Inside the Mind of a Banker on Strike


Inside the Mind of a Banker on Strike

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Today is a big day for me. A million of my banker colleagues around the country will be leaving their jobs to go on strike through Wednesday and Thursday – and I’ll be ready to join them. The truth is, banking isn’t what it used to be. Over the past few years, I have seen my beloved industry crumbling before my eyes, and I have to do my part to preserve this once-proud institution.

I remember the good old days before demonetisation well – back when getting a job at a government bank was the dream of every little girl and boy. Those were simpler times, filled with the European promises of five-day work weeks and retirement pensions. You never had to spend more than a few hours sitting at your desk before you were on lunch break, or clocked out for the day: The. Life.

Unfortunately, much like political alliances in this country, good times don’t last. Along came a veritable torrent of yojanas, ruining our way of life for good. It all started innocently enough with the Jan-Dhan, but the real kicker was demonetisation. Suddenly, we were all forced to spend time at our workplace, doing the very job we were paid for, as if we were common private sector employees (ugh). I can’t even think of those dark days without tearing up.

That’s why the United Forum of Banker’s Unions has decided that enough is enough. After all the hardships we’ve endured, the Indian Bank Association has given us a meagre wage raise of two per cent, apparently because of losses in the sector. But is this the bankers’ fault? How can we take this outrage lying down? So we’ve decided to go on strike for the next two days, which I will spend lying down on a beach in Goa instead.

Initially, I thought this was just another long weekend, or a bank holiday, or a national holiday. After all, we’ve already been open for 32 days this year! So I had booked the tickets in advance. Then I found out that the strike is happening until 6 am on Friday, so I do have to actually go back to work and cut my holiday short. It’s just another indignity in the life of a banker nowadays.

Still, I’m not sure how helpful this strike will be. Isn’t everyone already used to the bank closing on random days, and ATMs running out of cash from time to time? Playing such practical jokes on our customers is what makes me think of them as my dear friends, and that’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning and go to my job. Does a doctor or a professor have such job satisfaction and service? Don’t think so.

How can we take this outrage lying down? So we’ve decided to go on strike for the next two days, which I will spend lying down on a beach in Goa instead.

Sadly, even that is not as fulfilling as it used to be. Now that the strike is happening on May 30th and 31st, it’s coming at a time when many people are supposed to receive their month’s salary. Others are getting anxious that they won’t be able to access their accounts, and have started to withdraw money. The banks will be drowning in cash crunches and unprocessed cheques. Who will be stuck dealing with this tamasha on Friday, and then the week after that?

Me, of course. I suppose I could look for another job, but what else am I supposed to do? Even in these uncertain times, where will I find an industry that only exists to uphold an imaginary system of economic value, and also gives me an insurance plan?

No. I’m not meant to be anything else. I’m a banker, and I’ll be sitting inside that booth come Friday. Unless, of course, I “miss” my flight back from Goa.