Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Relocation Tales: Settling in and ATM travails

Once the decision to relocate back to hometown had been taken and the necessary approvals obtained from the PTB (powers that be, aka, big boss/es), the planning, subsequent ticket booking, et al, was done. September 7, 2011 was chosen as the D-day, when yours truly would once again call this city her home. And so it was, on the morning of Sept 7, 2011, when the Prayag Raj Express steamed into the Allahabad Junction a circle was complete. And what a homecoming it was; as with most of the denizens of the city who reside on the Civil Lines side, I rarely use the city side of the station. But given that mom was with me, stairs were best avoided, so the city side was opted for. Allahabad has progressed as I said before; while taxis are non-existent, autos (Vikram's and some Bajaj's) abound, but nary one has a meter - oh please, we are people of our words and we go by set fares ;) meters are required for those who waver! (The standard fare from the station to my side of town varies between INR50 to INR75; can go up depending on how green you seem to be). There is one such auto-wallah who resides near home and is available on the mobile and will oblige you with a pick-up and drop. And, so it was, that on that day, his services were availed of.

The ride home was accomplished without much trouble, unless one counts a pot-holed road where a beautiful smoothly tarred stretch used to be, this new road courtesy of the sewage line being laid out in the city. Dust of course rose with each vehicle that passed either way, necessitating comprehensive use of hankies to protect noses and lungs, but it was a dust that would be my constant companion for months to come (little did I know it at that time).

The truck bearing household possessions, precious ones, had already arrived so, once home, hectic preparations ensued to accommodate stuff coming in. September is a hot and humid month in Allahabad, whence even a minute without the fan is dripping agony and it was in this that Lady Power decided to make her daily exit. Of course, Lord Water dutifully followed her out, for he is, if not anything else, dutiful.

The house and indeed home had been locked up for 2.5 months, dusty months, so a spring cleaning was effected and undertaken. Hats off to my mom! My return turned her world upside down, yet nary a complaint was heard from her.

By noon, all the unloading had been done, boxes, bags had more or less been deposited in their designated places, but unpacking, well that would take more time. The inner courtyard, or angaan was box-filled, an obstacle-course as it were, and the rains came pelting down. There was a concerted rush to get things under cover, safe from the rain: plastics sheets are very handy as are thick old bed covers.

September was a month of settling in, of getting reacquainted with this city, my once hometown and education center. It was hectic and stressful. having lived in a metro for over 16-yrs, I realized how unprepared I was for Allahabad's chaos. In all the time that I was in Mumbai, I have to admit I never felt the weight of my wallet, literally speaking, for most transactions are effected and can be completed with the use of plastic - debit or credit. Allahabad is an exception (as probably most small, inner towns and cities are), cash rules here! Very few establishments accept cards, notwithstanding the "Visa/MasterCard accepted here" stickers on their doors. To be fair to them, for most it is not a choice but a compulsion, brought about by the daily scheduled power cuts. But there are always exceptions to the rule and I found establishments that would accept card transactions even while Lady Power was absent. And so I have too have learned to carry around a wallet filled with cash, uncomfortable as it makes me...:(

Queues are meant to be broken, they are in name only, something I can personally attest to. And please do not expect privacy at ATMs. There will always be someone either peeping over your shoulder as you conduct your transaction or offering unsolicited, helpful hints to hurry you up on your way. Telling these off results in naught, for they look at you as if you have returned from another planet, and indeed for them you have. Appealing to the ATM guard in most cases is futile, people don't listen to the guards.

It is this that caused me to switch ATMs though my primary banker does have an office and ATMs in the city. I prefer not to have people looking over my shoulder or edging close to me when I conduct my ATM transactions. Oh and most of the ATMs are 1st generation or perhaps even pre-1st generation ones, black and white and ponderously slow - even domestic private banks. Informed sources tell me that two leading private sector banks are in the process of upgrading their ATMs now. As for ATMs belonging to the nationalized banks! Well, except for the ones belonging to a premier nationalized bank, most are, for some reason, private-bank unfriendly and even if they do work chances that the ATM might just gobble up your card (hungry as it is) are very high. Fortunately, the city's growth trajectory means that a couple of international banks have an office and indeed ATMs in the city and it is to these that I turn for my transactions. The guards know their jobs and ensure that you are the only person inside when transacting.

In fact, on Dhanteras, the ATMs of 3 private sector banks had 7, 10 and 15 people crowded around the machine, if you somehow did manage to get a turn, it would be a miracle if you walked out with all your cash intact. I did the rounds of at least 5 private sector ATMs before I turned to the aforementioned international player. And bliss it was to be able to have the machine to myself, with none peeping over my shoulder, no unsolicited advice and no one to hurry me up....

Oh and one evening, a recourse was sought to order in food, but more of that deserves a separate post...:-)


Ipsita...Daydreamer said...

These ATM (Absolute Trouble Maker) machines indeed give u a run for your money...haha... good luck! Waiting to read about the food-order-in tale!

Kirti Kapoor said...

Ahem ahem..that will come up in due time, either this or the next weekend...:-)