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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

Banking on an online world

Vikramdeep Johal, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 13, 2014
First Published: 10:11 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 10:17 IST(13/7/2014)

I keep urging my 70-plus father to use that great convenience of the 21st century — online banking.

“It will make your life a lot easier,” tell him, as if I’ve mastered the art of living at half his age. “You won’t have to visit banks and government offices to a great extent. And you’ll get more time for yourself.” But his stock reply is: “I already have ample leisure hours. And I see no harm in meeting all kinds of people.” He does have a point, but I still can’t bear to see my Net-literate dad sweating it out, out of choice, in crowded offices.

For me, Net banking has become such a necessity that I often daydream about physical banks going extinct. The other day, I was jolted out of my e-reverie by my Missus, who flashed the news that a fire had engulfed the bank branch where we had our locker. “Isn’t it empty?” I asked ignorantly.

“Are you crazy?” she roared. “Our locker has, or had (God forbid), jewellery worth Rs. _ lakh (amount withheld for security reasons).”

“It’s all your fault,” I hit back. “I always tell you to keep all the jewellery, real or artificial, at home. That’s the best way to test a maid’s honesty. You can’t bank upon my poor wallet, which offers no temptation to any domestic help.” Her Highness wasn’t amused. “Go to the bank today and find out whether our valuables are safe,” she ordered.

“What’s the point,” I asked. “The reports say that only office furniture and files were destroyed.

There’s no mention of any locker.”

“You know very well that these reporters can’t be relied upon,” she snapped, targeting my much maligned profession of journalism. Her argument brought the dialogue to a grinding halt, and I had no option but to drag myself to the bank in the blazing heat. The branch was closed for repairs, but the guard assured me that the blaze had spared the locker room. That restored my faith in the Fourth Estate, but my joy proved short-lived. In came an SOS from the Memsaab. She had withdrawn money from an ATM and used it at a shop, but one Rs. 500 note had got rejected. It was a fake, and my job was to get it replaced somehow. “Your jewellery is intact,” I informed her, trying to divert her attention and wriggle my way out of another unwelcome trip to the bank. She said it was great news, but the currency note still had to be changed. There was no escape from She Who Must Be Obeyed. I showed the trash-like cash to a bank employee, but he looked at me as if I had printed it at home. He said it was impossible that their bank’s ATM would deliver such a thing, but on compassionate grounds, he asked me to try my luck at the central branch, 5 km away.

Huffing and puffing, I reached there, only to face more looks of disbelief. I buttonholed a cashier and narrated the whole episode. Doing a Sherlock Holmes, he deduced the shopkeeper might have cleverly passed on a counterfeit note to my unsuspecting better half. Knowing her inside out, I thought that could very easily be true, but now there was no question of making my ego surrender meekly. Shamelessly exerting Press pressure, I forced the officer to part with a real-n-crisp note and take the fake from me.The ordeal was over, but I wondered when banking would become wholly, flawlessly online and only trees would have branches, not banks.

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