its that time of the year when one frantically gives finishing touches to one's tax plans. i am a bit retarded in this approach, so the prospect of holding a ppf account hadn't struck me, until better sense was hammered into my skull.
with this day assigned to getting myself one such account, i set out to befriend our friendly neighbourhood SBI. now i find following trends in the banking industry as much an activity of interest as one would look at compost formation. but i was told that they are one of those rare banks with the distinguished privilege of according you that coveted account. never once did it occur to me that it would lead me into a treasure hunt. the hunt seems to have ended, the treasure however, opting to remain elusive.
i was also told that SBI is no longer the geriatric laggard we had so nonchalantly accepted. they are off on a massive roadtrip to change customer perception. i would rather they stop burning ad fuel and got to work. "200 years of service", is what their banner proudly proclaims. i am ready to accept the 200 years part of it. as for the service, if there is one, someone forgot to put the customer on the list of beneficiaries.
enter SBI branch #1. the clerk is rather forthcoming in driving you away. in the absence of a signboard, he expects me to posses telepathy and realise that he doesnt deal with new accounts. i wonder if he hides a fly swatter under his desk. the manager had a wiser disposition. my guess is, footprints of irate customers on his backside has done the trick. volunteers to part with the secret that one can no longer open a ppf a/c there without having a savings a/c in that branch. i remind him of an absence of such a mandate. their "computerised" system just wont allow he bleats! oh btw, with computerisation they mean a passbook that a computer prints for you. look ma! no hands! the realisation that i do not hold an a/c in SBI compels him to give me the look of a crock choking on the piece of cattle it has just dug into. expecting me to give that life saving thump on his back. i say, what shred of imagination is it to expect every bloke in this country to hold an SBI a/c!?
enter SBI branch #2. this one has a signboard that says "enquiry". man at desk repeats manager 1's story but he seems to follow indian cricket fielding. points me to another staffer i would rather meet. and much like the behaviour of the ball while india fields, i eagerly roll over to the designated boundary. the lady there is trained like a parrot! well, so was i & i remind her of the absence of the rule. she's quick on the retort that well, thats how things are done in this branch. for further issues please approach the manager. damn! this is a cricket loving branch!
had read somewhere that this is how the old banks justified the absence of an online face. now they have it, but thats more of a reluctant favour meted out. the old banks believed in the personal touch that their employees were capable of and something the private banks lacked. 'when you discourage people from visiting the branch, how can you have that human touch!?' they might argue. well, point noted, but i am not in a barber shop to discuss my life's maladies with him. besides, i certainly dont fancy sitting at a counter plastered with notices & rules wondering if there's a banker behind it somewhere. i.e., if they have the inclination to look beyond their ledgers as they juggle 'tween the red & blue ends of a smudgy pen. i would rather peep into the viewing hole of a solitary confinement cell. that surely affords a more exciting view.
but that was branch #2 staffer's idea of customer contact. she wanted me to visit as many SBI branches as i could & figure out which one would use a system that doesnt mandate an s/b a/c. lack of time & the futility of it made me abandon the treasure hunt. might as well call the investment agent. he's known to "fix" things.