“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father’s dreams aren’t big enough, and sometimes his mother’s vision isn’t long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.”
― Ben Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp
I was putting off going to the bank for as long as I could. But my daughter, Anita, is persistent. A new bank has come up near our house, and Anita suggested my husband and I create a joint account there. She has been pestering us about it ever since she came home on a break from office.
“Think about it, Ma. You hardly visit that old bank of yours. Why? Because it’s so far! This is near. You can deposit money on your way back from a walk.”
Today’s kids! They know their money better than they know themselves. At least mine does. Last week, Anita did all the necessary applications for creating the account. She had us sign numerous times on a form she downloaded and accompanied us to the bank to submit it. Today, we’re going to make the first deposit to the account. My husband was supposed to come as well, but his knee started to pain again. I used this as an excuse to skip the bank visit, but Anita wouldn’t budge.
The bank is about seven minutes walk. Along the way, Anita keeps blabbering about how much her insurance covers, how much she has kept in fixed deposits, etc.
All my married life, I never bothered about banks. My husband made not much more than was needed for us to get by. The meagre amount that we saved had been used up in Anita’s education. Somehow, this left a huge impact on her – she has made it a mission to have money in the bank. She wants to be prepared for emergencies. I respect her thinking. But I am too afraid of technology. Everything is computerized these days.
When we are inside the bank, Anita fills up a form for something called a remit card – it has to be used for depositing money. This bank does not have paper slips for deposit.
When we are done with the procedure, we are handed a green-coloured card.
“So, this is not ATM card?” I ask Anita.
“No, Ma. It’s a remit card. You can only make deposits with it. With ATM card, you can withdraw.”
Anita was insistent that I apply for the ATM card as well, but thankfully, cash withdrawal can still be done using paper checks! I want to avoid complication as much as I can. All those news about people being robbed after withdrawing cash from ATMs gets to my nerves. Then if you lose the card there’s hell to pay. I lost a SIM card once. We had to go to the police station for the general diary. God! They had so many questions. What a hassle!
Anita and I stand in the line for depositing cash. People, bored people, are standing in front of me. They look at their phones, touch and type. Screens and screens and screens. Mobile screens. Laptop screens. TV screens. All eyes are on screens now. Even the older folk like me have smart-phones. Whenever we meet a smartphone-savvy woman, Anita makes it a point to remind me why I should get one too. I couldn’t care less.
I am next in line to deposit the cash. I push the green card in Anita’s hand.
“You do it. I can’t.”
“Of course not. You’re doing it.” She thrusts the card back in my hand. When did she become this stubborn? What if I do something wrong?
“I will guide you. It’s no big deal, you see.”
“You better do it. I promise I will watch carefully.”
“No, you can only learn by doing it. That’s what you told me when I was in school, remember?”
The man in front of me leaves the line. I cringe inside. Anita pushes me forward. On the counter in front of me there is a small machine, slightly bigger than a calculator. It has numbered keys, like in a calculator. And one red, one yellow and one green key. Behind the counter, a banker, a man with black-rimmed spectacles, is shuffling pages and typing into a computer.
“Here, swipe the card in this slot,” Anita tells me. I never noticed the small vertical slot on the side of the machine.
I put the card and run it along the slot.
The display reads: Please swipe your card.
I swiped it, didn’t I? What is the meaning of this message?
“Not this way. Here, let me put the card in the slot for you again.” Anita re-inserts the card and holds my hand in hers and draws the card along the slot. This time, the machine gives out a hopeful result.
Anita guides me through the next steps. I type, with trembling finger, the amount I will deposit. Then I press the green button thrice. But where do I put the money?
“The cash, madam,” the banker says, as if reading my mind. “Five thousand rupees, is it?”
“Yes, yes.” I hand over the notes to the banker.
With a whirring noise, a paper slip comes out of the little machine. One end stays attached to the machine.
“Please hand over the counterfoil to me, madam,” the banker says while examining the five hundred rupee notes.
“Tear off the slip, Ma.”
I fiddle at the machine. The paper is so stubborn, it won’t come out. Oh, God! Can I do one thing properly? Why on Earth do these people make simple things complicated? Somebody please give me the old deposit slips!
“Madam, hurry. We don’t have all day,” says the man behind us in the queue.
“Here, let me do it, Ma. It’s simple, see?” She bends the paper towards the keys and tears it off at an angle. The paper gives in easily.
“There are small teeth on this side which cut the paper,” she says, “but if you do it the other way…”
Anita goes on explaining to me how I was doing it wrong. But I am not listening anymore. I am tired of feeling incompetent every day. Every day there is some change. New laws. New technology. The older I get, the more difficult it is to cope. With Anita so many miles away, my husband and I are lonelier than ever. Helpless, too.
On our way out, Anita says, “Wasn’t that cool? No paperwork. No hassle!” She is smiling. She is content with the inventions of her generation. She is proud of digital technology.
I look at her. She breaks out into laughter. “You should see the look on your face, Ma. You look like you have the flu!”
I feel too weak to say anything. My daughter pins her hands on my shoulders and looks at me in the eyes. “I know it is difficult for you, Ma. But trust me, it will get easier,” she says, “Especially now that I am here to guide you through everything.”
“Well, you won’t be here next week when your office starts, will you?” A stubborn tear makes it down the corner of my eyes. Anita hates to see me crying. She gets all furious. But I feel so lonely right now, I can’t help it.
Anita smiles. The smile touches her eyes. She had the same smile when she came home after winning the Best Sportsperson award in school. The same smile when she got her job and flew away to a different state. She wipes my tear with her finger and chuckles.
“What is it? Tell me.” I feel a rush in my blood. What is the girl thinking?
Anita takes out a white envelope from her bag.
“Ta-da!” She waves the envelope in the air before putting it in my hand.
“What is it, Anita? What is in the envelope?”
“My offer letter. I got a new job, Ma! Here! Now your daughter will work from home!”
“Really, really, really!” She gives me a hug in the middle of the road.
My daughter links her arm with mine. We walk on.
Sorry, she walks. I am flying! I am flying along the edges of the clouds.
Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick
I loved your story! You captured an older person’s dread of technology perfectly, as well as the tender relationship between mother and daughter. Well-narrated!
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Thank you so much. I wrote it in a hurry and had little time to edit. Had no idea if the characters came out well. I’m glad you liked it!
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It was well-written and very tender in tone.
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Thanks! That gives me peace.
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