lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Malice, some forethought and such like

It's all because of my son, and I blame it all on him. What are children for if not to grumble about and assign all blame at the door of? He is going abroad again, debating again, all very nice, I am sure, but who gets to do the donkey-work, the legwork, the running around and feverish fretting? Why, Mom, of course.

I blame it on our system of abundant holidays in a working week, and announcing sudden holidays, too. Bengali New Year falls on a Sunday? No problem, we will close down on Saturday, and dedicate it to Dr. Ambedkar. The notice went out too late, and unsuspecting customers went to banks and found the shutters down? Too bad, not our problem.

If I am apportioning blame, let's dish some out to the Reserve Bank of India, too; it was their regulations that caused me grief and tension and immeasurable angst these last twenty-four hours. And at last, let's blame the gentleman who thought everybody knew what he knew.

Wait, I am ranting here, and you don't know what this is all about. Let me draw a deep breath (calm down, for pity's sake) and explain.

It is like this: if people want visas to visit other countries, the embassies issuing them want to know a few things about them— their financial status, if they are able to support themselves when abroad, if they have plans to stay on, and so on and so forth. Fair enough.

So my son called me and said he needed a few documents. I asked him if the documents I'd provided less than seven months ago weren't enough. He said not. (I suspect he lost or misplaced them, some or all, but I didn't dare ask and he didn't say.)

That was on Friday. Therefore, on Saturday I went to the State Bank of India, my branch, with a letter asking for a certificate that would attest to my financial status and solvency. The bank was closed. Dr. Ambedkar's birthday, you see? Not to mention that the Bengali New Year fell on a Sunday and people missed out a holiday because of that.

I went again on Monday. The last time I needed this document I'd spoken to the manager of the branch and he'd done the 'needful', so I went to him this time, too.

This time, he said that I should give the letter to the manager of Personal Banking, on the first floor. So I went upstairs. There were some six or eight people, crowding the gentleman's table, all with equally demanding and urgent things to get done. I waited my turn to talk to him.

He said photocopies of updated passbooks would suffice. I said that they would not, as I needed a certificate stating that I am an account holder with their branch. (Why should my transaction details be disclosed, anyway?) It is for visa purposes, I explained. He took my letter and asked me come back the next day for the document.

My son's text messages got progressively sarcastic, asking which part of the statement 'I need them' I didn't understand; and vitriolic, asking if I was so super-glued to my computer and Internet that I couldn't get anything done. I was glad when the network died periodically, though it only meant there'd be more texts to cringe at when the signal was restored.

I went again yesterday. The gentleman had balance statements all ready; not the document I'd asked for, a certificate that I was an accountholder with the branch. I pointed this out. He said that my letter said a statement. I explained again. He asked me to come the next day for it. I said I needed it that day. I said I could come later, if necessary. Come in the afternoon, he said. Two o'clock, I asked. Come after four, he said.

I walked down to the bank a second time and was there, promptly at four o'clock. The shutters were down, and the branch was finished for the day. To put it mildly, in Lewis Carroll terms, I was frumious.

Now he could have said that it wasn't possible for him to provide the document yesterday. He could have said it can't be done, he could have said no. He needn't have asked me to come after four. Unless it was a very roundabout way of saying 'come tomorrow', because he thought I knew the branch closes at four. Well, I didn't. I did all my bank transactions in the morning, and I had no idea whatsoever when it closed in the afternoon.

If he'd said no, I'd have gone the next day, but he said, come after four. I walked in the afternoon sun, on a hot April day, when he knew that the bank would be closed by then. If this wasn't malice, I don't know what is.

I just hoped fervently that there wouldn't be a call from my son; I dreaded explaining what happened and having to listen to a five-minute tirade of how gormless I was.

So this morning I went to the bank again (sigh), on a slow boil already. The only silver lining was that the validity period of my cell phone came to an end and there was no time to get a recharge coupon, this came first; so I was immune to texts from my son. If he called home on the landline to rant, well, his father could bear the brunt of it. Me, I was sweating it out on the streets, wasn't I?

The shutters were up, but the folding gate was still closed, and the security guard was letting in only bank officials. There I waited, I was going to be fair, I was going to be polite, I wasn't going to lose my temper, I was, I wasn't, I was, I wasn't…

The gentleman walked up, and was allowed in by the guard, who unlocked the padlock for him. Excuse me, I said. The gentleman turned to me, with the same half-smile he wore when at work, looking quizzically at me. You asked me to come after four yesterday, and the shutters were down, what did you mean by that, I asked. The gentleman looked at me as though I spoke in Swahili, and went in. The padlock was back on.

All good intentions and calm questions flew out of my mind. When the bank opened for business, I went straight to the manager and launched into a rant. Why couldn't he have said come tomorrow, I raved. Why make me walk in the afternoon sun to encounter downed shutters, I raged.

The manager listened in bafflement and said, but why didn't you use the side entrance?

Huh? What side entrance?

The entry is from the Southern Avenue side; you could have asked the shopkeepers and they'd have told you.

How is a person who only ever used the bank in morning hours to know that it downs shutters at four o'clock because of RBI directives and further business if any is conducted by entering the premises from the side entrance? I saw the only entrance I knew closed, and I left. Was I supposed to ask paan and tea shopkeepers if the bank was still open, and how to enter it? Why would it strike me? Why didn't the gentleman tell me to use the side entrance, and where it was?

The manager, realising how upset I was, gave me a conducted tour of the ground floor, showing me where the side entrance was, how it was to be accessed from Southern Avenue, and more. He escorted me to the gentleman, and asked that matters be 'expedited'.

Her document was ready yesterday; she never came to collect it, said he. Explained the matter, he said, but I thought everybody knew where the side entrance was.

I didn't. So everybody doesn't know. Bah!

The good news is that my couriers will deliver 'soonest', they promised me, and though the recharge coupon I bought was valid, the transaction is in trouble since my phone seems to have died. Hallelujah!



Blogger Rimi said...

UFF! Be thankful you're not inclined to yank at your hair when frustration strikes, or you'd probably have been half bald by now.

I summarised this to my mum, and she said (as I knew she would) "Try any of that [sarcastic texts etc] with me and you can do your work yourself." It's all pre-emptive, with my mum :D

4:31 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- Ask your mum if she will lend me some of that spine. :-)

5:33 pm  
Anonymous dipali said...

Ah, these out-station want machines that are our offspring! Interfaced with our brilliant 'sarkari' bankers- no wonder we have Lali in fire-breathing dragon mode......
The closed shutters were just too much:)

5:48 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

It's quite easy to see where your son got that streak of vitriol from. What a rant, Lali. The job is done, clearly, or you wouldn't be taking time to rant.

6:25 pm  
Blogger Nilu said...

This is the reason why you should be an incestuous Tamil Brahmin who can commandeer his/her Uncle/Aunt who is the manager of the local branch into doing anything. Over the phone.

7:46 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Your phone could be infected, Lali. Is it still dead? Or are you just keeping it switched off to duck messages from your son?

Youve used the bank for ages and didn't know their timings and side entrance? Ze maind, eet bawggles.

8:44 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- I know, shutters down, dander up, I tell you. :-)

Ash- Hmm, I see.

Nilu- I wish. Maybe in my next life.

Rajesh- What are you, Cassandra's cousin? The phone was corrupted, said the chap, but it is fixed now and no, I don't keep it switched off just to duck messages and calls. I resent that remark. Hmmph.

9:05 am  
Blogger Chimera said...

see that much is expected out of State Banks of India - i mean they aren't doing anything different from what they have been doing all these years ...
as to ur son I think he needs a spanking for not understanding ur situation.

9:25 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Hi Chimera, welcome.

Sadly, my son is long past the age when spankings could be administered to impart lessons, and I never subscribed to the theory anyhow. And there is a certain gloomy pleasure I take in his sarcasm after all, it gene engendered, right? I love it when he gets his spelling right and tenses all correct and so on. Small pleasures, yeah, and I prefer to imagine courtrooms quaking on knowing he is slated to argue a case in not too distant future. Heh.

11:19 pm  

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