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Famous Reporter # 35
 

 

 

ALAN BARNETT

Alan and Claire's travel blog

"Claire retired in December, 2005 and my business was recently sold. We've decided to use the opportunity to do some world travelling, something we've neglected to do for some time."


 

20th March, 2006: We Dally in Delhi

 

… After extracting ourselves with promises to return, I go to the United Bank of India branch in the downstairs hotel lobby to cash some travellers cheques. I anticipate a two or three minute exercise of endorsing the cheques. However, after stating my wishes at the counter, I’m led around a corner to the back of the bank which resembles the back office of a service station with 6 clerks jammed into a small office in front of the (open) safe. I’m finally told to sit on a stool at a tiny desk at which a clerk is working on ledgers and books right out of the fifties. Over the next half hour or so we go through several steps, some painful, some mysterious and some almost productive. Example. I have five $50 cheques I want to cash. After laboriously copying massive amounts of information from my passport to a three part carbon receipt type booklet (we seem to have misplaced the carbon paper at one point which is cause for a 5 minute absence) he separates one of the travellers cheques from the others and writes "$50 US" on the first line. He then fumbles around his cluttered desk to locate a rate sheet which has the conversion rates for various currencies to rupees. Presume it is up to date, like sometime in this millennium. Then we go searching for a calculator and earnestly apply the proper sums to arrive at the converted number for the $50 which is duly recorded on that line. Now we’re getting somewhere. Except the next step is to take the second $50 traveller cheque and write "$50 US" on the next line down before searching around for that rate sheet again. Apparently he’s concerned that it may have changed somehow during the last five minutes. He writes the same conversion rate down and then goes searching for the calculator again. Upon finding it he multiplies the $50 by the same conversion rate and comes up with the same number of rupees as before. This guy is no slouch. I’m no dummy either and I see where this is going. Sure enough we repeat this three more times and you know what? We get the same answer every time. After this is completed, the calculator, in which I’ve learned to have complete confidence, is used to add it up. I’ve now been sitting in the back room about a half hour. I’m asked to sign the register and follow to the front of the bank where time has, in fact, not stood still. I’m motioned to cashier # 4 to whom he gives this miracle of math. There I stand while (wait for it) the cashier double checks the calculation. As I silently plead with every fibre in my being that he doesn’t find an error and we have to start all over again, I’m repeatedly jostled aside by locals who seem to feel that their banking needs are more urgent than mine. (Let me use the word urgent in this environment very advisedly). The clerk is on my side however, apparently feeling we’re getting very close to consummating this transaction and continues to send these interlopers off to jump ahead of someone else in another line. With great relief I see a satisfied look come over his face as he initials the form and heads for his cash drawer. He reaches in and hands me 11,000 rupees. Having forgotten the purpose of my visit here, I’m surprised that this man is giving me money. I then vaguely remember having surrendered some traveller's cheques earlier that day and suspect that this is somehow related to that event. I gratefully accept the cash and wander away wondering where I am and what day it is. Claire greets me with relief wondering where I’ve gotten to.

 

 

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