The Loneliest Wallah (II): The Bank Guard
by Dave Prager
Originally published on The India Tube
Last September and October, Delhi became darker and more disgusting. It was an invasion of leafhoppers: fly-esque creatures that feed on the paddy crop in the rural areas around Delhi. They’d been eating good, and heavy rains meant they were drinking good as well; and one day they took to the skies and headed towards Delhi by the billions with the singular goal of smashing themselves against bright lights until they died.
In Delhi’s glass-enclosed ATMs, garishly lit with white florescent to attract light-walleted passers-by, they became the only real company for the stoic and sleepless bank guards.
These guards’ posts became snow globes that someone had shaken (after replacing the snowflakes with squirming black insects). The poor guards stared without expression as bank customers franticly waved their arms to warn the pests off; but the guards didn’t sympathize for entomological discomfort lasting the duration of a single transaction when they were the ones sitting there all night in their florescent cages, the insects crawling on their heads, landing on their mustaches, mating and dying in the air they breathed while thousands more on the outside slammed themselves against the glass walls and fell into piles on the ground, little snowdrifts of black life now lifeless, waiting for the morning sweeper.
It could be worse than being an ATM guard. There is AC in these vestibules, which is nice. There is protection from the sun and the rain and the cold, which is nice. There are people to watch, which is nice.
Every so often a real sight to see comes through the door: like when our friend Trevor, a six-foot-tall black man with long black dreadlocks, wearing a skin-tight tank top, sashayed into our local Citibank ATM lobby on the first day of his visit with us. The guard stood and stared and walked forward for a closer look, as if in a trance, and stood next to Trevor and scrutinized his face for the duration of the transaction. But the sights are fleeting. And any company a guard may have lasts only as long as it takes the machine to validate a PIN.
The ATM guard: he exists because the sum total of the his labor and his cognitive capacity as a human being is valued to be slightly less than the cost of acquiring and installing a security camera. His job is to sit and watch men and women withdraw more money in one go than he might earn in a month.
And, while there are plenty of low-income workers in this city, but few are forced to earn their pay by watching other people count and pocket theirs.