Innovative way to Double Bank Deposits

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*Hari Prahladreminisces...

The Woman With a Heart of Gold…

I joined a nationalized bank in 1982 and was posted as a probationary officer to Meerut Cantonment branch. There were three of us probationary officers posted there–one each from Chennai, Bangalore, and rural Andhra Pradesh.
The day we joined, two events took place. The manager, a six-foot-four guy from Punjab looked down on us shorties menacingly and allocated departments for us to take charge of. I was given savings bank, the Bangalorean was given fixed deposits, and the AP guy was given current accounts. The manager then went on to tell us that if we wanted to be confirmed as assistant managers in the services of the bank, we had to double the deposits in our respective departments.
We came out of his air-conditioned cabin which had tinted glass all around it—he rarely came out of the cabin, except to go to the toilet. The local staff then pounced on us and asked for our names and the typical Indian question "What is your native place?" was thrown at us, of course, in Hindi. For the benefit of non-Indians, "native place" is the Indian way of saying hometown. It was a bit complicated for me having one parent from Kerala and one from Tamil Nadu but in the end it boiled down to "where were you born?" I had the advantage over the other two because my name could be pronounced by the locals (although Krishna became Kishan), and when they learned that I was born in Naini Tal, the response was "Arre yaar, tum toh apna aadmi hai! Khaane ke liye hamaare saath baith ja." (You are our guy! Sit with us when it is time to eat). Officers generally ate with the manager inside his cabin but I was the maverick who bucked the trend and ate with the clerical staff and the peon.
They then wanted to know what the man in the cabin told us. They never used to call him "manager." They had only contempt for him and used to call him "damager." "Kya bola paagal damager?" (What did the mad damager tell you?) So we told them that he asked us to double the deposits, and they all look at one another and agreed that he was indeed crazy. How is it possible, they asked, to double the deposits, when the customers were all army people who only maintained a minimum balance in their accounts?
The peon (or attender as we call them) became pally with me when he came to know that I was a Naini Tal-born guy. He said he was from Dehra Dun and that made us "paharhi" (hills) brothers. "Hum paharhi log ek saath rehna chahiye!" (We people from the hills ought to stick together!) The lone Sikh in the branch says he is from Hemkunt Sahib and immediately starts calling me "Paaji." (Elder brother). The Bangalorean and the AP guy were astonished at how the locals embraced me and wanted to know what I did. I said it was merely the accident of my being born at the right place. I just happened to be born in the right town—at least as far as the locals were concerned.
That evening I sat down with the peon for evening sundowners; Old Monk was the facilitator. I told him again about what the "damager" said. The response was predictable. "Damager paagal hai." (The manager is mad). And then he threw in this statement. "Aaj kal kiske paas paisa hai? Sirf rundee ke paas paisa hai! Sach ya jhoot?" (Who has money these days? Only hookers have money! True or false?) And I agreed.
That night I pondered over this profound statement of the peon. Even during the worst of times, hookers always had money. An idea began to form in my head, and the next day I again asked the peon out for drinks. I told him we should open bank accounts for hookers.  He was horrified at first but after a couple of pegs became more rational and started thinking clearly. He said he would take me to the "red light area" but I would have to do all the talking myself.
We took his old Lambretta scooter and went to the "red light area," which was called Kabaarhi Bazaar. We went to the biggest whorehouse, and there were these women peeping out from windows and inviting us in. The peon and I nonchalantly walked in and one of the hookers propositioned us. We said we only wanted to talk. She asked what about. We told her we were from a nationalized bank, and we wanted to talk to them about investing money for their future. A crowd of about 50 hookers collected; they all sat on the ground around us, and I gave them possibly the finest speech I have ever given in all my years of varied work experience. They should save for the rainy day, I told them. They were in this profession because of lack of opportunities elsewhere, I told them. Those with kids should educate them, I told them. Those with elderly parents should send money to their parents and take care of them, I told them. They said nobody had ever approached them so far. I said that I have come now and showed them my ID. All I needed is identification which was a ration card photocopy and a photograph. They all had valid ID. Some even said their names were on the voters' list. The peon was still doubtful. He asked me sotto voce whether it was against the rules of banking. I asked him that if a person could vote and have a ration card, why couldn't she have a bank account? That clinched it. We pulled out the account opening forms and started raking in the moolah. The only glitch was that all the names were Rita, Sita, Anita, Sheila, or Gita and none of them gave their husband's name or father's name; one column in the opening form was left blank. The first day we collected 25000, the second day 50000, and the third day it was 100000.
The bank clerical staff members were all aghast when garishly painted women with swaying hips and musical anklets entered the branch. The manager in his AC cabin was blissfully unaware of what was happening outside. The union branch secretary has been informed by the peon, and he says "Arre Prahlad! Yeh kya kar diya tumne?" (What have you done, Prahlad?) and I told him that nowhere in the rules does it say that a hooker cannot have a bank account and he had better accept the hard-earned money. For good measure, I throw in the Hindi translation of a Tamil proverb (Karuvaadu vitha kaasu naaraadu) which means that money earned from selling dried fish does not stink. A system was adopted whereby one hooker would collect the money from all the others and deposit it on their behalf.  Unlike politicians, hookers are honest. Sheila and Gita were selected to deposit the money on alternate days. The guys in the bank immediately started calling Sheila "Mona Darling." Sheila had a heart of gold. She would sashay up to my desk and smile at me whenever she came to the bank. The army men, all separated from their families,  who had accounts were thrilled. All they had to do was come to the bank to book a hooker. They would withdraw money from their accounts, pay it to the hooker who came to deposit the combined earnings of the others, and the hookers would deposit that money right back into the bank. It was a foolproof method of ensuring that money never left the bank.
Deposits doubled in 45 days. The manager rang his bell one day and the peon went to answer it. The peon came out and said "Boss, damager tumhe bula raha hai." (Boss, the manager is calling you). By that time, most staff members had adopted the honorific "boss" for me, except the Sikh who stuck to "paaji." I had no problem with it. If Sheila could be "Mona Darling," why couldn't I be "Boss?" The rationale given for calling me "boss" was that this was the first time they had come across somebody who organized hookers, took money from them, and tried to assist them by investing that money for them.
Manager was very happy. "Great job, Prahlad! I just saw the statements and you have doubled the deposits. You are confirmed in the services of the bank. Try to help the other officers also. Teach them how to achieve their targets." I murmured an okay and left his cabin.
A couple of months passed. Regular inspection time came up. A Tamilian officer from Chennai came for inspection. He didn't know a word of Hindi. He asked for the savings bank account opening forms and sure enough discovered that many lady customers had not given their husband's name or father's name. I had, in the meanwhile, been transferred to the fixed deposits department, and the AP guy was in charge of savings bank. He immediately said that he was not responsible for this error of omission and that all these accounts were opened by Prahlad. The inspector asked me why the husband's name/father's name column was blank. I said the ladies refused to divulge the details. I said everything else was there, ID proof, photograph, et al. He was a stickler for detail and said that he would go strictly by the rule book. The Sikh came to my rescue. He told the inspector that some of these customers would come to the bank themselves and that he, the inspector, could ask them for the missing details.
The bank staff members were now eagerly waiting because they knew it was Mona Darling's time to come to the bank. She walked in and every pen in the bank dropped. The Sikh walked up to the inspector and told him that this was one of the customers who had not given her husband's name. The inspector, who had by then been given a short primer on a few Hindi words and phrases, walked up to the counter and said "Madam, idhar aao." (Madam, come here). Mona Darling's eyebrows shot up. Nobody has ever called her "madam" before. She says "Ek minut, sahib. Paisa jamaa karke aaoongi." (One minute, sir. I will deposit the money and then come.) She put her hand into her blouse, pulled out a sheaf of notes, and deposited it.
She then sashayed up to his desk and says "Haanji. Bolo." (Yes, Sir. Tell me) He said "Tumhaara pati ka naam kya hai?" (What is your husband's name?) And he pointed to the blank space in the account opening form. Everybody had stopped working by now and the silence was deafening. The army guys and the bank staff were all waiting to hear the answer. Sheila looks at me, grinned broadly, and winked. She then rearranged the pallu of her sari to display a generous amount of cleavage, put her hands down on the desk, leaned, and smiled at the inspector. The inspector's lower jaw dropped; he could see nothing but cleavage. She then uttered these unforgettable words, "Babuji, tumhaaraa naam hi likh lo na!" (Sir, write your own name there!). The branch erupted and Sheila walked up to my desk, fiddled with the collar of my shirt and said "Waqt miley toh shaam ko aa jaana. Baat karna hai" (If you have the time, come in the evening. We have to talk). She then walked out regally, anklets clinking musically, and hips swaying in the most suggestive manner possible.
The inspector sat with his head in his hands.
Years later, a bank executive spoke to a group of officers and said, "I have heard that there were some officers here who treated the premises of the bank like Bill Clinton treated the Oval Office."

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