As the tiny white blades swung gently, the 2 ton air conditioner pumped cool air, laden with a strong aroma of room freshener into that small ATM. Today’s freshener flavour is sandal and is soothing unlike the previous week’s penetrating jasmine flavour.
But, inside the small room, I was not bothered about anything around. It was the third time I’m dialing from the wall-hung dust laden white phone inside the ATM. I pressed the button “Direct Manager” and waited impatiently when a computerized voice answered, “Welcome to JM International Bank, for banking related queries, please press ‘1’, for credit card enquiries, please press ‘2’, for demat account and other related enquiries, press ‘4’, for personal and housing loan queries, press ‘5’, for insurance and related queries, press’6’, …. And if you want to talk to our phone banking officer directly, press ‘9’.
I was desperately waiting for this and immediately pressed ‘9’. This time another cute computerized voice answered,” Please wait, you are in queue” and beautiful sitar music replaced the computerized voice. Had I not been in my current agony, I would’ve flirted with the owner of the computerized voice,” honey, your voice is better than the recorded music and…” But this time I didn’t entertain any such distractions. The loop of computerized voice and sitar music continued for sometime when a natural live human voice broke at the other end, “good morning sir, thanks for calling JM bank, This is Seema in banking accounts section of JM Bank, my staff no is 81435, what can I do for you sir,” she finished her routinely repeated constant greeting dialogue.
God knows how many million times she had repeated the same greeting to several customers and it’s really appreciable that she still holds enthusiasm in her voice. Who knows, may be the fat monthly pay includes her acting enthusiastic hiding her work’s boredom..
I repeated for the third time. ‘My name is Rajeevkrishnan, my account no is 460324589311 and I’ve lost my debit card.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Seema’s sweet voice answered at the other end.” This is Banking section, you may have to contact Card service” and transferred the call to some other desk. The monotonic ringing continued for sometime and there was silence, pure silence, the absolute solution for my complex problem. I slammed the receiver.
“Today is a bad day for me”, I thought. I tried to recollect all the possibilities under the sky for losing my wallet. “Did I forget to take it from house? Did I miss it in fuel station? Or…..” a series of mental questions with a single answer “No”.
Sometimes, under extreme pressure, your mind lands up somewhere unconnected to the present. My mind flashed back and forth and Gayathri haunted my thoughts. More than the loss, my worry then was how to face her that evening. “How many times I’ve told you not to keep debit card and license in your wallet? Are you that lazy to keep them in a separate pouch?” and a series of bashing. A corner of my mind generally agrees with her. But what I’m afraid is about the worst that follows, a solid half an hour of lamenting starting from my missing her uncle’s cousin’s nephew’s marriage eight years back and continuing chronologically event by event which ends in my forgetting to buy a cough syrup for her mother last week, which she claims that I should voluntarily have bought seeing her mother coughing.
I followed the ritual again for the fourth time. “Welcome … Please dial 9”.
I stood there feeling the cool air spit from A.C, watching the Monday morning sun slowly engulfing the mother earth with his flame lips and waiting for the irritating computerized voice to stop. The other end got life again.
“Good morning sir, Sumathi here”. This time its Sumathi, earlier it was Seema, before that Pearl who followed Kavitha. The beautiful names and their honey filled music-like voices were good, but gave no solution for my missing debit card. Kavitha didn’t know what to do and promised that she would call me back after discussing with her boss and she thinks she gave a smart answer. Pearl followed the same tactics of Seema, transferring my call to some department without waiting for a reply. And I wonder how none of the transferred calls are answered.
Having repeated several times, even my voice hardened like the emotion free computerized voice. I repeated the whole story again. Listening to my tragic story, Sumathi said “Oh ! I’m sorry”, a compassion not expressed by any of the previous ladies adoring beautiful names. Anyone, especially when in distress is easily moved by a couple of soothing words. Even in the state of misery, my brain made a mental note of the importance of empathy. Sumathi’s “sorry” made me believe that she’s going to solve my problem. Sumathi continued, “May I ask you few questions to verify your details?”.
“Yes, please”, I replied as courteous as possible though my mind was telling “you lousy lady, finish it fast and talk about my debit card.”
She asked, “May I know your mother’s maid’s name?”.. “What? maid’s name? Why do you need that”. “Sir, please tell me your mother’s maid’s name.” I was confused and answered, “Backiam”, the lady whose rough hands are responsible for the shining utensils of our kitchen for the past several years.
“Sorry sir, its not matching our records.” “But how come my mother’s maid’s name entered your database and it seems complete nonsense.” Even amidst the agony of losing card, I felt awfully irritated at her questions. My mind, for a moment went blank, a state of thoughtlessness surpassing the present tension. Sometimes, when you are forced to a complete state of pure confusion, left with no solution, you will surely have some clue in front of you just waiting for you to crack it. This time it was a fresh application form lying over the glass top which melted the dirty handprints leftover by someone unknown who might have taken its assistance for filling some forms, or may be to drop a cheque. But why do I care about all these?
The application form, printed nicely in orange colour also shared some dirt from its glass bed. The application form read as follows
“ NAME (CAPTIAL LETTERS):
MOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME: ………”,
Oh ! She wanted to ask my mother’s maiden name. My god! I was rather panicked wondering how insane the bank is to appoint such a crack brain in the help desk. Her sweet voice didn’t appear sweet anymore. I felt talking further about my lost debit card was abominable and I slammed the receiver.
My cellphone kept on the glass top vibrated riling my temper. The green colour monochromatic display contained within itself, “boss calling” in dark block letters. I could see unpleasant changes in my face even in the distorted reflection in the stainless steel contoured plates in front of me. I attended the call and for several minutes I kept on uttering only two words, “yes sir”. I had to rush for an urgent meeting and to send an urgent email and….. nowadays I’ve lost the feel for urgency as every damn activity is prefixed with ‘urgent’ and I do it as normal as possible.
Frustration from the calls I made and received forced me to get out of the ATM. I decided to send an email to the bank rather than calling unhelpful helpdesk. I took my briefcase, the one my brother in law presented for one my wedding anniversaries (Gayathri thinks that the suitcase is made of diamond, though I know the truth that he got the foam brief case as a compliment for some cheap conference on some useless topics he attends) and brusquely walked out pushing the aesthetically bent stainless steel handle of the heavy glass door.
I came out, took a deep breath of the warm air. I need to think what I should do now. I couldn’t get rid of Seema, Pearl, Kavitha and Sumathi. All of them haunted like devils and somewhere nowhere I could see them ganging up to mock me. I imagined them laughing at me hysterically, how crude!!
The ATM watchman approached me. The peach shirt has a coffee brown label, “B.S.K security services” embroidered over it. The shirt might have witnessed some tough blows during its previous washes, the embroidery has started unthreading. First thing that entered my mind was “hey black shoes don’t go with your trousers”, I controlled my thoughts and gave him a confused look. I’ve read in internet about ATM watchmen abducting the customers at gunpoint for money, but I seriously couldn’t believe that he’s attempting the crime at day time. Hmm, many criminals don’t even know how to perform a crime, and finally get caught to the big bellied khakhi policemen.
He might have understood my anxiety; he smiled relieving me from the thought of my being abducted. He searched for something in his pocket. Oh my god! Tension again, what could be that? A pistol, a knife, or any other pocket size weapon our film industry hasn’t captured yet for its miraculous heroes?. He took it out of his pocket. It was dark brown in colour and very familiar to me, yes, yes that’s it. He spoke for the first time, “ When you went in, your wallet fell down, please count the money”.