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Bring a Photocopy

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By Savitri Narayanan
It is interesting to note how this year of lockdown has changed the mode of communication and work culture everywhere, including across a bank counter.
“Bring a photocopy, Madam,” said the middle-aged woman at the counter.

“This is my handwritten application regarding my fixed deposit, why do you need a photocopy? And if you need one, take one – it takes only one minute, right?”

“Have no time to argue with you madam, we’re short of staff!”
Dismissed thus, I stepped out looking for a place to get the task done.

“Good chance to get a feel of the place,” consoling myself I walked down the street. It was a few months since we set up home there but had rarely set foot outside the housing complex. My eyes scanned far and near for the ubiquitous signboard. Sugarcane juice, ripe mangoes, bananas of all kinds and roasted peanuts- I had eyes for none of these!

“Need to get a photocopy done,” I asked a bystander, “Where can I find a shop?”

“There, there, look there,” he said helpfully pointing his finger, “See that coconut seller near the traffic light? Just behind there is a stationary shop. They’ll do it for you.”

The morning sun was getting warmer. The traffic on the road was building up and the pavement too was coming alive with business. Crossing the road was a task so I looked around for help.

“Need to get a photocopy done in that shop,” I said to the gentleman standing nearby, “Please could you help me cross the road?”

“Sure Madam”, he said respectfully, taking in my greying hair and impaired gait. ”Here, hold on to this,” he extended his bag to his wife. When the signal changed, he held my hand to guide me across.

“You wait here, Madam,” he took the sheet of paper and walked briskly to the shop as I stood there, leaning on the pillar.

“Two rupees, Madam,” he was back soon, “My purse is in my bag, with my wife; you have change?”
Unfortunately, I had no change, too.

“Let’s go,” he said noticing the road signal change. We crossed the road, he took change from his wife and went back to the shop to make payment.

The lady had a shopping bag which was almost full. The teenager, apparently her son, had a back-pack too. The young girl was looking at her watch and then in her father’s direction. ‘Must be a family outing’, I thought and turned to the children.

“Apologies to keep you waiting,” I said, “Your father is very kind. See the way he helped me out! On my own, it would have taken ever so long….”

“It’s ok Madam,” the mother spoke glancing at the children, “We too have elders at home. It is our duty to help out those in need; God is watching!”

I admired the resourceful young mother who grabbed the opportunity to impart some moral education to her children.

We adopt and adapt with the changing times yet thanks to aware parents, the basic value systems stay in place! I fished out a note and discreetly gave it to the young man. “I too have grandchildren like you; allow me to treat you to your favourite ice cream.”

The joy in the children’s eyes followed me to the bank.