Posts Tagged ‘Diwali’

When an ATM stands for Any Thing but Money

8 November 2013

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: These days we have been having a spate of serial government and bank holidays.

Last month it was because of the Dasara coinciding with Bakrid which also happened to be holding hands with Maharshi Valmiki Jayanthi across just one working day in between. This month it was because of Rajyotsava coinciding with Diwali, with the Naraka Chaturdasi and Balipadyami sitting astride on either side of a Sunday.

The net result of such coincidences is that an already non-working government hardly gets to work and banks which have now left most of their work to computers and ATMs, simply leave customers’ needs to fate. And, as we all know, fate is usually very unkind.

It is a very well-known fact that in our country, even on normal working days, most of the ATMs do not work satisfactorily.

But on occasions of serial holidays like what we saw very recently they are completely useless. Except for the very rich, for most ordinary people, a savings bank account is a safe place to keep their hard-earned money and draw it in time of dire need. This is what the ATM service is supposed to ensure.

But I have seen anxious and upset people running from one ATM to another outside banking hours, trying to squeeze some cash out of them in vain.

Just to test how futile this exercise is I decided to draw just Rs 10,000 last month during Dasara time. My quest led me through seven ATMs before the one at the main branch of the State Bank of Mysore yielded fruit.

This month, during the extended Diwali holidays, to test the system once again, I repeated the same exercise in a journey that took me across 14 ATMs from N. R. Mohalla, Bannimantap, Ashoka Road, Medical College, Railway Station, Yadvagiri, Jayalakshmipuram to Gokulam.

After this most interesting odyssey I was able to squeeze cash from four different ATMs only in Rs 100-notes to get my Rs 10,000. For me this marathon was interesting just because I was not really in need of any money but was only on a voyage of discovery.

The messages that greeted me ranged from a blank and unresponsive screen to ‘off line’, ‘out of order’, ‘unable to dispense cash’, ‘this card is not valid’, ‘unable to read card’ and ‘try a lesser amount’.

When I decided to obediently follow the last bit of advice at four ATMs, I had to go on lowering my request like a beggar who solicits money for a meal from a not-so-generous giver, until they agreed to give me a maximum of Rs 500 each. And, it was not anybody else’s but my own hard-earned money that I was asking for and thankfully it was not for a meal.

I have had such exasperating experiences with a non-performing debit card or an empty or non-functioning ATM despite a full bank account, that I now never enter a hotel or buy anything from a shop unless I have sufficient cash in my wallet to pay the bill.

Armed thus, I then pay by card, keeping the cash aside to bail me out of a potentially embarrassing situation. At petrol stations I first swipe the card and then proceed to get my tank filled only after a successful transaction.

Although a letdown at an ATM is a fairly common experience in our country it is almost a rarity abroad. I have not had any problems whatsoever while drawing money from any ATM anywhere outside the country during any of my visits abroad although all my bank accounts were local with international debit card facility.

Even during the more than a month- long Haj pilgrimage, which is an occasion where nearly 40 lakh people congregate at one place, I never ever experienced any problem at any ATM. And, the Haj is without doubt, the largest congregation of people in the world which imposes the heaviest load on banking services, with people thronging ATMs wherever they are.

In many countries customers are compensated if they are put to even the slightest inconvenience due to any malfunctioning of banking services. But here in India the customer who is ironically called ‘king’ till he opens the bank account always comes last in any service providing situation and nobody seems to be bothered to set this shameful position right.

When an ATM fails to work and when you approach the bank located just alongside it for help, you are curtly told that since ATMs are serviced and replenished by an outside agency they can do nothing to help. This is so even if you happen to have an account in the very same branch.

At the most they advise you to call the toll-free number given at the ATM which usually remains unresponsive thus exacting a heavy toll on your nerves.

The result is that in an emergency, one cannot completely depend on an ATM to bail himself or herself out against an urgent need for ready cash.

Despite this sorry state of affairs our banks continue to discourage transactions at their cash counters and encourage people to obtain debit cards and draw cash through ATMs.

Is this not then just a ploy to remain indolent and lazy?

Day by day our banking services are only getting more and more expensive for customers without any visible improvement in the quality of the service that they provide. It is now reliably learnt that from the coming year the rents on safe deposit lockers are likely to be almost doubled with the stipulation that not more than two free operations will be allowed per month. All additional operations are likely to be charged.

When it is the customers’ money on which it thrives, should our banking system not care to ensure some minimum standards for the services it is supposed to provide?

Since ATMs are controlled by a central server, is it not possible to monitor cash withdrawal patterns and ensure adequate and prompt replenishment?

And in the event of a series of holidays coming in a row, why is it not possible to keep this refilling system going even if the banks themselves are closed?

But all this needs a will. A will to give ourselves a better and a more dignified life. Until then our ATMs, will simply remain a modern-day bane and continue to dispense Any Thing but Money.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

So where were you on the night of Deepavali?

6 December 2012

India_map_20121206

A satellite image released by the national space and aeronautics administration (NASA), of India that is Bharat, on the night of Deepavali that is Diwali, 2012.

Photograph: courtesy NASA via Press Trust of India

Another reason why South is ahead of the North?*

24 October 2011

From all of us, to all of you, a very happy and safe Deepavali. Wherever you are, may the lights usher in peace, happiness, health, laughter, and just a little bit more prosperity. Hopefully, someday, the rest of India will make the effort to understand why we always celebrate every festival one day before them. Wink, wink.

(*churumuri cannot guarantee that this joke will have the same effect on everyone!)

Photographs: Commercial Street in Bangalore, all decked up on Deepavali eve, on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

2010: Lights, camera, action and a very happy Deepavali

Lights, action, camera & a very happy Deepavali

4 November 2010

From all of us, to all of you, a very happy Deepavali. May the year ahead bring plenty of peace, happiness, health, light, laughter, and just a little bit more prosperity than the year gone by.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

When Shankar went to buy crackers on Deepavali

27 October 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The crowd around was laughing and jeering at her. Her saree was torn and hair disheveled and she was not even conscious of that. She was alternately laughing and crying while shouting ‘Nanna maduve Aagthiyeno?’ (‘Will you marry me?’)

Narahari (name changed) came out running and took Lakshmi home.

***

Lakshmi (name changed) was my classmate Narahari’s sister.

Born to a middle-class family, her father was an accountant in the AG’s office in Bangalore. Lakshmi was a very pretty girl and a tomboy to boot. As a child she liked to play ‘gombe aata ‘ with her toys, setting up a home, cooking for her husband while cradling a baby in her arms.  She loved playing with ‘Pattada Gombe’ before her parents set up the stalls for Navarathri.

As was the custom those days, the elders decided that she would be married to Bhaskar, Lakshmi’s mother’s brother.

In family gatherings, they would often tease Bhaskar as to when he would marry Lakshmi. Lakshmi herself would ask him, ‘Nanna yavaga maduve aagthiyo, nanna ganda?!’ (When will you marry me, my husband?!).  His discomfiture made elders laugh at Bhaskar who by now had turned crimson. On ‘Bheemana Amavase’ she would pray god to grant her a good husband.

After degree, I joined engineering and Narahari went for medicine. Bhaskar went to Manipal to study medicine.  Lakshmi grew into a beautiful girl and after her graduation took up music. A tomboy gradually grew into a demure and charming girl.

We didn’t have much of communication and once in a way, I would drop into Narahari’s house.  Once I jokingly asked Lakshmi, “How is your would be husband, Bhaskar?”

She blushed and ran inside.

Bhaskar’s visit to Bangalore gradually reduced as he was busy with his internship.  When the date was fixed for his  ‘Nishchiithartha’ (engagement ceremony) after his graduation, Bhaskar shocked everybody saying he was in love with a classmate and he didn’t want to marry Lakshmi.

He snubbed his parents saying elders had no business to get their children betrothed and marriage was certainly not child’s play.

Bhaskar’s decision, a shocker to everybody, was more so to Lakshmi who had grown with the thought that Bhaskar was her husband ever since she was barely three years old.

It was a dream that lay shattered.

Bhaskar married his colleague Shaila (name changed) and set up a clinic in Bangalore. Meanwhile, Lakshmi immersed herself in Carnatic music and started giving free lessons to the girls of Abalashrama in Gandhi Bazaar and took pains to settle the girls in life through marriage or a job. If there was any chance for an alliance or a job for any of her students she would run across to explore the opportunity. She flatly refused to have any discussion at home about her own marriage.

It was in one such meeting, she met Shankar (name changed) who had a business of his own. Ever since he lost his parents in an accident, that left his sister Priya (name changed) partially paralysed, he had decided to remain a bachelor. He was selling imported equipment and mostly supplied to defence establishments in Bangalore. Deeply interested in music, he was a member of the Gayana Samaja. Shankar hired meritorious but disabled and disadvantaged people in his company as he felt equal opportunity should be given to all.

Though nothing came out of Lakshmi’s meeting with Shankar, their common ideals and tastes brought them closer. He saw and admired the efforts Lakshmi made to settle her students in life and pitched in help wherever possible.

Though it started as a professional relationship, it soon blossomed into a friendship. They started attending concerts together. Shankar also encouraged her students by giving them chance to sing in junior artistes’ competition in Gayana Samaja.

Lakshmi had confided in him her failed alliance with Bhaskar and Shankar in turn, about his sister whom he will have to take care lifelong.

It was on the eve of Dasara, Shankar confessed his love for her. He had broached the topic just as she was arranging the ‘Pattada Gombe’ for Navarathri celebrations. As she listened to him, memories of her childhood flashed across when she grew up thinking Bhaskar as her husband.

“Have I come out of my ‘Gombe Aata’ days,” she wondered. “Will I be able to look after Shankar’s disabled sister for the rest of my life?”

She knew Shankar loved her deeply and was scared that she might lose him too if she didn’t decide soon. Next morning, she phoned Shankar and gave her consent.

They decided to get married in a temple by just exchanging garlands. Prior to that, they planned to inform their close relatives.

On Deepavali eve, they went to buy clothes for their wedding. Shankar chose a traditional red colour saree for Lakshmi, and she bought a salwar-kurtha set for him.

While they were driving home, Shankar wanted to stop by in the City Market and buy fire-crackers for his office staff.

He parked the car across and while he was coming back with the packet of crackers in hand, a fire broke in one of the shops which soon spread and the whole shopping area was ablaze. The crackers in his hand burst knocking him down.

Lakshmi who was only few metres from the ghastly scene, got out of the car and ran towards Shankar even as she saw him getting engulfed in the blazing inferno. She fainted right there. Some samaritans rushed and tried to save as many lives as they could.

Shankar’s body was charred and he succumbed to third degree burns in the hospital.

When Lakshmi woke up she was at home. She was still in a daze but wanted to see him. When she saw Shankar for the last time, she did not cry but ran back to her room and would not open the door.

Much later when they had all come back from the funeral, she opened the door and came out. She was decked up fully in the bridal red saree with the pallu drawn up to her forehead as a bride. Suddenly she started laughing and started tearing her saree.

When Narahari and Bhaskar ran to hold her, she was alternately laughing and crying, saying ‘Nanna maduve agthiyeno? (‘Will you marry me?’)

Also read: For Shyam and Madhu, the show had to go on

How Suma didn’t let her eyes block her vision

The spirit of Subbanna that Bhattru couldn’t stifle

What Seetamma’s son could teach our netas

The roadside boost that Bindra had no role in

23 October 2008

Sharpshooting, smooth talking cracker salesmen test their marketing skills on customers with toy guns on the eve of Deepavali on Cubbon Road in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


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