of the developed and semi-developed world (clearly my brush with the developing countries other than India has been limited), I am accustomed to the use of plastic money and on many occasions it has been a saviour. However, on all my travels back home to India, I have consciously always carried local currency; just this once I forgot and landed with a measly hundred rupees on me. And it is today I realised how over reliant am I on the plastic card in my wallet.

The driver coming to fetch me at the airport had an accident and could not make it. I decided to take a pre-paid taxi but had no cash and the taxi company accepted no cards at all. The only ATM machine at Mumbai International Airport was broken and no money exchanger would give money against a credit card. So I was stuck; till a lady behind one counter told me that I could take one of their cab company’s cars and pay on reaching home. I heaved a sigh of relief even though the fare charged was three times the normal fare; at least I could get home in time and proceed to work.

As I sat in the car, staring out of the window, I thought that maybe I could have exchanged some of my pound sterling into rupees. However, looking into my wallet and scratching me sleepy brain, I realised that I had none; I had bought gifts at the duty free and so I was out of foreign currency as well. It was a first time situation and I was a little peeved with myself.

However, thinking about this morning, now, a few hours later; I am beginning to realise that short term credit in India is an integral part of daily life. Just like I got the credit from the airport to home this morning, I could get credit from my local grocer to pay him in 30min and he will even send his errand boy over to collect the amount. The chemist has no problem in delivering medicines to the flat and keeping a monthly record of his receivables. The milkman, the newspaper vendor, the vegetable man; all of them are happy to run with monthly credits. They have no problem in accepting my word of honour as my credit worthiness; however, the plastic card in my wallet to them is no guarantee what so ever!

In the developed world my bank and my bank cards define my credit worthiness; but in India I am credit worthy to those who have known me for some time. So maybe the facilities do not abound here, but human interaction and personal relationships do. That to me is sufficient, as life is because of the people in it and not due to the comforts that one has at hand.