11.30 a.m. The State Bank of India branch at Defence Colony has just opened. Like any important public service institution, the place is a flurry of hectic activity. The bank manager is on the phone to his wife complaining about the repeat menu in his tiffin; two assistant managers are seated in the reception area arguing about the low-scoring cricket match against Sri Lanka. The cleaner is sweeping up some cheques lying on the floor; the guard makes tea while his gun lies on the Loans Counter. Of the seven counters, only one is open, manned by a woman in a flowery salwar-kameez. The teller’s nameplate announces her as Miss Hameeda. A line of 16 patient customers moves slowly towards her. Half an hour later a Man in Black (MIB) reaches the counter, and notices the woman is clipping her fingernails. Interrupts:
Teller continues to clip.
MIB: Madam, Bhenji.
Teller finishes clipping, then begins applying rouge to her cheeks.
MIB: Madamji, bhenji…
Teller: Haan, kyahai!
MIB: Madam I am a paying customer. Can you please attend?
Teller: Aare, can’t you see, I am on tea break.
MIB: But it’s almost 12 now.
Teller: (glaring) Are you the manager, hain, I will take a break when I want.
Man falls silent and waits. Everyone in the line waits.
Teller (finally looking up): Haanbatao!
MIB: Aapneshahadsunanahin. I am here to rob the bank.
Teller (thinks): How much do you want to rob?
MIB: Haan, bas.
Teller: Aajkal bees hajjar me kyaayegabhai?
MIB: OK, make it thirty-thousand.
Teller: The last robber took 3 lakhs.
She pulls down a ledger.
Teller: What is your name?
MIB: Why do you need my name?
Teller: We have to; there are rules.
MIB: Whose rules?
Teller: Central office; I don’t make rules.
MIB: I don’t care about your rules. Just give me the money.
Teller: It’s not so simple. There are procedures.
MIB: What procedures?
Teller: Do you have an account here?
MIB: No, I don’t. What does that have to do with it?
Teller: It’s important.
MIB: Important! For whom?
Teller: For the bank. We don’t know whether to take the money from Current or Savings.
MIB: I don’t care whether you take it from your pocket or from the manager’s mouth. I want the money now.
Teller: It’s not so easy, bhai. You think robbing a bank is like shoplifting. Hain? (She raises her eyes to meet his) Have you robbed before?
Man in Black looks down uncomfortably.
Teller (Smiling): First time? Hain?
She shuffles for some papers in her drawer and hands over a green form to the man in black.
MIB: What’s this?
Teller: Form 8612-B.
MIB (He pushes it back to her): Do you know why I am here?
Teller (ignoring him): Fill it in triplicate. And you’ll need a witness.
MIB (whispers angrily): I want to rob the bank; I don’t want to open a new account!
Teller: Shhh…! Keep your voice down; this is not your drawing room. It’s a government institution.
MIB (Agitated): Are you going to give the money or not?
Teller: You can have the money bhai; it’s not my money. But you have to follow rules.
MIB: Aare sali, I am the robber; I make the rules.
Teller: How do I know you are a robber; you look like everyone else.
Man in Black shuffles around, reaches into his pocket, pulls out a pistol and places it on the counter.
MIB: Yehdekh. Does everyone have this, hain?
Barely perturbed, the teller re-examines her nails against the light.
MIB: Now give me the money?
Teller: I can’t give you the money. I can give you a token.
MIB: Do you see this pistol hain; you know what can happen with it?
Teller: Did you really buy it? Or steal it from a toy store?
MIB: Dhekhoyesali, aslihai.
Teller (mocking him): Kabhiaslipistolechalaibhihai?
MIB: Bilkulasli(reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of paper)Yehdekh, gun licence.
Teller: Achha! Licence bhichuraliya.
MIB: It’s mine; see it has my name on it. (He leans towards her, she towards him. Their fingers touch) Hamid Ansari 17/3 PavanMahal (Behind KeserGali), ChandiniChowk, Delhi-5.
Teller: Hamid Ansari (repeating) Ansari, Muslim hai!
MIB: Aurkyasirf Hindu hi chorikarsaktehain?
Teller: Nahinnahin. Yeh India hai; sab karsaktehain.
MIB: Will I get the money or not.
Teller: You will, you will. This is nationalized bank. It will take a little time.
MIB: How much time? I don’t have all day.
Teller: If you are in hurry you should have robbed ICICI or Deutsche bank.
MIB: I don’t want to stand here chatting with you, while all these people are waiting. (He points to the line, now stretching out of the door).
Teller: They are used to waiting. This is a nationalized bank.
MIB: I’m not used to waiting so long.
Teller: Don’t you know there’s a global financial crisis?
MIB: Why should I care?
Teller: Aare, it’s the most serious collapse of the banking system, and you don’t care.
MIB: I heard about it. It’s your fault. You lend to fraud companies. Then they don’t pay back their loan. People like me have to suffer.
Teller: I don’t see you suffering. You are wearing a fancy black suit. Stolen from somewhere?
MIB: I don’t have to tell you anything!
Teller: No you don’t! But if you were a businessman you could just go to the loan counter and walk out with 2 crore rupees. Right now!
Teller: Aare, Buddhu. Instead of robbing 2000 rupees with a gun, you can rob 2 crore with a pen.
MIB: Why do you give so much?
Teller: You have to understand we advance huge credit to big business…You know telecom, power, infrastructure. Whether they can pay us back or not, we have to. We are a public sector bank.
MIB: But don’t they pay you back?
Teller: Have you tried doing business in India, hain? You have to get land from farmers, get environmental clearances, sanctions, approvals…red tape. Projects get stalled, costs soar, union and labour problems. Bloody nightmare. By then the money is gone.
MIB: Gone where?
Teller: Some account where it can’t be traced.
MIB: Why doesn’t the bank go to the police?
Teller: And do what? The borrower is living in England or America. His money is in France under some fake account…We just have to declare a loss.
MIB: So if I were a textile king…
Teller: (interrupts) if you were a textile king you would be sipping coffee with the manager while your loan transfer was taking place.
MIB: (sighs) If I wanted money to open a cycle repair shop…
Teller: You would be sitting repairing cycles on the road. We don’t give loans to people who’ll pay us back.
MIB: But then you’ll get millions of paying customers.
Teller: (Starts checking her lipstick) Who wants that! It goes against the banking system.
MIB: Juldikar. My car is parked in the scooter stand.
Teller: You have a car?
MIB: Don’t you?
Teller: On government salary. I can’t afford bus.
MIB: Chalo, jaldi.
Teller: With AC?
MIB: Haanwith AC. And cassette player.
Teller: Kyabank loan pehai?
MIB: I’m a thief, I don’t need bank loans.
Teller: Wait here.
Teller gets up. Takes the pistol and form and heads to the manager’s cabin. The exchange between them is visible through the glass.After a few minutes she returns. Hands over the pistol and token to the robber.
Teller: Take this to window 3.
Man in Black smiles.
Teller: By the way, the money is coming from the minority quota.
(The robber collects the money and departs)
Half an hour later as the bank closes. The teller is seen getting into the car. She and the robber speed away.