It was last Saturday, so that makes it nine days today, and I’m still trying, tirelessly trying, to quiet the brain; the mind, however, circles back to the same episode. A preface is in order before commencing on the back-to-the-wall story. My Mom has, for a bit over two years been, in our Delhi home, unable to return to Simla. It’s been one thing after the other—a fractured leg which took a sizable amount of time to mend and have her back on her feet, besides being pitted against so many varied adversities that returning to her Simla home has, with repeated regularity, been rescheduled. Of course, Covid played a major role, what with rules and regulations of Covid travel and the fearful idea of being quarantined in, where was it, some place in Mashobra (?) before being able to make it home. Or special passes obtained from those authorities to isolate at one’s own home, if one is a bona fide Himachali.
These from officers that are forever polishing their Halo. Nobody knew what was going on, especially when in the grips of the 2nd wave, with a curfew being clamourously clamped on the entire nation, travel being grinded to a halt. If, inadvertently, a note of sob-sob self-pity has somehow slipped into this narration, I must clarify with gin-eyed clarity that was not intended, and we all have our personal aches and pains and woes, and no good comes out of faffing about them—morphs our misfortunes into wafts of curdled grease from a pavement dhaba, hanging heavy in the air. Covid-19, our collective distress, to put it mildly, so we had the license to cry ourselves hoarse until whatever o’clock. But back to my mother, who hopefully, however comfortable she is here, shall at long last, be returning to her home in Simla, come May. Now for me to finally start off with Saturday, the 16th of April. Yet, alas have to rewind to a week before this day. This to be recounted at full speed, lest we don’t make it to the main recital, and it gets the short end of the stick. A dear family fried needed 50,000 rupees immediately towards booking a modest apartment as the nearing of the last date for the payment was tick-tocking.
My Mom, hearing so, post-haste wrote a cheque for him which I was ten-times-over told, to hand over to him first thing in the morning; thankfully, she let me have my bed tea and bath before packing me off. Later, I discovered my lil’ Red Riding Hood’s wicker basket homed two tiffins—one held my breakfast, the other my lunch. Yes, whoever said, `God could not be everywhere, that’s why He made Mothers does deserve a standing ovation! The cheque was dutifully handed over to Anuj. The next evening, in a voice waterlogged with apologies, we’re informed that the cheque could not be honoured. Reason: the Bank did not say. Signature askew, name misspelt?! Not a clue. Assured him, I’d withdraw the cash and deliver the same the following day before noon. The next day, Anuj ebulliently conveyed that the Bank had called, conceding that there was some faux pas from their side, so it’ll be duly deposited. Thank heavens it hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole, both sighing in an `all’s well that ends well’ spirit.
The next morning, another call. In a voice overdosed in `Sorrys’, the news relayed was that the Bank, again decides, that the cheque is as good as scrap paper. Reason?! None! Was banking done on the whims and fancies of a self-celebrated officer?! My indignant mother wrote another cheque in her son-in-law’s, my consequential-other’s, name, `uncrossed’ so that it would be encashed pronto. (By now, understandably, I wanted zilch to do with cheques!) Funny, that, that day we were sharing the same car since our meetings were in the same vicinity, and so there I was, having been told by the cheque-bearer that he’d be back in, `two shakes of a lamb’s tail’. (Guess, he had just stumbled on this expression, I being the first for it to be favoured with!) And yes, sure enough he was back not in a New York minute (have been itching to use this since I heard it in some gangster movie, watched for a fraction of a second!) but after a good 20-minutes, and with swerving flushed cheeks. The cheque went unaccepted, despite showing the bank-teller, `the can’t be caught without dead Adhaar card’, as means of identifying himself. Nopes, the lady who had written the cheque had to come personally, present it in her very `Self’ name. She had no right to issue a cheque of even a single rupaiya. Reason: the account was from the Mother Bank, Simla.
Mother Bank—what a repellant phrase—thus it didn’t hold any water in any part of India, save Simla! Now which high-brow mastermind came up with this rule?! Here they—the entire staffers—drew a belligerent blank, before perhaps, reciting what they had been parrot-trained to. These rules were framed for the safety and `Suvidha’ of the bank’s customers. I had been roped in since I shared the account with my mother and I had to simply scratch out my husband’s name, squiggle my signature in 4-odd places and presto, be the proud recipient of the ready money. Now Tsunami broke lose—my brain bursting a blood vessel.
The bankwallahs had not come up with these empty-headed rules, I was not blaming them, so why in heavens, with evangelistic zeal were they endorsing mind-free directives?! So once our salary made it to the bank, the safe option would be to take one’s money home to do whatever we had to do with it?!
Again, the chorus—it was for the customer’s safety to guard them against any fraudster swindling their moolah! And whyever had they, without checking my identity, with clinical efficiency, hand over the money? Was my face on bill-boards, so the waive off?! And suppose I hadn’t been around to fill in my Mother’s boots, was the Senior supposed to climb a fleet of stairs to claim her shillings?!
Needless to say, my Mom is more than ever keen, to return to her home town, where her bankers shan’t make her hop, skip and jump to claim her money.
(Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.)