Yesterday I met the ATM Machine Monster. We wouldn’t have met him, if it wasn’t for wifey’s set of cushion-covers!
A couple of months ago, wifey bought a set of cushion-covers of an odd size. She’s been trying to buy cushions to fill those covers, but without much success. So yesterday, she took the momentous decision of getting cushions made from the thade ka gaddewalla (the road-side stuffer and vendor of mattresses and quilts.)
I know that it wasn’t an easy decision for her. While Delhi‘s ladies are born with a discerning eye and an unparalleled passion to find the best deals on the pavements of the city, wifey is an import from the exotic south. So for her, haggling with the streetsiders was never an option – not until yesterday, when she finally caved in and realized that if she wanted those cushions to adorn the settee in our living area, she will have to go to the gaddewale bhayya (the mattress-filling brother.)
Perhaps you know that the urban india is fast getting into the plastic-money mode. Everyone, except wifey and a handful of others, have a credit- or a debit-card. Wifey doesn’t have one, because she uses mine. The unfortunate fallout of living with plastic money is that you don’t carry much cash with you. However, the gaddewale bhayya isn’t someone who’d accept anything other than cold, hard cash, and so I found myself queued up in front of an ATM Machine.
In front of me was a rather well-endowed young lady who reminded me of the Walmart people. By her side stood an emaciated man in his thirties who kept scratching his stubble, confirming my opinion that he was running close to the time of his fortnightly bathing ritual. You might be wondering whether this man was between me and the Walmart-lady; and if he were, then why was on the side and not behind her. And no they weren’t together. Well, that’s how queues are formed in India.
So we stood there and waited, and waited. But the ATM’s door didn’t open. After five minutes, we began to grow restless. The lady in front of me cracked the door open and said in her sweet, melodious voice, “Come out now. This is an ATM not your house!”
That was the first time I laid eyes on the monster. He was a roly-poly thirty-some man with a round bespectacled face and beady eyes. He slowly turned on his heel, and growled, “I need ten more minutes.”
“Ten minutes?” exclaimed the lady with spilling tires.
“Ten minnnnutes?” drawled the thin pin who stood at her left.
“Ten minutes?” yowled wifey who had accompanied me to the ATM.
“I’ve already been waiting for ten minutes, said the walmart lady who possibly wanted to withdraw the cash to buy new dresses that were at least two sizes larger. Everyone understood her emergency. Everyone except the ATM monster. He whipped out his cellphone and started talking while punching numbers in the machine.
The lady continued to complain. A few minutes later, he relented, but stayed inside. The lady who needed new bigger garments squeezed inside, finished her transaction in under a minute, and left the ATM after throwing the monster a dirty look. The monster smirked and hogged the machine once again.
During this time, another man, clearly of Punjabi descent joined the queue behind me. The ATM guard (yes, our ATMs have guards) too became interested in the going-ons. And I lost patience. Mr. Reedy-Needy didn’t, even though he was technically ahead of me in the queue.
“Please come out so that others can use the machine,” I yelled. He ignored me.
“If you have to do ten transactions, you must queue up again,” I shouted. He turned, very slowly, and glared at me. Then he turned back and began punching numbers.
“People’ve been waiting here forever, you must leave the machine now,” I said, trying to sound stern without getting shrill. He turned again and said, “give me five more minutes.”
The slim-stick ahead of me was still the embodiment of patience. Wifey had begun to turn red – she usually turns red before she explodes, so I was getting really worried. But what actually made the ATM Monster take notice of us was the complaint from the Punjabi gentleman behind me.
“Oji,” he drawled, “I’ve been standing in this queue for half an hour, get out, ji get out.”
The monster turned his head and said, “I’ve been inside this ATM for 15 minutes and there was nobody when I came, how could you have been here for half-an-hour?”
That was a logical question. He came after me, and I had been standing there only for about 8 minutes. But then he was on my side – and teeny-tiny details didn’t matter.
So then we all did what we do when we see monsters. We used brute force. All of us, excluding Mr. Thin who wanted to withdraw money to buy a cake of soap, opened the ATM door, got inside and stared him down.
“Do you mean that if I have to do six transactions, I should queue-up six times?” The monster complained.
“Yes,” we replied in unison.
“That’s ridiculous, all I want is 5 minutes!”
“No,” we shook our heads.
“Okay, then, I’ll wait,” he said, slunk to the corner of the ATM and stood there. Wifey and I stayed in and I withdrew the cushion-money.
It was then that the monster farted – a long and uniform fart that couldn’t be mistaken for one that escaped his buttland in error; that fart had “deliberate” stamped on each of its smelly stinky molecules.
He smiled at us victoriously, and said, “Sorry!”
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