Monday, February 21, 2011

Banking on your woes

My favorite bank, a four letter titled institution started giving me a lot of grief lately. The culprit was Customer Service (CS), a hitherto well trained, intelligent bunch of people who seem to have suddenly lost a lot of intelligence perhaps answering calls from people like me or due to working in a bank. My cousin brother who works in bank says it is the former. I don’t believe him though. I think he is just being mean because he hates bank account holders. A sweet lil girl like me can never give grief to anyone.

Me to CS: Your system is not accepting my account number.
CS: You are not an account holder.
Me: Oops!

My problem was simple. The security system that guards the small change that is deposited every month-end in my account under the head “Salary”, was not allowing me to carry out any online transaction.

“Your salary is laughable,” said the message that flashed before my eyes cruelly every time I logged into my account, followed by a wicked “You are better off begging at the signal light ha ha ha”.

Kidding. It doesn’t say all that. It just informs me in crisp English that I was a moron and should perhaps end my miserable life.

A phone banker actually told me the other day that whenever she gets depressed or fed up of her job/life/hairdo, she takes a peek at my “Salary Account” and promptly falls off her chair laughing. Then she feels all nice. I was very touched by her story and slammed the phone on her face. She called me back just as promptly to inform me that I had a large fan club in the bank. This time she slammed the phone before I could take the lead, thereby taking away the tiny scrap of self-dignity I could scrape out of this situation.

I decided to change my account. The first two banks laughed me off the premises. The other two didn’t let me past the door. The watchmen told me kindly to either buy 1) a Piggy Bank or get a 2) Post Office account.

The last two options were nationalized banks and friends advised against it as most of their account holders were on drugs or under treatment for chronic depression. The rest were all dead waiting for customer service. I decided that I didn’t need another source of misery in my life besides the SMS alert from the bank every month-end alerting me to the peanuts that were being dropped into the account.

So I was stuck with my most favorite-now-fast-becoming-least-favorite four letter titled bank. And that was a scary thought as I had only one bank account. *gulp*

Every attempt to contact them failed as the bank has a 'phone banking only facility', which means you cannot call someone and scream at his face. So you are stuck with Phone Banking, a euphemism for “Hitting yourself on the head with a hammer”.

After you have punched the various keys in your telephone that identifies you, your account number and other details like your past three boyfriends phone numbers, an efficient sounding phone banker picks up the phone and asks you politely to give your name, account number and past four boyfriends phone numbers. After that the person listens politely to your complaints and replies just as crisply as before that she will get back to me soon. I swear she was yawning when she said that. My cousin brother, the one who works in a bank says that I am just assuming things and that she wasn’t yawning. Bankers are alert people he says, who can work 24/7/365 on a cup of coffee and a couple of hundred cigarettes without yawning. I don’t believe him though. I think he is just boasting.

Note to self: Cut him off my will.

And then you wait and wait and wait and after a year of paying bills standing in mile long queues, you suddenly remember that your complaint has not been attended to! You send a furious mail to every email ID on your bank’s site blaming them of really bad customer service, triumphantly touting the compliant date and finally you get a mail asking you to call their phone banking service. And that is when you shift your account to a Nationalized Bank.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A valentines day tale

Yesterday our house was full of relations who had come to Bangalore for a wedding. Among them was an ungle called JK. JK is a favorite uncle of ours as he is very sporting unlike the usual conservative mallu ungles who frown on everything non mallu the moment they cross the Kerala border.

Oh look! The milestone says Bangalore is 200 kms away.
Look! A river!
That looks like a Kerala State Transport Bus that has toppled off. Must have been speeding.

See what I mean?

I started pulling uncle’s legs asking him what he had in store for his wife all of 52 years, for Valentine’s Day. Uncle sighed, pulled a sad face and said that he had lost interest in V Day a long time ago. I was intrigued. Uncle was by no means a shy guy and had a reputation for being a ladies’ man in his youth. I queried him gently about the tragedy. Uncle sighed again and reluctantly told me about an incident in his youth that had scarred him forever off V Day.

Uncle had done his schooling in Africa and his parents sent him to Kerala for his higher studies. He stayed with his father’s brother and his neighbors were social workers who ran some kind of an NGO. The family consisted of a father who was Malayalee, a mother who was Irish and a daughter who was a pretty combination of the two. Irish girl (IG) had many admirers, suitors and stalkers. Her reputation as very ‘liberal’ did not make things easier either. Amongst the many people in love with her was my Uncle. Uncle had noble intentions unlike the others who were mostly hoping that they would be recipients of her ahem… ‘liberal largess’. I mean can you imagine a mallu guy of the 60’s walking into his house with a white girl?

Achcha, Amma, this is IG. We are getting married.

*sock* *slap* *biff* *choke* *kick* followed by a hastily arranged marriage to Thresiakutty Varkey from Poovathingal veedu, Kadnadu at the nearest available church.

Uncle did manage to speak to IG whenever he got the chance to catch her attention from the crowd that seemed to hang around her perennially. Then one day IG’s parents decided to move to Delhi. Uncle was heartbroken. The crowd around IG’s house cleared and he and his aunt and uncle saw the facade of the house for the first time! It was blue with pretty flowers flanked by a hedge painstakingly grown by IG’s mom. Ok…that was a bit off topic.

Back to our story again! Valentine Day approached and Uncle decided to send IG a letter or a handmade card. The rest of the fan crowd had no clue what Valentine’s Day was. He was told that the Indian postal system may or may not deliver the letter and delivery, if it happens might be on Christmas Day if he did not post the card on January 1st. Uncle was in a dilemma when someone suggested the Indian Telegraph service, a formidable service that delivers urgent messages in 72 hours and very urgent messages in 71 hours.

So uncle paid for a telegram and being shy decided to choose a subtle message template thoughtfully provided by the Dept. of Posts and Telegraphs. He prayed that it would reach her in time. The telegram did reach her, but instead of the subtle message, the telegram read “Hearty congratulations on the new arrival". To cut a long story short, Uncle did get a reply that left his ears burning, skin peeling and with a vastly enhanced vocabulary in Irish epithets.

Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The family league

As the IPL auction got underway recently, certain people in my family were watching the auction very keenly. These are the ‘IPL Team Owners’ of our family with avowed interest in the teams because they happen to be living in the home city of the teams.

Kochi Kunchacko, an uncle from Kochi who was an ardent supporter of the team even before the idea was conceived, was sitting with family in Kochi and calling my Dad with his 'expert comments' on the 'purchases’. His family consisting of a cat, a dog and a wife have walked out on him during every IPL match and came back to realize that he wasn’t even aware of their absence.

Mrs Kunchacko: Honey, I am back!
Mr Kunchacko: When did you leave?
Mrs Kunchacko: Sob!

Mumbai Mathai (MM), another uncle from Mumbai who "owns" the Mumbai team in the family is similarly engrossed in the auction. His three sons are closet Delhi, Chennai and Rajasthan supporters. They are too scared to come out of the closet. Their dad is waiting outside with a bat to clobber them on their head if they dare to. And like people living in closets, they live a lie every day, making uninterested cries of joy every time a Mumbai batsman hits a run or gets a wicket, while suppressing their real feelings for their teams.

MM: Mone Rahul. We have the best team I think.
Rahul (uninterestedly): Wotever.
MM: Rohan, Do you think we should have gone for one more bowler?
Rohan : Who cares!
MM: Ryan mone….
Ryan: Shut up dad!

In Delhi, my army colonel uncle, Delhi Dominic is twirling his handle bar mustache looking pensively at the auction. He hopes that 'he' will get a good team. His two sons studying in Bangalore are vociferous Bangalore supporters. Delhi Dominic is least bothered. His dog Caesar, Simba and Ikroo (wife's dog), his orderly, gardener, driver and entire unit ( infantry) are Delhi supporter unless they want something really nasty to happen to them like a court martial or 50 rounds around the parade ground carrying a 100 pound sack of stones.

DD: Caesar! Who will this year’s IPL my boy!
Caesar: Woof!!
DD: Good boy!!!
Caesar: Woof?

Reggie Rajasthan (RR) has two daughters, whose support for the teams wavers according to the players. The team with the best looking cricketer gets their vote. But they are also scared to tell their dad the truth and try to suppress yawns when an ordinary looking cricketer hits six sixes in the last over and wins the match by one run and ball to spare.

Patros Punjab and his wife are Punjab supporters. His one and a half year old twins, a boy and a girl wore the Kings Eleven Punjab logo on their diapers last year. They are too young to do anything about it. But the rest of the family is waiting with bated breath to see what happens in a couple of years when they will have to wear chaddies with the same logo.

So where does my Dad figure in all this you might wonder. He would have really loved to support Royal Challengers, despite his name starting with a P. But he has decided to remain neutral and with the other "non owners" in the family has taken it upon himself to ensure that during weddings, funerals, baptisms and First holy communions and miscellaneous family get-togethers, Patros Punjabi, Reggie Rajashtan, Kochu Kuriakose, Delhi Dominic and Mumbai Mathai don’t maul each other to death.

So in effect my dad and the rest of the male family members are the Fourth Umpires of the ‘Family Indian Premier League’.