Opening a bank account is usually a dull, dry, drab and singularly boring experience. Unexpected hurdles crop up with alarming alacrity when all a customer requires is a simple account to stash away his hard earned ‘ Gandhis’, as Indian currency notes are called in local jargon.
Yet, this correspondent was privileged to a unique experience when opening a bank account. Not knowing what to expect, he walked into a bank, whose signboard formidably announced “Bank of India, Founding Branch”. The choice of this particular branch was solely dictated by convenience, since it is located at Flora Fountain circle. Having entered the heavily guarded premises, the prospective customer, not knowing what to expect, found himself in a place that seemed to have taken him at least a hundred years back in time.
The imposing premise consists of a large, colonial style customer lounge where some of the founding fathers of Mumbai and its earliest businessmen transacted business. The sparkling clean black-and-white floor reminds one of a chessboard where local millionaires once vied with one another for trade. Despite the grandeur, the branch still wears a desolate look and is manned by a skeletal staff.
An officer confided: “This was the very place from where Bank of India began operations in 1901. We had moved out of this premises for over 50 years and returned only in 2006 since we wanted to preserve our history. The plan was to attract high net worth customers and offer them a unique service from this historic premise.” But sadly, the bank’s intentions seem to have gone largely unnoticed. Customers, for some reason, seem to patronise the more plebeian looking Dr DN Road Branch of the bank, located some 200 metres away, with its modern décor.
The only reminder that the premises, located on ground floor of the Oriental Building, has a rich history, are a few exhibits displayed by the bank. One states, its founding fathers had rented the area for a princely sum of Rs 1,250 per month or just a little more than the minimum balance required to maintain an account with the bank nowadays. But what is most striking is that this is perhaps the only branch in Mumbai to continue operating from the very place from where it was founded.
A woman in a Panvel-bound train had an infant on her lap and her nine-year-old son beside her. She was about to breastfeed the baby when her son cautioned her about the male police constable standing at the exit in front of them. He suggested that they move to the other side of the compartment where she would not be seen by the constable.
Ignoring his suggestion, she started feeding the baby. The son who had stuck his gaze at the constable, asked his mother to cover the baby’s head with her saree. But the woman got angry and asked him not to give her any further suggestions.
The kid acted with the best of intentions to offer his mother more privacy but it seemed had caused her embarrassment. She thought it was wrong to even suggest that she shift to the other seat for privacy.
While listening to the duo’s conversation an elderly lady seated next to this reporter said, “These days children mature early, especially with the advent of television they become aware about issues which otherwise are not discussed openly at home. This boy is able to understand the situation and guide his mother. His mother should have tried to understand what he had to say before scolding him. It’s important we encourage children to speak, and in case we cannot in some circumstances we should at least not discourage them.”
On January 15, the Indian Army was celebrating the Army Day at the Gateway of India. Many senior officials of the Army and Navy were present. A woman Air Force officer, married to an Army officer, was also present there. She was sitting with her one-year-old baby boy while her husband was roaming around the venue with his fellow officers. The baby kept disturbing her throughout the event. She requested her husband to help her with the baby but he refused. The baby was crying and she was feeding milk to him with a bottle. Frustrated with the situation, she told this correspondent sitting next to her, “No matter what your profession, whether you are an officer, a servant or even a prime minister, if you are a woman, you can’t escape. A child belongs to both father and mother but the father can escape responsibility but the mother can’t.”
Recently, students of Anjuman-e-Islam at CST were bombarded with `khaalis’ (refined) Urdu, `shuddh’ (pure) Hindi and chaste Marathi non-stop for half-an-hour. It was a programme, organised by the Mumbai police and hosted by the Urdu teachers of the school. A female compere from Anjuman-e-Islam welcomed everyone including the Mumbai Police Commissioner in khaalis Urdu. The students yawned through the session. Further, the kids who were seen yawning started feeling drowsy when Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Sadanand Date took the mike and spoke in chaste Marathi. Later, most of them dozed off when the regional additional commissioner of police held forth in shuddh Hindi. However, the children woke up when Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh addressed them in ‘Bambaiyya’.
Q) What part of the car causes the most accidents?
A) The nut that holds the wheel.
Contributed by Ashwin Honawar, Chitra Sawant, Sadhna Kumar and Zeeshan Shaikh
—Compiled by Anil Singh