“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Monday, March 11, 2013

In a Train

A Journal Entry: 1435 hrs 02.03.2013

In the Gorakhpur - Trivandrum Rapti Sagar Express. The train is yet to leave Alleppey. Standing at the door of a sleeper compartment, I watch a bald, old porter in a red shirt and lungi taking my bicycle along to the Break Van at the rear of the train. I look at my bicycle, moving along with the man, clattering and shivering, but tame, tame like a baby elephant walking with its mahoot. I look my bicycle which has served me so well during the last one and a half years of stay at Alleppey. This inexplicable sorrow wells up, along with tender love for the bicycle. How silly I am! Yet how much I owe to that piece of steel and rubber ! The early morning rides on my bicycle is what kept me sane and happy in this place. Not a single tyre puncture all these months. Somebody stole the 6 speed gear unit one day, yet we managed to ride on.

My days at Alleppey is coming to an end. I will leave the service of Punjab National Bank after a stint of 32 years, 4 months and 28 days, on 28.03.2013. I have about 38 days leave left in credit, so I will absent myself on sick grounds for the next 3 weeks, report back on 25th March and work till 28th, to an unceremonious retirement. It is VRS, so there will not be any bank-sponsored tamashas; I have already warned my colleagues that I won't accept any parting gifts; maybe we will sit together and they might say how glad they were to have worked with me and I will make corresponding noises. It remains a fact though, that I had loved all my colleagues in this branch - we had the best working atmosphere, compared to all the branches I have worked in my long career. I will miss them.

The train leaves the station. The passing scenes are so familiar. Each is etched on my mind. I move from the known, the familiar to the unknown and unfamiliar. I do not know what future will hold for me; not that I knew, but like the train that now change tracks, I too am changing my worn tracks. I do not fear, I do not dread the new, but I calmly wait with an open mind to accept whatever life would bestow on me.

Balachandran V, in train from Alleppey to Trivandrum, 02.03.2013A

Monday, March 4, 2013

Of Bearers and Bankers

(Image courtesy www.bemoneyaware.com)

K calls me from Bangalore. He is holding a cheque for Rs.10,000/- payable to me, which he received as refund of advance from where he had been staying till last month. The landlord made the cheque to Balachandran V ....... or bearer. The cheque is not crossed, which as per the Negotiable Instruments Act ( Bankers' Bible), means that the cheque can be encashed across the counter at the drawee Bank, which in this case was Corporation Bank, HSR Layout(?) Bangalore.

K says, 'Acha, the lady in the counter says that the cheque needs to be signed by you; otherwise she cannot pay'. I tell him to show the clerk that it is a bearer instrument. 10 minutes later K calls me again - 'She says, ' go to the Manager'.

I am reminded of my 32 plus years in a Bank. I take a deep breath. How many times have I heard this 'go to the Manager'!

15 minutes later K calls again. "Acha, the Manager is asking around." I fume. I tell him to give the phone to the Manager, tell him that your father is a Banker, let me teach that idiot some banking.

K is not one for confrontation. He says, I will convince him. 10 minutes later I text him, 'Kittiyo?' Did you get the money? K calls. 'Phew, yeah, finally I got it. This other lady asked me to show some ID and then passed the cheque.

'A bearer is always a bearer' - this is the rudimentary rule that we learn as we cross the threshold of the Bank. It is such a fundamental banking law, but K had to spend more than half an hour encashing a bearer cheque. I sigh, thinking of the umpteen number of things I'd have done in half an hour, I'd have passed 30 and more instruments in that time. ( I have timed it - the scrutiny, entry, scrunity, verification and handing over the cheque to the peon to the cash ( This is in case of amounts higher than 10,000/- it differs from situation to situation ) takes not more than 2 minutes. And when the counters are too busy I often enter and verify the cheques myself, a big NO NO as per banking practice.

I don't know. Are my fellow bankers, and these ones in Corporation Bank such morons? I shudder in relief, because on 28th March 2013, I will be coming, finally, out of Punjab National Bank.

And then I reflect on some colleagues of mine. A Senior Manager in Trivandrum, takes a straight commission of 5% for every agriculture and other loans he sanctions. He gives loans for non-existent tractors, non-existent people. During a recent account canvassing season, he opened the largest number of accounts in South India ( Savings accounts for a minimum Rs.5000/-) by forcing borrowers ( Business accounts) to open several accounts in the same name but with different customer ID and the bugger bagged an award too. In spite of his blatant corruption, in spite of RBI audit, he got away scot free, because he had the backing of the Circle Head.

Banks stink. Computerization has de-humanized whatever humans left in the institution. Private banks charge upto 200 rs if you enter the bank premises for any banking business; it is all there in the internet/mobile or whatever. Nationalized banks like mine struggle between the social and business targets they have to achieve, with number of employees diminishing day by day, young hands reluctant to join Banks and whatnot.

I am glad I am finally getting out!

*********** Balachandran , Trivandrum, 04.03.2013