Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Shooing Banker

A gun-toting sentry resembling a bilious gorilla intercepted me at the portals of the bank and gave me the once-over. As he traced my genealogy right back to Adam, his ferocious accomplice, an Alsatian, bared its canines with an expectant growl weighing up the relative palatability of my flesh and entrails, The uniformed fiend took me by the scruff of the neck and spat out ominously, "You have come to make a fixed deposit, haven't you? You must be skinned alive." Then, as if on cue, the doggie bit off a liberal chunk of my gluteal muscles. And I woke up with a start, breaking out in a cold sweat.

My nightmares began after that dreamlike episode in a park where I sat with my friend munching batata-wada. A bank manager lurking behind the bushes pounced on my friend and grabbed him in a bear-hug yelling "Gotcha." My friend, after a bout of deadlocked sumo wrestling, capitulated with a promise to visit the bank the next day to hammer out a deal.

The event nearly made me choke on my batata-wada. For, in all my naiveté, I had believed that my friend's cupboard contained oodles of boodle and a skeleton was the last thing I expected to tumble out of it. How, I wondered, could he be a defaulter and dodger? The scales were about to fall from my eyes when my friend confided that the banker, in fact, was chasing him around to ram a huge loan down his throat.

Now, the scales of my eyes that had held their falling schedule in abeyance a moment earlier, stirred - this time for a different reason and fell down in a, heap. For it dawned on me that the banks, rolling in idle cash, had started wooing the borrowers, while shooing the depositors away.
There was a time, not long ago, when the bankers descended in droves to do the hula-hula dance around the prospective depositors and convulse with laughter at their imbecile jokes just for the rich pickings. But not any more. Now, each time a wannabe depositor broaches the subject of deposits, the slippery banker excuses himself and does a Houdini act.

Gazing into a crystal ball, I can foresee what is in store for the poor depositor. Apart from the beefed up security (with snifter dogs) around the banks, the government may soon promulgate the Prevention of Depositors Ordinance (PODO) which, by an act of parliament, will become PODA (get lost).

And, with the interest rate falling into a bottomless pit, the banks may start gobbling up commission on the deposits (1 per cent for one year, 2 per cent for two year deposits and so on) instead of coughing up interest. Attractive incentives may be offered to the earlier (interest-earning) depositors for making premature withdrawals.

But a word of caution for the borrower. The borrower who thinks that he has become the toast of the banking clan must pay heed to Mark Twain who said, 'A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the moment it begins to rain'.

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