Wednesday, April 26, 2006

An immigrant at the Post Office

The man standing in front of me in the queue at the post office would occasionally look at the telephone bill and the cheque I held in my hand. He was making the payment in cash. And since the line wasn't moving fast enough- and it never does when you are number three and beyond - he was throwing quasi-curious, somewhat nervous glances all around. After a while he asked me if my bill was too high to be accepted in cash. "They don't accept cash for an amount more than 5000," I said to him, "though my bill is not that much." A look of satisfaction appeared on his face as if this was exactly the information he wanted standing there at that moment. Talking to someone can ease the nerves so much. Daunting places become bearable. And we renew the strength to persevere. Meanwhile, the line moved on.

"How many pay orders are you booking?" The voice sounded like a school teacher's admonishing an erring student who forgot to do his homework. It was coming from the other side of the glass-window. The young woman receiving the payments was not happy with something about the man who was handing her the money order forms. Till now she was working rather efficiently and, of course, quietly. The dark, short man, young and unshaven, was rattled by the imperious tone of the question. "Two." He barely managed to utter the word. "Then why are you not giving both together?," she said almost chiding him. Sheepishly he extended his arm from under that glass edge. She counted the money and in the same abrasive tone revisited the flummoxed man,"Upar ke paise kahan hain?" The man had not yet handed her the service charges. He could not understand her instantly and was quiet. The man standing behind her who had earlier asked me about my bill told him what she meant. The payorder man only had one 500 rupee note which he passed on to her. She seemed to have some doubt about the note. She gave it to Purshottam ji to pass it on to "Sir" who was busy rummaging through many envelopes and files. Meanwhile she started keying in the data. "Anjali what?" she asked not being able to read the addressee's name. The inflexion in her voice suggesting that Anjali for her is the most despicable name on earth and what is the word she thinks should be deleted from the dictionaries, precisely because she needed to use it with this man. The man told her what of Anjali. By this time "sir" had had a look at the note. Mumbling something he threw it back to Purshottam ji who passed it back to our lady of the cash-receipt. "This won't work. Give loose two hundred rupees," she amazingly maintaining her contempt. He didn't have any other money. "This is all I have." The woman had had enough of this man by that time. She flung the forms and the money back at the man who for a moment thought that the job is done. He looked at the forms and the money. "It was for four thousand, wasn't it?" saying she stretched out her hand for the next payment. The man thought she was having a second thought about what she had just done. He wanted to give his forms again but soon realized that he has to find another note and then begin again at the end of this line because by this time man next to him had already handed over his bill and money.

No comments: