Thangarajan is among millions across South Asia hurting from India’s decision last November to ban — overnight, with no advance notice — currency notes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (about $8 and $16) that comprised 85 percent of all available Indian cash at the time. The note ban, India argued, was aimed at uncovering undisclosed wealth and tackling fake currency within its borders. But for decades, these notes have been the savings Nepalese workers in India sent home, a source of security to war-ravaged Afghans and Sri Lankan Tamils, and a route to health, education and prosperity for patients, students and traders from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Now, saddled with wads of unusable notes, many of them are weaning themselves off the “regional dollar,” as some refer to the Indian rupee, which is the largest and most stable currency in the neighborhood. Some, like Thangarajan, are buying gold as security; others, American dollars. Still others are discovering merits in their national currencies. The glint of the Indian rupee has dimmed for them. “This is natural,” says Vivian Dzokoto, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has researched past demonetization exercises internationally and their social impact. “People across South Asia will ask, ‘What will India do next?’ ”

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