After I moved into Agra, the land of the Taj Mahal, opening a Bank account became imperative.
I had all the documents required to prove I am an Indian citizen and was confident it would take a few minutes to open a Bank account with any of the Nationalized Banks.
With this confidence I walked into a Nationalized Bank with my documents to open an account. It was afternoon and the shabbily dressed, middle-aged, fat man behind the new account opening counter perhaps, just had his lunch and was resting leaning back fully on his chair, as if, relaxing at home. Few button of his pink shirt open, showing his under shirt and the grey and black chest hair peeking out.
Noticing me standing in front of the counter he glared at me from behind his black framed spectacles as though I was his age-old enemy. He swung his head upwards with eyes opening further in a gesture to ask ‘what do you want?’ I said I wanted to open a new account.
Most reluctantly he bent down to pick up a waste bin and released all the reddish-brown ‘Gutka’ (betel nut and tobacco) juice he has been so lovingly preserving in his mouth.
Still chewing on the ‘Gutka’ he asked me to come back tomorrow with the required documents, original and a set of photo copy and my passport size photograph. As he spoke I could see glimpses of his teeth with layers of beep brown ‘Gutka’ pigments on it, reminding me the looks of public toilets that are never cleaned.
I told him I have the documents with me now, original and photocopies. Hearing this he stared at me for a few seconds as if, I have asked him to give his Kidney and he is undecided whether to say Yes or No.
He stretched his hand for my papers and I passed them to him. He put the papers on his desk and started checking them as if he had sniffed some forgery in them. Returning the papers to me he said “But you are not from Agra? “ So what? I am an Indian is that not more important?
“Whatever! You need a residence proof of Agra and an introduce r with a Bank account here. He has to come here and endorse he knows you. Then only we will open your account.”
Rejected, frustrated or humiliated what was my mental state at that moment I don’t remember, I think all of them.
Was wondering in a small under developed country like Nepal I could walk into any of the Bank and open an account just with my Indian Embassy Registration card. Photo copies also I did not need to carry as they did it in their own copier machine.
I came back to my office, on hearing this bank episode my colleague said he will introduce me in his Bank but, the paper formalities remain the same.
The next day we went to his Bank. A different nationalized bank but, closer to work. The branch was small with only a handful of staff. The person behind the account opening counter is a young smart woman, she is the only woman in the branch and also speaks English.
Documents verified and submitted, introduce r has introduced me, money deposited, so technically account opened. But I was asked to come back the following day to collect my account kit. What time should I come? “Anytime after 10 am”. How long will it take? “Just a few minutes, the kit will be ready. You just have to sign and receive it”.
Great! Work got done.
Next morning I returned to the bank at 10 am. The bank has just opened and staffs were getting ready for work. The woman was sipping tea. She saw and recognized me, pointing to the seats meant for customer some 5-6 feet away from the counter, she asked me to sit. I had an important business meeting and wanted to be there in time so obviously was in a hurry.
After waiting for 10 minutes I returned at the counter. She was doing something on her computer and gave me the look of irritation. Staring at the computer, sternly but in a cold tone said “you will have to give me time, come here only when I call you” as if, she was my class teacher.
In my mind I started back counting 10, 9, 8….. any arrogance from my side will only delay things and I don’t want to spoil my mood as I have an important meeting to follow.
I sat on the customers chair looking at my watch almost after every few seconds.
Suddenly the other middle aged bank staff sitting next to this woman started talking to me. “Where are you originally from?” I said I am from Calcutta. “When did you come to Agra?” Very recently. “Is your family staying with you here?” Yes. “What does your wife do?” home maker now. “Which part of India is she from?” USA.
The woman all this time had her eyes glued to the computer but her ears weren’t as she instantly looked at me surprised! ‘Is she N.R.I. (non-resident Indian)?” No White Caucasian, US citizen.
Now she joined the conversation with a flurry of questions – How did we get to know each other? where did we first meet in person? When did we decide to get married? Where did the wedding take place? objection from our parents? Etc
I had to carefully answer as I am not too eager to divulge personal details to people I hardly know. She took out my application papers from her drawer, went online, completed the formalities and the account opening kit was handed to me within five minutes with an exclamation “Love is beyond boundaries!”
That night on the dinner table I narrated the entire incident to my wife. She said ‘At least people give you priority for marrying a US girl!” and we both laughed.
Since that day every time I went to the bank, I got a very friendly and helpful attitude from all the staffs. My work gets done super fast. The lady would be the first to greet me. She would take personal initiative to get my work done faster.
Also she would inquire about my wife, How is she? Is she enjoying her stay at Agra? Which places in Agra have we seen? Etc
One day came a request from her, bring your wife with you some day to the bank, I want to get introduced to her. I could only smile in answer.
I still go to the bank but don’t meet the Lady anymore. She has been transferred to some rural branch far away from the city.