the loneliest walla II: the bank guard

Here’s my second article for the brand new blog/magazine/community called The India Tube.


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.

5 responses to “the loneliest walla II: the bank guard

  1. You’re forgetting something- even if there’s a security camera, you still need a person at the other end to sit and watch. We don’t yet have the intelligent computer systems of science fiction that can ceaselessly monitor what’s going on without human intervention.

    In this case, they’ve just saved on the cost of a camera- regardless of there being one they would still have to pay someone to watch over the ATM.
    IMO, this is quite a dehumanizing job- at least when the guard is sitting right there, there’s SOME human presence as opposed to him being isolated in a lonely control room somewhere.

  2. hey…
    have been readin ur blog for some time now…
    it’s lovely to see ur view of India…:)
    and truly, it’s sad that people have to bear the sight of others withdrawing money, more money than wat he earns in a month.
    it crushes ur heart to think of it.. but then… life goes on…

  3. Siddharth Agrawal

    Is this all that different from the life of a salesman at a BMW dealership in the States?

  4. This is still better than starving and I’m sure that most of them are happy to be earning, being well fed and taking care of their family (so many of them could be happier than many people in the developed world).

  5. Siddharth has a point. What about the drivers of Rajdhani and Shatabdi Trains? Whole train is AC but his small cabin is not air conditioned!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s