Saturday, February 25, 2006

Show me the Money, Honey

Yesterday I shot a man. Almost. Well, this is not about a man/woman thing. For, if the person behind that nationalised bank counter was a woman, I’d shoot her, too.
The day began like this. 7 am sharp. I had called the car rental to report at my doorstep as I had to take my father for his cataract operation. This was his eye number two. A couple of years back, it was his eye number one. Last week, my mother had her cataract operation by the same phaco method or whatever this latest laser surgery is called. It was her eye no 2 – right or left it really does not matter. By the way, my husband takes the car to work and holds it to ransom from 9 am to seven pm and he has made it very categorical that we cannot afford a driver unless I drive it myself. Fair enough! Only I have been told that I am not cut out to drive a car (though I have taken lessons) for I am terribly absent minded. I do have secret vices – of dreaming of certain handsome Hollywood actors ruffling my tresses when I cross a street. But to get back to the eye. The surgery took only about 15 minutes. I settled the bills, while my seventy-five-old-father basked in the attention of the young nurses. Very soon after, with the eye he could see, he saw his wallet in my hand and gently took it back as though I was going right into a shopping mall with it. As per plans, I settled him down in his own comfortable bed and under my mother’s care for now she has both eye number one and eye number two clear and working well. Then the fun started. I had the car to myself for about half an hour so I planned to squeeze in some bank work. Namely, depositing a couple of cheques and paying my daughter’s fees for which it was the very last day. Roughly ten minutes at both. I filled in the chalan book and gave it to the man across the counter. The clock was ticking away. “What do you want me to do with it?” he asked. Well, I could not possible tell him, Eat It! Not yet, for rubbing off the bank employees the wrong way, has its own repercussion and years of practice have made things perfect. We are tested in sarkari offices so I requested, and then pleaded with him to take it this time, for I was in a bit of a hurry as the other bank in which I paid my daughter’s fees, would soon close. It was not only a little way off but it was worse in such matters. Besides, the car was doing a five hour duty and fifteen minutes extra would mean extra rupees, more so as my retired dad was paying for it. “Why don’t you give the cheques to the man who sits upstairs?” the bank man was telling me. It’s not that he could not take it. He would not take it. Climbing those steps would take another few minutes. The clock ticked away. I recalled my daughter’s fee bank which had once refused to take in the fees even though there were a couple of minutes left and only when my husband who was with me, had told him that he had just left a very sick mother at the hospital, that he had relented.I started to panic. The man across this nationalized really was not busy. Oh I just remembered – he was enjoying a hot cup of tea and perhaps Fifty Fifty biscuits. Maybe I was tired or hungry or both. For which he was not responsible I know. But at that very moment, I flipped out my gun. Do not ask me the make. Homegrown cannon balls that were not bad enough to make a sailor blush but close enough, rained on him.. I fired at him verbally and blindly non-stop. Something had snapped within me. I do not remember what I had said. Maybe those among you who are reading this and are very organized, will train their guns on me. I am a stickler for time too. I knew later when I would blabber it to my family over supper, they would calmly enquire – is there any shop or bank left in the north 24-parganas district where you have not fought with someone? I see youngsters around me, on buses, who refuse to budge even a little to make space for the elderly. We see cars refusing to make way. Any extra query at any information desk, draws those angry looks. Why are we impatient and angry all the time. Why do we feel put upon? How can any job leave you with doing this much and no more? What has happened to a CIVIL SOCIETY ? Maybe everything is still not lost. For the same bank brought another employee, close on my heels, when I stamped out (the earth must have shook – another spousely loving remark). ”Calm down madam, calm down, ” the gentleman pleaded. “Give me your cheques and have a good day!” Or whatever was left of it! — Manjira Majumdar