By Savitri Narayanan
“Ankita, will you go with Dadiji to the bank today?” asked Pitaji as he picked up his bag and set out for his office. Most of the people worked from home but he went to his office every day. “You know I am a lab technician,” he explained one day. “The samples are left with us and doctors wait for the reports to treat the patients, so how can I work from home?”
“You do your work sincerely and God will keep you safe!” said Dadiji who was listening from the verandah.
“Only He can save us in this kaliyug!” said Mummyji as she handed over his lunchbox.
“You also have to follow all the guidelines, Pitaji,” reminded Ankita.
Pitaji ignored the advice with a smile and said, “Ramu chacha said there is some scheme for old age pension. We need to fill up some forms and submit it in the bank with Dadiji’s signature.”
“Dadiji, do you know how to sign? Or you will put your thumb impression?” asked Ankita as she washed the dishes.
“Yes, yes,” Mummyji joined the conversation as she swept the kitchen floor, “Sita said she filled up Sumitra chachi’s forms yesterday. It seems then they get some money and food material every month!”
“Ankita can take Mataji to the bank,” said Pitaji as he stepped out, “They will know what to do.”
Ankita was excited. “Mita, I am taking Dadiji to the bank,” she called out to her friend across the fence, “Come along if you want.”
It was summer vacation. Nothing much to do – not even the online classes. So the bank was a good diversion. The bank was near the bus stop and Ankita had been there a few times with Pitaji. But this was different. She was there with a task to do! To help Dadiji get some old age pension!
“Do you have a bank account?” asked the man at the bank counter.
“Yes, yes!” confidence oozed out of Dadiji’s voice, “It was last year after Diwali; had come here with Usha and opened some account. Our Pradhanji had told us to.”
“Where’s the passbook?”
“It is with Bahu,” said Dadiji and turned to Ankita, “Remember that green suitcase on top of the bedroom cupboard? Bahu kept it there.”
“To fill up these forms, we need your account details, Mataji,” said the man at the counter.
“Ask Bahu, knows – I mean she can look in the book and tell you!” she told him and turned to Ankita, “Tell him Mummyji’s phone number, he needs to talk to her!”
“You mean I call your home?” exclaimed the gentleman, “To ask for your account details?”
This was an interesting conversation! Transactions stopped in the nearby counters as all eyes turned to Dadiji, “You have a new boss!” someone teased the gentleman, “Go ahead, follow her instructions!”
“Mataji, why don’t you go home now? Come back tomorrow with the passbook, will fill up all the forms.”
“What do you mean, come tomorrow? All the way from Neeligaon? I am here now! Can’t you make one phone call to my Bahu?”
There were amused glances around.
“If she had a phone, she would have called home,” Dadiji continued pointing at Ankita, “But we don’t give cellphones to children. Can’t you make one phone call? Instead, here you are asking me to go home?”
Ankita sensed that they had become a focus of attention. Some customers waiting at other counters also looked at them – some amused, some irritated.
“Let’s go home,” Ankita said and helped Dadiji out of the chair. As they headed towards the entrance in their slow, measured steps, a door opened and the Manager stepped out of his cabin.
“Excuse me Madam,” he bowed to Dadiji, “Could you please step in for a minute?” Politely, he led them to his cabin where he offered them seats and said, “Please tell me what’s the matter. How can I help you?”
Even while taking in the matter of pension application, he signalled the peon who brought in glasses of drinking water. He listened patiently with an occasional question and passed on a note to the peon.
“Please get your mother online,” he passed on his cellphone to her, “Tell her it’s from the bank regarding your grandmother’s bank account.”
Soon the same staff at the counter walked in. “Senior citizens deserve more courtesy; find ways of helping her out. All you need is her bank details, isn’t it?”
“But Sir- -,” the staff member started to speak but the Manager turned to Ankita, “Pass on the phone to this uncle; he will talk to Mummyji.”
A sober silence settled in the cabin as the work went on. Dadiji sipped her tea, the Manager worked on his computer and answered phone calls even as a customer walked in seeking advice. “When I grow up I too will be a bank manager,” Ankita told herself, “Like him!”
Soon the task was done and it was time to go home.
“The pension will be cleared in a few days, Mataji, now you go home,” he bid her farewell and gestured to Ankita. “There is so much work to do sometimes my staff forget their manners and turn rude; don’t take it to heart. Take Dadiji home safely.”
As they reached the bus stand the bus to Neeligaon was about to start. Soon they found a seat and the bus was on the road.
“You too will be a grown up, working in an office,” said Dadiji, patting Ankita’s cheeks, “Whatever work you do, be good to people – especially the old and the children.”