How to Survive a Visit to the Bank, the Seventh Circle of Hell

Humour

How to Survive a Visit to the Bank, the Seventh Circle of Hell

Illustration: Juergen D'Souza

G

oing to the bank is like descending through the Seven Circles of Hell. Haggling with the sabziwala, taking your dog to the vet because she ate a whole bar of Dairy Milk, wrapper and all, or even getting your engine serviced for an exorbitant fee only to have it sputter as soon as you hit a pothole – none of these everyday headaches can hold a candle to a day at the bank.

And a day it inevitably is, since banking hours are specially engineered to be as inconvenient as possible. Why is your branch closed on every third-and-a-half Saturday, sirs, or whenever there is a full moon in Pisces with an easterly wind? Is this when all the bankers go and perform a ritual sacrifice to an idol of Vijay Mallya while making it rain with our money?

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I suppose we might never know. Banking is a treacherous game, beset with poor logic, incompetence, and red tape. When we set foot inside the bank, we’re standing on the site of a bureaucratic battlefield. Allow me to be your tour guide as I take you through the day’s itinerary.

11.00 am: You walk in, ready to make a quick cheque deposit. Immediately, you are faced with a bunch of queues that all seem to converge in on one spot where people are clustered. You shrug and join the cluster, hoping for the best.  

11.17 am: For the first time, the cluster moves.

11.33 am: It’s time to choose a queue! You squint at the signage before settling on a guy who seems to be pretty quick at moving people along. As soon as you join his queue, he leaves his desk. You see him flirting with an unsuspecting teller three stations over. You look back, but it’s too late to change your mind now.

11.45 am: You’re in front of the teller, ready to deposit your cheque. He looks at it suspiciously before asking you for the phone number associated with the chequing account. You give your phone number, only to find that for some reason, it isn’t officially connected to your bank account anymore. Thanks a lot, Arun Jaitley!

At the next desk over, a sari-clad aunty is exhorting a terrified teller to call the branch manager. You look at her wistfully, wishing you had her piercing eye and gift for pithy personal insults, before shuffling to the back of the line.

12.03 pm: By now, you’ve shifted to a different queue, this time for a personal banker. You pleaded with the teller to give you a different security question until the people behind you threatened to riot, but nothing doing. Maybe you should call your friends and tell them you’ll be late for lunch?

12.15 pm: After waiting patiently, you’re face-to-face with a personal banker. Relieved, you sit down and try to explain the situation, but before you can get a word in, she gets a call. Then a colleague comes to chat with her. Their conversation is interrupted by another customer shoving some carbon paper under her nose. Your feeble excuse me’s fall on deaf ears.

12.26 pm: You’ve managed to apprise the personal banker of the problem and give her your Aadhaar number. She decides she also needs your cellphone bill. You thank your stars that you have the digital version, and pull it up for her viewing pleasure. While you ponder the philosophical quandary of how your identity can be verified by a phone number that’s paid for using the same account you’re currently trying to get verified, she updates your details.

12.30 pm: You’re finally ready to cash your cheque! But the tellers have all gone on lunch break. It’s time you did the same.

2.00 pm: You came back early to avoid the queue, and you’re facing the teller again. You hand the cheque over, but your heart sinks when he asks you for a signed copy of Account Information Update Form U109A-23. What?

2.38 pm: After a false start where you accidentally filled Account Information Update Form U109A-20, you’ve completed the correct form. As you approach the teller triumphantly, he tells you to rejoin the queue. At the next desk over, a sari-clad aunty is exhorting a terrified teller to call the branch manager. You look at her wistfully, wishing you had her piercing eye and gift for pithy personal insults, before shuffling to the back of the line.

3.00 pm: As you reach the teller’s window for the third time in as many hours, the clock strikes three. The bank is officially closed. Thanks for playing!

Better luck tomorrow – or whenever the hell the bank opens next.

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