Friday, December 11, 2015

Smart Manager- Retail Banking Decoded- A preview

This Chapter deals with introducing the reader towards the basic concept of Retail business and its impact on Retail Banking. It also lays the foundation of the book as to what are the areas that a grassroot banker needs to focus on in order to be a successful Retail Banker.

This section deals with understanding the meaning of Retail Banking. It will give an insight on the different aspects of Retail banking.

This section will create an understanding about the boom in retail sector. With the help of data and examples, the author has tried to create a foundation for the reader to understand why he should be focusing on this segment.

This section speaks about the fast changing environment of information technology and macroeconomic environment. How these aspects have affected the way banking is being done these days? How the trend of GDP and per capita income indicates towards the way in which business is off taking towards Retail.

This section creates an understanding as to why banks in particular should be focusing on retail. How the shifting of bank’s focus from class banking to mass banking has become mandatory in the current economic scenario. It talks of reforms in banking regarding Income recognition norms. How the pressure of nonperforming assets in the corporate sector is forcing the banks to rethink on its business strategy. How the shift of economy towards Service sector is changing the entire dynamics of banking. It emphasis on the competition, that every bank is bound to face with the onset of differentiated licensing policy and private bank licensing policy of the Government. Reading this chapter will make the reader realize that the basic survival of any bank today, depends on how well the Bank develops its Retail segment. Finally the chapter helps the reader identify ten challenges that a banker may face in Retail Banking.

The final section of this chapter sums up the basic rules that a banker needs to follow in order to be a successful Retail Banker. The rest of the book focuses on developing on these rules

This chapter deals with the various aspects of knowledge and information that a Banker needs to have handy in order to function effectively. Which are the areas where the Smart Banker needs to update himself on a regular basis in order to take a lead.

This section emphasizes on three basic areas where the retail banker needs to lay stress on. First, bankers are required to be updated on new products or services to support changing business demands as well as customer needs. Second, the rapidly changing field of Banking requires more sharing and analysis of information from multiple sources. An finally, growing regulatory demand require more rapid comprehension of what the areas of control are. It also focuses on understanding Bank's internal policies that guide in the different aspects of Banking.

This section introduces the reader to the concept of area profiling with respect to business opportunities and market risk. With the help of examples the author has tried to explain how the profiling can be done. Who would be the best source of market intelligence etc.

Here the importance is laid on understanding the internal mechanism of the Branch. How the manager needs to manage his/her time to be updated on all that is happening in the branch. The section also clearly clarifies in few simple steps what the manager can do in order to understand the business/manpower profile of the branch. It also links knowledge with the leadership trait of a successful manager, thereby holistically approaching the aspects and importance of Knowledge management at the same time.

Technology is the most important driver of business today. This section gives an insight to the reader about the role technology plays in banking and how simple technology related training can help him/ her gain advantage. Certain aspects of technology are organization related. Most of the time it is seen that the technology infrastructure remains underutilized. This section tells the reader what he can do at his level to ensure optimum usage of technology made available to him. This will ultimately lead to increase in the profitability of the branch.

Here the reader is made aware of the fact that the economy is in a dynamic state. Changes keep happening very frequently with respect to policies, regulations etc. What are the specific areas that the banker needs to focus on instead of  getting lost in the plethora of information available.

Every Bank is guided by its own rules and policies based on the guidelines of RBI and Government of India. Thorough knowledge and understanding of the policies is mandatory for all Bankers. Any Violation would jeapordise the career of the banker in addition to creating risk for the Bank. This final section creates awareness on this aspect and also highlights the policies which every banker should read on a regular basis.

This chapter deals with the most important aspect for any business, that is the “Customer”. It start from Lead creation to lead conversion and finally to customer retention.

This section creates an understanding of the importance of Empathy on customer service. It also highlights the various expectations of a customer while dealing with banks in particular. Banking being a specialized field is different from other retail services, hence the understanding too has to be different. This section highlights the specific expectations from the banking industry.

This section highlights the shift from product centric model of business to customer centric model of business in Banking. With the help of examples, this difference is brought out clearly for the reader to understand how his approach should be. This section further emphasizes on CRM ( Customer Relationship Management). How CRM as a tool helps the Bank to create value addition for the customer as well as initiates the customer to a higher level of delight.

Customer is always right..So goes the maxim. Many bankers feel that this statement is a bit over rated. But as research proves, it is the perception of a customer that makes of kills a business. This section creates an understanding on this principle. It takes the reader through understanding the basic concepts of RATER model of service excellence. How a customer perceives the bank through this model. This section will help in understanding the perception of the customer in a very effective manner covering all aspects of customer service.

This section deals with Customer dialogue. The way a banker communicated with the customer in the earlier days is in contrast with the present day communication system and the banker has to adapt to this change. Effective communication is the fundamental basis for the success of any business. This section helps the reader develop his skills as a good communicator with respect to when and how a dialogue is initiated leading to how this dialogue should be continued in order to convert the leads.

This section deals with the management of customer flow. The reader gets an idea on various methods of managing large inflow of customers. How analysis of customer flow can help the banker to manage the inflow in a more effective manner. This section also helps the reader in understanding the concept of LAYOUT can be integrated with the flow of customer so that the perceived waiting period is brought down to zero. On the other hand the actual waiting period can give the opportunity for merchandising the products or taking feedback for improving the customer service. 

This section primarily deals with lead generation and lead conversion. The reader through this section can understand the nuances of generating leads and develop skills for converting these leads into business opportunities.

This chapter basically talks about managing manpower resources. What are the areas where the Manager can smartly extract optimum contribution from team members by managing conflict, coaching/ Mentoring etc. It also covers the basic concepts of Personal grooming and Business etiquette.

This section focuses on the area of personal grooming. It makes the reader understand the importance of proper grooming. How dressing and accessories can help create a positive brand image for the organization. Basic tips for ladies and gentlemen are pointed out separately to create an exhaustive understanding.

This chapter deals with meaning and importance of business etiquette. Different etiquettes for superiors, subordinates and clients is given out separately for the reader’s understanding.

This section deals with participative management. The importance and benefits of working in a team. How the team is empowered by delegation. The qualities that a leader needs to develop in order to make participative management more effective. The process of participative management.

This sections deals with Discipline management. How this can be used as a tool of management. What are the different types of conduct based and performance based violations. What are the different alternatives available to the bank for resolving these issues.

This section talks about employee counselling. Identifying when counseling is required and how it can be done.

The final chapter deals with the aspect that is the ultimate target for any business ie. PROFIT.

This section introduces the reader to the concept of Profit Centre. Identifying the profit centres of the area where the branch functions and profiling the area so as to link the right product with the right consumer.  Focussing on the demand of an identified group leads to optimum utilization of resources. That is the message the chapter intends to convey.

This section deals with innovation. How you need to constantly innovate in order to remain in the market and take a lead. What are the areas in which you need to innovate. The focus is on innovating on customer experience areas. Deals with Service innovation, Channel Innovation,Innovation in internal processes and innovation in societal Impact.

Ethics is considered to be a very important element. This section deals with business ethics. Why is ethics important. What are the ethical ways for a banker? How to identify an ethical practice from an unethical one?

This section deals with change management with respect Banking in particular. A detailed discussion on change will give clarity to this concept. Why change is relevant. How can it be made acceptable to the team.

The importance of Goal Setting is important for any organisation. Why Goal setting is important for a Bank. What are the different steps to be followed for setting goals. How strategy is formed to achieve these goals. What are the ways through which the manager can ensure that these goals are achieved?
The book is available on most of the e comm platforms including Amazon, Flipkart etc.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dream in a Dream

It was one of those terribly busy week at work. I wanted to get away from the rut. Take a break and come back. I had submitted this concept paper and it went through well with the management. I was to submit the roadmap and it was to be rolled out in a month or so. The presentation went off successfully. I was very pleased with myself. Months of hard work had paid off. But suddenly I am gripped with this terrible bout of  panic. I feel breathless just thinking of the magnanimity of the project. Thirty nine thousand people were to be trained in twelve months. Just the thought of it crunched my gut harder.
This stressful week was just having the best of me. As a life saver an old friend was in town and we planned a family evening out. We went for a movie and then had dinner at a cosy place. Just as we were leaving the place, this friend said, “ Remember we were here with your Dad”. Those seven words pierced through my heart and my heart sank. Yes, we were there with my mom and dad and we watched ‘Gunday’. A terribly loud movie though. My panic left my gut so fast that I could actually feel it leave. But then it was replaced with extreme sadness. The last time that I saw Dad was in Kolkata in April 14, I went to his room to touch his feet and say goodbye before catching my flight back to Mumbai. Mom and Dad were with me for the last four months. I wanted them to stay with me. But he insisted on going back just for setting his small but very dear house in place. He was to be back in a couple of months so he left most of his stuff back in my place. I went to his room and touched his feet. He put his hand on my head. He knew I was not happy with his going back. I didn’t say anything. But he heard what I had left unsaid. He in his strong and assertive voice said, ‘Don’t worry, I will be back very soon’. These were the last words that I saw him speak.  He left for Tinsukia the same day.
I knew my father would not have lied to him. He would come back. But everytime I called him he would have some excuse for delaying. Two months became six months. One day Iput my foot down and booked the tickets for Dibrugarh and called him up to tell him to be mentally prepared as I was coming to bring them along. He handed over the phone to mom without answering and as I was told later he told mom to ask me not to pressurize him. My flight was booked for 18th of Dec and on the 2nd I get a call from my sister that he is gone. Gone with the wind for ever. His favourite movie. I felt a part of my heart leave my body. The remaining part was under the grip of a vice. It was crunching me it was wrenching me, it was shaking me. I could not breathe. I felt I would die too. My daughter came running from the kitchen and looking at hear I burst. It was as if a dam had built up in those, I don’t know how many seconds. But it felt like a lifetime. I don’t know how I flew home to see what remained of him before they took him for his last journey.
Today it is six months since he left. Rather ditched me and left. I am angry with him for lying to me. All his life he taught virtues. Why did he have to leave in this manner. The last sentence that I saw him utter had to be a lie. Perhaps the first and the last lie. I never remember him ever lying other than his repeated promises of giving up drinking which he always broke. People say that the dead come in your sleep to visit you. But I had read too much of Psychology to believe in such stories. My sister and my mother would always tell me that they would dream about dad. I knew it was in their subconscious mind which manifested in their dreams. I wouldn’t comment in fear of my sister asking me to shut up and get lost with my lecture on psychology. But somewhere in my heart I felt bad as to why I never had a dream. Why he never came to visit me in my dreams and talk to me.
All these thoughts cross my mind. But the mind is a very strong manipulator. The crowd and the chaos of Mumbai shifted my focus and my mind was soon diverted into maneuvering the crowd. I got home and a glance to the clock on the wall made me realize it was eleven. I went off to bed and tried to sleep. But sleep was away. I opened my laptop and started working on it. By this time my  father’s thoughts had completely left my mind. It was twelve when I finally stopped working and oblivion to all went off to sleep. Soon I was fast asleep.
I started dreaming about the roadmap of implementing the project. I was talking to my boss about how to manage the whole show. How to delegate the implementation…..and all the nonsense that I was thinking about before going to bed. In that particular situation in the dream we were to catch a flight the next day, so I come home and go off to sleep. The alarm went off and I woke up. I went to my kitchen as usual to make my green tea. Suddenly I see a man standing there. A man with a very dark complexion bending over the counter. I see closely and he is dressing up a pan. I can also see the pan box that my father used. I am taken aback. Rather shocked as to how a man could have entered my kitchen. I snapped at him, “who the hell are you and how did you get in”. The man looks at me calmly. God…. He looks like baba, I mutter and step back. I can hear myself chocking and this time in a ruffled and hardly audible voice I repeat, “Who are you”. I can see it is Baba. But baba was never this dark. He was reasonably fair. Who is this man? How did he enter my house, looks comfortable here, looks like baba but he is dark…..very dark. What is wrong with him? As I mutter all these questions to myself, this man is is busy dressing the pan in that same calm demeanour. He puts the paan in his mouth and turns to me and says. I know your mother told you I am dead. I freeze. Oh my God, this is Baba. I cry out and run towards him and hug him tight. Tears rolling down my eyes, I cry out to him….Baba baba, why did you leave….why did you have to leave….you promised you would come back to Mumbai and live with me…..You said that you loved to be here. I wanted you baba. After you leaft I realized how much you have influenced my life. You had been a torture but you made me what I am today…….I go on and on… All the while he is stroking my head. Dad was never a physical person. He never hugged or stroked. But here he was hugging and stroking. Slowly my cries became my muttering. And soon I was only sobbing and telling him not to ever leave again.
He takes me back to the kitchen, opens the cupboard and points to the neatly stacked containers and says…. See I have put everything in order. You don’t have to worry about anything. It was my time and I had to go. Everybody has to go. I cry back, “Baba I don’t want anything in order, I would rather have everything messed up. I want you back”. He replies, “ I know how you feel. But I am gone now and I will have to leave, so you be strong, you are my first born and I made you a strong girl. I can’t be with you for ever”. By this time I realize that I am in a dream and I will wake up and he will be gone. I look towards him, “Can I hold your hand and sleep on your shoulder”. “Sure darling”, he says. I hold his hand. His hands are cold as ice. He sits on the ground, with his back rested on the wall. I rest my head on his shoulder still holding his hand. I am so much at peace with the feel of his touch. I soon fall asleep. There is a knock at the door and I wake up and find myself sleeping on the floor. I am out of my second dream and back to the first dream…..which now feels like real. I try to figure out what actually happened. I realize it was a dream.
I hear a beautiful music floating around. I feel good and light. The music is going on for too long, I suddenly realize. It has started irritating me. I shut my ears and shout, “stop it….stop it”. By this time I am wide awake. Actually awake! The music is the alarm in my phone. I sit on my bed. My pillow is wet and I realize that I had been crying in my sleep. I go to Chinky’s room to check on her. She is fast asleep. The kids these days….they will stay awake all night and sleep during day. Dad would have killed me had I done the same. I smile and go to the Almirah. I open it and see two rows of neatly stacked clothes which my mom had laid before leaving. I walk up to the kitchen. There is no one standing there bending over the counter dressing a paan. I make myself a cup of green tea with lemon and honey. While I sit on my favourite spot in the living room siping that refreshing cup of tea, I look at his garlanded picture looking at me in that same calm demeanour. I start wondering, why did I have this dream. Was it because I was thinking of him the previous evening. Perhaps it was. But for once I did not want to look for a scientific explanation. I wanted to believe in the mystic. I wanted to believe in that world of magic where the dead come to you and talk to you. Where you can actually feel their touch. I want to believe that he was here last night, talking to me, justifying his leaving.

I wonder…did he come to bid a final Goodbye. Well… my darling Baba, I will never let you bid a final Goodbye, nor will I bid you one. You will be with me…..always in my subconscious mind, so that whenever  I think of you, you will be compelled to come and see me in my dreams. And one day when I am done here and am with you…..i am going to tell you on your face, …..” YOU ARE A LIAR”. I will have gathered the courage by then, I hope.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

angel in disguise

An Angel in Disguise

I had just managed to reach the railway station. The traffic was terrible. I heaved a sigh of relief as I paid the taxi driver and entered the railway station. I looked at my watch and I was overcome by panic, I was late and I could hardly make it to the train. I called for a porter to pick up the three big bags that I carried and with my son in tow I literally shouted at the porter to run and make it to the train. The overflow of human heads on the railway station was worse than the traffic that I had faced.

It had been almost three years since I had last visited my parents. My son Monty was only two. His father had shown his inability to join us and overlooking all sorts of caution by concerned relatives I decided to undertake the journey on my own along with my son to visit my parents. My journey from Punjab to Assam was quite eventless and that added to my confidence. I would make it back easily too. But that was not the way it was destined to be. My apathy started with bad weather and the resulting cancellation of flights. As I was running out of leave I had to compromise with a sleeper class ticket in a train that would take me ages to reach my destination. But it would be better than getting stuck up indefinitely.

Thanks to the North Eastern Railways the trains were late as usual and I managed to board the train just in time. For once the delay did not annoy me. I looked for the reserved ladies compartment where I was given a seat .The congested compartment had six sleepers. Five were occupied by a family who was going for a marriage. I requested them to exchange my upper sleeper for the lower one as I had a small child with me. They immediately obliged. I chained my luggage except for a big bag which contained eatables that my mother had packed for us, baby food for Monty and his medicines. He had just recovered from a bad attack of viral and was still on medication. My mother had bought some more toys and clothes for my son after I was done with my packing so I stuffed those in that bag too. I gave Monty his medicines and put him to sleep. Then started the round of introduction with my fellow passengers. Different people different life. They were going for the marriage of their handicapped daughter. They had meager means and with great struggle they had managed to collect the heavy dowry that they were to pay the groom’s parents for accepting their daughter. It was dark and I was sleepy, but by this time Monty had woken up. He insisted on sitting by the window, I shut the glass window so that he could see the scenes outside and went off to sleep. It had been a very hectic day and I dozed off immediately. I do not know how long I had slept; suddenly an odd noise woke me up. I sat up thinking that Monty must be trying to open the window. But he was sleeping soundly by my side. Was the train going to derail, I thought. But no the train was running fast in its synchronized motion. I switched on the lights and to my shock I saw a suitcase half stuck in the window and someone was trying to pull it out …..God!... from the outside. Before thinking what was going on just out of reflective impulse I grabbed the suitcase and tried pulling it back screaming hysterically. Though I was pulling at that suitcase with my entire strength the person on the other side was definitely stronger and it went out of my grip. My screams had woken up the other passengers. Someone ran up to the conductor of the train. I was sure that the rogue was hanging on to the train itself as he could not possibly have jumped off with the speed at which it was running. But nobody had the courage to open the door and check.

It was after I gathered my senses back that I realized that my bag was gone. The other baggages were safe as those were chained. But the bag had Monty’s food and medicines. What would I do for the 3 days it was going to take for me to reach home? I was under panic once again. The wailing family whose entire luggage had gone and so were the dreams of getting their daughter married added to my agony.Inspite of their grief they kept reassuring me. But they were to reach their destination early next morning. What would I do after that?

The next morning my compartment was empty and nobody came to fill the seat. I was alone in that compartment with broken windows and lost confidence. There was no medicine for my son and he was running fever again. His stock of food would soon be over. I didn’t really know what to do. I thought of calling emergency. I was going through these thought when I heard a knock at the door of my compartment. I thought it was the TT and made up my mind to ask him to help me file a complaint and get some medical help for my son. I opened the door, a fair, bearded young man in his late twenties stood there in front of me. I was gripped with fear, what did he want? He smiled and asked me if he could get in. I stood up in the doorway blocking his way and asked in a defiant tone ‘what do you want’. He said,’ sister, I have seen what has happened last night, and with a child it will not be safe for you to spend another night in this compartment with broken windows. We are traveling in a group and one of our friends could not join us, so we a have a vacant seat, if you want you can join us there’. Why did this stranger want to help me out in this manner? I cannot possibly trust him what if he has some ulterior motive. But there was something about this man that was striking about his honesty. But I politely refused and literally closed the door on his face. I would ask the TT to change my seat, I decided. The TT came and expressed his inability. The complaint could only be lodged at the destination, medical help was not possible till we reached a major station which was about seven hours away and he could not change my seat as there was no vacant one available at that point of time. I was feeling terribly helpless and felt like crying out. But I managed to control myself. It was a crisis and I had to keep my cool. I thought of the young man who had offered his help. I had no other alternative left other than accepting his offer, he looked honest and moreover even if he had some ulterior motive he wouldn’t dare try anything. I was building up a strategy before looking for him.

It didn’t take me long to find him. His seat was just adjacent to my compartment. The look on my face probably gave him the idea as to what I wanted to say. He got up immediately and helped me with my luggage. He tried to make sure I was comfortable. Once seated, he introduced me to his friends. They were a group of seven Kashmiri Muslim youth. Once again I started going weak on my knees. Militancy in Kashmir was in its peak. What if these were actually terrorists? I couldn’t sleep the entire night. For A couple of hours that I managed to do so, I had dreams of the train being blown up by the people I was traveling with. The next day Hamid was totally involved with Monty, arranging for his food, getting Monty’s bottles sterilized from the pantry, playing with him. As the day progressed I started feeling comfortable in their presence. One more night and I would be home. By the next morning the entire group had packed up their cards and books. They were all playing and taking care of Monty as if he was their family. Hamid then told me his story of his sister who died a couple of years back in a bomb blast along with her young son while returning home after visiting him and how I resembled her. He had tears in his eyes while narrating his story to me. I started feeling ashamed of myself. How could I have misunderstood his intentions when he was actually trying to help me? Perhaps the crime stories that we read about everyday have made us insensitive to humanity. The sound of violence is so loud that noble souls like Hamid live and die in oblivion. We do not realise that more than the bad elements around us there are noble souls who exist in silence and in spite of everything, continue to make the world a better place to live in. That caste and creed have nothing to do with virtue. I reached my destination at around two in the afternoon. My family was there to receive us at the station. Hamid and his friends helped me out with the luggage one last time. All of them were on the platform hugging Monty one by one. They would be getting off at the next station. Hamid brought a small wooden house boat and handed it to me and said, ‘I made this myself and I am giving this to you so that whenever you see this you remember this brother’.

Its around 18 years now, I still have that small wooden boat with me. It keeps reminding me that the world is not after all a place infested with rogues. There are a large number of Hamids around who will take you to safety when you need them the most.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chapter One

Now that I stand at the crossroads trying to take a decision as to how I should carry on with my life I cant help going down memory lane trying to analyse what actually went wrong. What has led me to this stage .a stage that I never wanted. A situation that I never dreamt of in my wildest dreams. I have tried to work hard for this relationship; I have invested heavily in terms of emotions so that I could keep it alive under all circumstances. Now I feel the very reason why it is falling apart is the way and the intensity with which I wanted to keep it alive. I had no reasons penning these thoughts down. But I have been going over and over all these thoughts for so long that I don’t think I can get rid of the negativity that it instills unless I pen it down. Secondly if I need to take a decision detriment to the interests of my kids, I want them to read it someday and understand their mother and forgive her. Finally all my life I had been trying to prove my parents wrong about the decision that I had taken in my life. I finally want to admit my mistakes to them. They were always right and I was always wrong.

Now the question is where I start from. Do I start from the day I married him or should I go back further as long as my senses carry me. Well I guess I will go back a bit to the period before I met him. I was the eldest daughter of my parents. My father doted on me. Being the first born I was showered with all that they could give me in every term. On the arrival of my two siblings I could feel that attention trickling down. I was expected to make all the sacrifices. I was expected to make all the compromises. I loathed finding myself last in priority. I went through that sense of deprivation that every first child goes through. Now being a parent myself I realize that this is just a natural process and it helped me be a better human being. but apart from making me a good human being did this actually have a role in making my life what it is now…I don’t really know. Let me work on it and find out. I know my father as a very intelligent man. A man whom I always found buried in books. All the intelligent talks and discussions that he had with us still have its effect on my psyche. But like everything else there was a negative angle to it too. He could never become what he deserved to be in life. Why is a question that only he can answer? I do not want to delve on it. What I am concerned with here is the out come of the frustration of failure in his life. For as far as I can remember I have always found him to be a hardcore alcoholic. During the day he was the legendary DR Jekyll , a wonderful human being and at night he was the hideous Mr. Hyde, the role that I hate to comprehend even today. The humiliation that this brought into me was something unbearable to think of even today. Day by day this situation worsened. He would be drunk and irresponsible and my poor mother would struggle making both ends meet, giving us a decent education and healthy food. The only luxury that we could afford during those days. as I was growing up this frustration kept on increasing and I wanted to run away from this situation somehow or the other. I was around 18 and it was around this time that ricku came into my life. His kind talks would give me a breather. Slowly I found him to be a very caring person and fell in love with him. My life and world started revolving around him when he told me that he shared similar feelings. I was so blinded with these beautiful feelings that I overlooked all the other anomalies that lied between us. That other than youth there was nothing in common between us. I was so charmed with his persona and all that he told me about himself and his family, that I kept myself blinded from any other negative aspect that would creep in about him. In him I had found a perfect route of escape from the terrible situation that prevailed at home.

He had told me that he was doing his graduation in biology he would even bring me notes to help me in my assignments as I was doing my honors degree. he convinced me that he would try to get a commission once he completed his graduation. Being convinced on that I took up a job as a clerk in the bank in spite of the fact that I had topped my university in the first year. I needed the job to be away from the family so that I could marry him. baba was dead against this relationship and wouldn’t let this happen as long as I was staying home. one day he said that he would ask his brother who was an army officer posted in shillong to come over and talk to my father to convince him about our alliance. I was sort of shocked because he had told me that he had only one brother who was an IPS officer. But I did not care…….any negativity was blocked. the outcome of that meeting was a failure so he convinced me into getting married in court as he was to be transferred soon. I agreed keeping myself blinded to the humiliation it would bring to my parents. I was madly in love…..or so I thought.

The first setback that I received was during the first night that we got to live together under the same roof. He told me that he had a brief affair with a married woman and that the daughter that she had was actually his. I felt my world coming down like a pack of cards. I was shattered but I never showed. I never asked him who that woman was or who his daughter was. Whether it was true or another of his many lies. The next shock was when he took me home. He had told me that he belonged to a rich family and that he had joined as an airman just to get away from his Hitler father. One look at his home gave me the right picture. Even the house that his family lived in was not theirs but his uncle’s. Then came his sisters. According to him he had only one sister the others were his cousins whom his kind and generous parents had offered to bring up, as their own parents were very poor. I had a bad time trying to figure out who the real one was and who were the cousins, till it finally dawned that they were all his real ones. Now it was difficult for me to comprehend as to why he had lied to me about all this. I had not married him for his riches I loved him and that would not be affected with the number of his siblings in any case. I did not know what to do and what all I had in store. How could I live with a relationship that was based on worthless lies. But I knew it was too late to react. It was of no use carrying on with the bitterness was married to him. It was a sacred bonding which had to be respected. I had opened that door at my own choice shutting down the other. And I still felt his love for me. So I decided that the best thing would be to forget and make the best of what was at my disposal. Then came another shock. He wanted me to take my transfer to where his parents lived and not where he lived. His reasons-my job was more stable than his and that his parents needed me. I tried to convince him that I could get myself transferred to wherever he went. But he insisted. What I could not tell him was that I had married him to be with him and not his parents. It was only later that I realized that he wanted to enjoy both the luxury of a vacation wife and that of a free life which would be hampered by my presence.

And this is how my married life started. Alone at his parents house. Not even his parents house. The house that belonged to his uncle who would ask everybody including me to be out at the drop of a hat. The taunts his sisters inflicted about the great deed they had done of bringing me in without a dowry. That I was sending my salary home to feed my poor parents. There are n number of incidences that I would not like to mention , not that I remember all of them either. But i blocked all the humiliation and all that he had done to me. Kept quite and Clung on to the weak threads of love that I was still a fool enough to imagine existed and carried on. Trying to become an epitome of sacrifice. The best wife and daughter in law they could think of. Never looking into my own needs. Shouldering responsibilities he was supposed to take. Fulfilling his needs when he was supposed to fulfill mine. Just on one dream. He would soon work for his commission and I would leave my job and join him.......... This was never to happen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Taming The Art Called Driving

For me it had always been a dream to be behind the wheel.While an average human being is supposed to be licenced by 18 or to the most 20, I could not go beyond a two wheeler till 39.This is my story of how I finally fulfilled that hidden desire.

For years I would dream of driving through the streets effortlessly only to end up hitting something living or non-living and waking up sweating and in shock.The recurrence of such dreams would only reinforce my determination to learn driving.Then finally one day I decided I would buy my own car and then it would be no looking back.For days I would be flooded with all sorts of emotions.The pride of having my own car in the front yard, the anticipation of being behind its wheels, the feeling of self worth and above all the feeling of freedom.I talked over to my husband and chalked out a schedule for him to teach me the nuances of the much elusive art.I could not sleep the night before the morning he was to take me out for my first date with my dream-in-real.I woke up much before the alarm went off at four.Went into gear and tried waking up the snoring thing.In spite of my best efforts he would not budge. Finally he got up shouted at me for my being over zealous and then went off continuing with his passion.......SNORING.All my eagerness went down the drain. But the sight of that beauty in white wouldnt let me be in peace. Once again I started pestering him with renewed vigour. Finally on our way back from a party one night ....we were quite late and there was no traffic.....he let me take on the wheel. I was excited and filled with ecstacy. Finally the day had come. I would be driving.......God.....driving.After the initial ABC of driving he asked me to switch on the ignition.With shivering hands I turned on the keys.Wow was like music to my ears.I was feeling no greater than the first conquerer of the Everest.But this was not to be for long.From that moment onwards till the next 10 minutes that I sat there I could hear nothing but his irritated bickerings......hell is this the way u drive....hey u will hit that.....women can never drive.....I was an idiot to let u sit there......Driving is not for u ......and on .....and on....Finally I had enough of it.I hit the brakes.....God that was pretty smoothe.Gave my bit to him. Got off the wheels and asked him to enjoy being my unpaid driver. I promised myself I would never ever try again and die with this unfulfilled desire.Would I end up being a ghost haunting every driver on the road?......I wondered!!!!!
Over the years things changed.I left home and was on my own once again.Left the car back, as it had no meaning for me any more.Without a driver it was worthless and I couldnt afford to hire one.I was back with my two wheeler. It is the best mode of self driven conveyance I guess.I loved gliding through the traffic into the rugged roads of the village where I worked.Then one day suddenly out of the blues came this agent of God sent down specially to get me into driving. This fellow was very proud of his car and it was one of the few things that he loved dearly. He took me for a drive around town.I loved it, relishing every moment of it.Suddenly he said....come on, you drive....I told him I can't drive.He said never mind....just give it a try, I know you can do it. I was this was a man who loved his car more than anything and he was ready to hand it over to someone who probably didn't know how to even hold the steering wheel properly.I told him what if I hit it somewhere and the car got damaged.He said ...I can always get it repaired, You dont worry about that.Anyways it was me who could not gather the courage to give a dent to his beloved .But then that was the moment of truth for me and in my heart of heart I promised myself that the next time he was here, I would be driving him around .A couple of months later I bought home my second car. I went to a training instructor. Enrolled myself for the one month course. I was surprised with the level of patience my instructor had.At the end of the first week I asked him to accompany me in my car.He argued that I wasn't trained enough to be on my own.Finally he had to accede to my stubbornness. I took out the car put on the reverse gear and started moving.My instructor barked at me....I haven't taught that yet don't try it. I panicked and instead of hitting the brake I hit the accelerator and the next moment..... WHAM......I had already rammed into a parked car by the time I hit the brake. I rushed out to see how much damage I had caused the other car.I was releaved to see that there was not even a bit of a scratch.Then my daughter came out running.....mumma see what you have done...The huge dent at the back of my car almost brought me to tears....but from that moment I knew I had finally tamed the art.
Exactly after six months my dear friend happened to visit again . I offered to pick him up at the Railway Station.By that time he had the entire briefing of my adventure.We were driving together again through the town ,but this time in reversed roles.Me behind the wheel and he on the passenger seat. I told him about the promise I had made myself and how he was instrumental in my learning to drive. Then I asked him the question which I always wanted to.....Why did you ask me to drive the car that you love so much knowing well that I could not drive?....What if I damaged it trying to do so?.......He said " Dear I love my car that is why I asked YOU to drive it" I simply smiled and drove on.....................