Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grey Bankers - Shiva on a Scooter - Story 1

Hello Folks,

I grew up in a banker's family, where my Dad and all his brothers worked for RBI and SBI. While growing up, I inadvertently gathered some of the funniest anecdotes involving bankers, which by the way are in stark contrast to their socially profiled image of being somber, grey characters. Anyways, without wasting much time. I'll come straight to the first narration in this series.

This happened in summer months of year 1987, deep inside Dudhwa National forest, which in Northern part of India. In the heart of this remote land, there exists a tribe known as Tharu tribe. Prior to their contact with so called "Civilized" world they were almost self sufficient and had little or no contact with society. But, as part of Welfare Banking, SBI (State Bank of India, if you don't know it, you sure ain't an Indian), opened a remote Tharu branch to integrate them into the society.

This branch was staffed by 2 persons, out of which one acted as Branch Manager cum Officer cum Clerk and the other staffer performed the combined duties of Guard, Peon and Cleaner. Since, there were little worldly comforts in forest area and only wild animals to keep you company in the evening. So, these two positions were filled by rotating staffers from SBI, Lakhimpur Kheri Main Branch.

It was around 3 o'clk on Friday afternoon and Mr Sharma (Incumbent Branch Manager, Tharu branch) was spending his time sipping his umpteenth cup of tea and listening to the stories about village life from Thakurdin (Guard, Peon...), when in distance he saw a dust cloud rising. Instinctively, he got up from his seat and heard the distinct sputtering note of Bajaj Chetak 150. His reliever Mr Khushwaha was supposed to arrive by 12 noon, so that he could have left for Lakhimpur before it got dark. But, still he was happy that his reliever was arriving and if hurried up, he could still be in time to catch the last bus back home.

As the dust cloud grew nearer, the silhouette of Mr Khushwaha started becoming clearer. Mr Sharma still could recognize him, but was surprised that for some strange reason, the unshapely, MrKhushwaha was riding the scooter, bare chested. He thought, perhaps that was one of the ways of surviving the hot climate, but soon his line of thought disintegrated as the Bajaj Chetak 150 sputtered to a stop in front of the 3 room concrete shack, which was called SBI branch. Bespectacled Mr Khushwaha, put the scooter on stand and faced obviously surprised Mr Sharma and Thakurdin.

It seemed so, that Mr Khushwaha was wearing his black rimmed looking glasses, a fine layer of dust and nothing else. He was looking more like a NAGA Sage or JAIN Priest or modern incarnation of Lord SHIVA with his black CHETAK 150 serving as Nandi bull, rather than an SBI Officer. He was visibly agitated and was blabbering something completely incoherent to Mr Sharma. The first thought which came to Mr Sharma's mind was that Mr Khushwaha was trying to create a scene, to skip his 2 month posting in deep jungle. In the past, several people had tried some tricks semi-successfully like there was a certain gentleman whose motorcycle always punctured on his way to Tharu branch and another one's infinte number of Mausi's left for heavenly abode as soon as he was given marching orders.

As demanded by humanity he was calmed down by a glass of water and was quickly handed over a towel by visibly irritated Mr Sharma to cover his family jewels. Listening to his semi coherent statements, Mr Sharma, understood that he was robbed by 3 youths on the main road some 15-20 kms away and stripped down to his under wears. His torturers contemplated on whether to take his scooter, but could not do so for two reasons. Firstly, they did not know how to ride one and secondly, they did not want Mr Khushwaha to become unwilling participant in Project Tiger by being eaten alive by one of the big cats. So, they spared his life (and scooter) and let him go after he pleaded that he would never reveal this incident to anyone.

But, now sitting safely in the SBI premises, Mr Khushwaha was agitated and in the true spirit of politicians of today, was trying to convince Mr Sharma that it was not an assault on an individual but on SBI as an organization.

Puzzled, by this happening Mr Sharma was now sitting calmly in his chair contemplating his next course of action. Since, he was the sole representative of Government of India, in the whole 50 KM radius and held powers similar to that of a District Magistrate, so the onus of taking action rested on his shoulders (and of course, pot belly). Incidents, like this were unheard off in the region, as the Tharu tribe was still not fully exposed to idiosyncrasies of"Civilized" world, but what can be said. Twirling the SHARP Ball Point pen in his fingers, he cleared his throat and said, "Well, let's go to see the tribal headman, as he would certainly know something about it".

Mr Khushwaha was hurriedly clad in an ill fitting trouser, so that Tharu's should not mistake him as one of their brethren and all 3 made their way to the tribal headman's hut. The incident was narrated to the headman, this time in a more coherent fashion. On listening to his incident, the color changed on headman's face and although he kept on feigning ignorance, but still he promised to do some investigation on his own and report back.

Due to these happenings, Mr Sharma obviously could not leave for Lakhimpur and stayed the night at SBI premises. Around 7 am in the morning, all 3 SBI flag bearers were assembled around the hand pump, cleaning their teeth with Neem Datoon, when out in the woods they heard some commotion. The village headman along with 2 of his strong men, was bringing in 3 youths, by prodding them  with sticks, half walking and half dragging them towards bank premises. As soon as this contingent of 6 reached the premises, Mr Khushwaha again blew his safety valve and started hitting the 3 youths with the Bata leather sandals that he was wearing.

The youths were profusely apologizing, but this was having little affect on Mr Khushwaha, whose agitation was growing exponentially, by the seconds. Soon, the headman, barked something to the youth, in his dialect, and they hurriedly took off the clothes which they were wearing. Mr Khushwaha slightly calmed down by this action but still kept hurling verbal expletives.

In retrospect, it was discovered that these 3 youths had decided to go on a pleasure trip to one of the nearby towns, but since they had no means of procuring the money. So, they laid out a plan to rob an unsuspecting plebian. Little did they know, that unsuspecting Mr Khushwaha would land in their trap and serendipity would make this case known to the tribal headman. It was also found out that the clothes these youths were wearing at the time of their so called "Arrest" belonged to Mr Khushwaha and this was the cause of his bout of his second agitation.

The matter was swiftly brought to justice by ordering those youths to become Murga, for one whole day (A kind of corporal punishment) and by offering the real Murga (Chicken), local liquor and other local goodies to the bankers. Now, I would not comment on if these offers were accepted, as it may result in triggering of a debate with a certain Section of Political supporter (Election times, you see). But, all I would say that the matter was amicably resolved, with headman taking responsibility that no such incidents would be repeated in future, in his area.

Posting in exotic Tharu branch still remained an exciting experience for the SBI officers, but post this incident both the "Civilized" world and the Tharu tribe definitely learnt something about each other. By now, I am sure, this tribe would have vanished by fully integrating in the main strata and I can't comment, if it has happened for good or bad. But, I still want to thank them for this wonderful story which remained a topic of conversation (and embarrassment of Mr Khushwaha) at office parties for a long time.


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