Tamal Bandyopadhyay brings notes from a diary of a bank branch manager in Mumbai:
This 33-year old banker works for a private bank in Mumbai and heads a relatively new and small branch. For privacy, I am neither naming the banker, nor his bank. Every character and incident mentioned in this diary is true.
Back from a four-day holiday in the first week of January at Matheran, a hill resort in Maharashtra, with his three-year old daughter and wife, this man looks back at those 50 days as something surreal.
Edited extracts from his diary:
On the first day, 10 November, we closed the branch at 11.45pm. By the time I reached Dadar station, the 12.41am Virar local had left. I came back to the branch, slept for a couple of hours sitting on my chair, and went home the next day catching a 4.36am train. At home, I took a bath, had breakfast and left for work again at 6.30am. This was not a one-off. There were many days in the past two months when I missed the last train and returned to office at midnight to catch some sleep. Many of us spent our Sundays too in the branch as on weekdays we could do nothing but handle the cash; there was no time to do other routine work such as maintenance of records and, of course, sanction and disbursement of loans.
Many a time the customers got agitated but we could not afford to lose our cool. Most of them supported demonetisation but for some reasons they did not have much sympathy for us. They thought the move is good for the country to flush out black money and banks had the money but were not giving them. It was very tough to convince them that our hands were tied–there weren’t enough new notes to please all. The continuous changes in the regulator’s directives also complicated our job. Literally, each time I was going to the toilet I used to ask my colleagues to keep a tab on whether there’s any change in the RBI rules. And once it actually happened.
The toughest part of the entire exercise was to keep the morale of my colleagues high. Two of my women colleagues also used to stay late every day. There were occasions when they could not take it anymore. One of my male colleagues cried; another wanted to quit the job. I always told them to look at this as an opportunity to learn, to excel at our job. We needed to support the country in its fight against black money.
There were days when we couldn’t have a proper meal. I lost 10kg in these two months; got a few strands of grey hair. I also quit smoking, something I had been trying to do ever since my daughter was born. In those 50 days, there was no time to step out of the bank branch for a smoke. My wife is happy. At Matheran, my daughter did not leave me alone for a moment.