India remains an enigma! It is a queer bundle of contradictions that somehow mesh together and appear to keep the nation going. This bank in New Delhi, India's capital, exemplifies the phenomenon.
Today I had a first hand experience of the Indian banking system, and I couldn't help but share what I witnessed and felt. It was a sweltering 115 degrees outside when I walked into a nationalized bank located in a West Delhi suburb. At the semi-open doors of the bank, I, along with a few others, were ushered into an 800 square feet of space by one benign looking guard carrying an antiquated rifle. To my relief, the bank had air conditioning, and it worked, so it was significantly cooler in there despite the fifty plus customers standing in 'line' awaiting their turn.
I was not alone; accompanying me was a friend, a Delhiite, who was familiar with banking operations in India and had offerred to help me. I found myself standing at counter number 7 behind three other people, two of who were seated and had a bank employees attending to them. While I was standing in line, I discovered that the two people sitting side by side who were being attended to were not together; the line at the counter progressed in a unique way such that at any given time the second person in line would virtually be privy to every detail of transaction carried out by the person in line before him who was being attended to by the bank employee behind the counter. What was even stranger was that even I, the fourth person in line, could listen on to and see some, if not most of the confidential information of all those who came before me in the line! For instance, I got to know the name and age of the person just ahead of me. I also learned that the young girl with him was his daughter who was going to Austin, Texas on August 18th to start college on a partial scholarship. The father was applying for a loan against his Fixed Deposits, worth 14 lakhs, to facilitate his daughter Mini Saxena's move to Austin. Why do I know this, and more importantly should I know this? Whatever happened to client confidentiality?
Another aspect of this banking system, one that impressed me, was the multi tasking ability of the bank employee behind counter 7. He was confirming the personal details of a policy holder on his cell phone while he was attending to the first person in the line; alongside, the bank employee was also collecting and handing out various 'forms' to people not in line. These people would just walk up to the front of the counter to demand a 'form' or simply thrust out an arm that held a completed 'form' and this multi tasking guru would mechanically comply without even so much as looking at the person who made the request! However, the completed 'forms' he collected so absent mindedly would fluidly land in a tray on the side with one flick of his wrist. How did he do this? What if he made a mistake, and did he? All these questions flew through my mind even as I watched him with undisguised admiration; he would decidedly never be an Alzhimer's patient with all the muti tasking his brain is subject to!
So did I make to the front of the line? Yes I did, only to be directed to counter number 3, where I was now number eight in the line.
To be continued...