Archive for January, 2011

It was in 2002 that I first approached the United Bank of India for a student’s loan to complete my MSc at the London School of Economics. I still remember walking into their office off Brigade Road, all of 26, to ask for loan. I did not have parents who would back me up, but I did have a friend who had said she would be my guarantor and my boss at that time was making the introductions.

Miraculously, United Bank said ‘yes’, where scores of banks before had turned down what must have looked like a very suspicious request. The Manager Mr Dhanraj very helpfully guided me through the process.

Almost a year later I was back – this time with my education complete and a student loan that now had to cleared. Mr Dhanraj had left by this time and a new manager sat in his chair.

It was left to the new manager to explain to mathematically challenged me about the fine print that went with my loan.

Most loans are absurd, unfair and not really oriented towards the customer. This was no different. The challenge was to explain it to someone who was pretty clueless when it came to numbers and most financial matters.

When I ranted against it all, the Manager only replied with the calm voice of logic. And so overnight I also grew into an adult who learnt to work with these difficult things called numbers and banks. Even more importantly, I learnt the value of working with the best within the system to get the maximum value from an institution.

Over the years the Managers at United Bank changed twice over. But what never changed was the free access for college student or entrepreneur alike when they wanted a hearing from the Manager. No matter who you were, you were offered a cup of tea and a patient hearing.

Of course, you very often never got your way, and there were probably scores of banks that were more efficient and tech savvy (I mean till 2008 I still got a handwritten loan statement, painstakingly inscribed from the bank’s ledgers). Yet I seriously doubt if there few banks who were more courteous.

For all its lack of modernization, United Bank was also a very meticulous banker. In 2009, when I thought I had at least six months of my bank loan still left, they called me to tell me that I had in fact already cleared my loan. I was finally free.

As I took back the papers of the house that I had mortgaged, I couldn’t help feeling proud. The bank manager shook my hand and now offered me a loan to start the entrepreneurial venture that I had in mind at that time.

This weekend I returned to the United Bank to operate my account there after two years. As it turned out, I had (characteristically) arrived five minutes after closing time. Government officials are rarely known to begin work early, much less work after closing time on a Saturday afternoon. So the closed door was expected. I peered through the chained iron gate and found myself looking into the eyes of a bank official on the other side.

“Sir”, I said. “I need to draw money.”

“The bank closes at one”, said the man on the other side.

“Please”, I said again. (This time with a smile. In my experience, if there’s one thing that works in Bangalore, it’s “ask nicely”. If that doesn’t work, nothing probably will.)

“Come in and request the Cashier”, he said. I hurried in.

The cashier sat behind her glass cabin. But the glass was plastered with posters, and I had to stand on tip toe so that my head could be seen.

“Ma’am, I need to withdraw some money.”

She shook her head.

“Please,” I repeated.

Miraculously, the magic words seemed to work for the second time in the day. She pushed a withdrawal slip through the window. I quickly filled it out and returned it to her.

That’s when we discovered that my account had been made inactive as I had not used it for the last two years.

“We have to activate it again,” she explained almost kindly.

Then one bank official activated my account, another updated my passbook and a third issued me a new cheque book. All of this was done with willing consideration for an old customer (so they said).

The cashier sat patiently through all this. Finally, once the account had been active and the updated passbook handed to her, she counted out my cash.

“Next time come before one,” was her only slightly motherly reprimand.

In those dark years, after I first returned from the UK, I never thought I’d ever be saying this… But as I look back over a relationship that will soon cross a decade, my bond with this bank is now personal. With all our ups and downs, I am proud to be their customer. United Bank, you rock!


Rear Entrance – Book Launch

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

A friend launches a book tommorrow, and I get the honour of sitting on the panel and thinking aloud about Indian writing in English. Join us for an interesting discussion if you are in Bangalore tomorrow!

Till death do us part…

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Life and Living

Sometimes, the true test to a marriage is only this…
Is that which holds you together stronger than that which forces you apart? 

And till that faith is sown and tended,
Tried till it is torn asunder,
Yet stands,
Holding on to itself above the shifting desert sands of time.

Only then,
Do you know.

Time the great harvester,
Calling forth the wheat from the chaff.

Again, and again, and again.

It was the decade of great friendships and experiences. I met some of my best friends in this decade and also cemented the wonderful friendships first forged in the 90s.

I also learnt about forgiveness and moving on. After all, the people who become lifelong friends are few and far in between, and one is foolish if one lets any of them go without a big fight 🙂

I saw too that some times when your best friends don’t call you, those are also the times when they need you the most.

I found love and lost love many times. I realized that love was everything. I saw too that it was nothing. ‘Value’ and ‘valueless’ are but two sides of the same coin. Finally it is always about how you value yourself.

2000-2010 was also the decade when I married my dear friend of many years ML, and moved from the solitary existence of being an only child to the friendly chaos of family.

I sailed across the seas to pursue my dream of completing my post graduation at the London School of Economics -without a scholarship or no rich parents to back me up. In hindsight, I finally admit to myself that it was no small achievement.

Later I returned to India and cleared the huge mortgage that hung around my home in just 7 years. And so I truly came to believe that money was not a barrier to achieving your dreams. If your mind can dream it, you can do it.

In terms of material possessions, it was also the decade where I brought my first car. Yet I remained at heart always a biker.

I travelled…sometimes with friends, sometimes alone and realized that I was above all else an explorer.

I also experienced completely both the warmth of togetherness and the comfort of solitude.

I saw too with absolute clarity that Bangalore was home.

I discovered the photographer in me. I also made the huge shift from manual to digital photography.

I discovered gardening and the tabla. My soul has taken to turning to them at all those moments when it has the greatest desire to just ‘be’.

I became both a writer on cinema, children and technology.

I published my first two books, wrote my third and also had my own column in a magazine.

I was a Web Writer, an Intranet Co-ordinator, e-Learning specialist, a Trainer and a Marketer. I finally found my calling as a Marketer.

So in many ways, the last decade has been one of tremendous evolution as a person and a professional. My experiences are the building blocks that the writer in me could combine to resonate meaning over the next decade.

I am one

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Life and Living
Tags: ,

If I cannot be…
A daughter to my one mother,
A niece to my one aunt,
A wife to my one husband.

It matters not
If I mean many things to many people.