Aasha Mehreen Amin
One of the most frustrating things in life is trying to find a particular thing that seems at that moment almost a 'matter of life and death'. The unwritten rule is that the more crucial it is at the moment, the more unlikely it is that it will turn up. Usually these items are those that you had once upon a time kept in a 'safe and secret place' but it became so secret that even you don't know what it is anymore. Thus the turning of everything upside down, the hyperventilating, the hours of agony and final acceptance of defeat.
The latest in a long list of 'lost essentials' was my almost brand new cheque book. To understand the self-disgust this has brought on, know that this is the third time that I have lost my cheque book and have run out of 'my dog ate it' type of excuse to the concerned bank. Thanks to the bounties of the ATM most of us do not have to use cheques but this time I really needed to write one to pay for a particular bill. Anyone who has ever tried to get a new cheque book from the bank in this country will know just how elaborate and sometimes, excruciating, the process is.
Some banks, for instance, require a General Diary to be lodged with the local thana reporting the loss (even though you know fully well that you are the one who misplaced it in your let's-put-it-in-a-new-secret-place moment of stupidity). Thankfully mine didn't. But it was complicated nonetheless.
I called the 24-hour service number and did all those tedious tasks they ask you to do in the recorded voice: dial 2 for English, 1 for Bangla, 3 for credit cards, then the number you need, by which time the phone line gets cut. It was after four calls and twice going through the 'rapid fire round' of answering a barrage of personal questions: what is one's mother's name, what is one's date of birth, the exact amount of the last transaction, the last deposit, the one's before that and even before ...that I finally got my lost cheque book cancelled. I felt like a criminal when I couldn't answer when exactly I had opened my account. After all this I was politely told that since I had opened the account about 18 years ago and had never bothered to update my personal information, the bank did not have my latest cell number so please would I update it as soon as possible? You see, the honey-toned voice told me, if the bank does not have your number, they cannot call you to verify that it is your account and tell you that the cheque book is ready; it's all about security. I had to admit she had a point.
But this meant I would have to personally arrive at the branch, give them my number and then wait three days till it was updated, to order my new cheque book and then give at least three working days for it to arrive. All I could do is groan, it seemed this time I was confronted with an insurmountable mountain.
I was tenacious (not to mention desperate) enough to go to the bank and this is from where the story starts to progress towards a happy ending. I met a young officer who asked me to sit down. When I told him my problem he asked for some ID. This time I was ready and I proudly brought out my passport. It was then that I witnessed something that I considered close to a miracle. In a matter of minutes this wonderful young man got my passport photocopied, typed in my latest cell number and asked me to come back the next working day to pick up my cheque book. I couldn't believe my ears. I could hug this angel of an officer who had taken that extra effort to make things easier for the client. I remember a few other times when I had stormed out of banks because of the rude and unhelpful attitude of the staff. It was like a godsend to find a bank official who was both professional and caring. The next day the same young man gave me my brand new cheque book within five minutes of my arrival at the bank. I had rediscovered my faith in bank officials.
Now all I have to do is find a safe and secret place to hide my new cheque book.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009