Thursday, June 21,12 ~ All jostled up and cramped inside a 'ten by eight' cubicle... (some swear its smaller than that!)
I have seen people all queued up to get in this gloriously crammed ATM while passing by and thought "it'd suck big time to be a part of that". I have seen German tourists risk their life getting inthere. Maybe they wanted to satisfy their European thirst for thrill and adventure and this was the 'ultimate life-threatenin g experience' to brag about when they get back home! Sure enough, they clicked photos with their gigantic mega-pixelled camera as evidence.
Fast tracking to my present connondrum now-- Allthree alternative ATMs in the town were out of service (which is not a surprise for a small town here in Churachandpur, Manipur), and here I am, holed up with strangers a littte bit too close for comfort and I swear the guy behind me might have been thrusting his pelvis a little too much;). But no complaints there, this is how its done here and "when in Rome...."
Now lets go back to how I ended up in here.
After standing some while outside to get in the ATM, my turn had finally come. It took more than twenty cars, more thirty two-wheeled vehicles, a gang of school kids, add another gang, the police entourage, a dozen cyclists and a lot of pedestrians when it did.
I took a gulp of the last taste of fresh air.. for the last time.. maybe I will not come out alive, and even if i did, I may not be the same again. My lungs will breathe in unfamiliar whiff of air, but, dear old lungs was also up for a challenge like those Europeans. Afterall, if Columbus can navigate his way through uncharted waters, so could I step into this jungle of people.
So, when an elderly lady stepped out after much struggle, I slid myself in through the swiveling glass door and.... suddenly, my nostrils was bombed with the musty, thick air and all I could breathe was the fierce sweat and distinctive odour of the impatient crowd in there. Naturally, my survival instinct kicked in and my brain sent signals that I had to fight for my quota of O2 ( or whatever it was) or else I would asphixiate and pass out.
Waiting for close to an hour was not the main struggle I soon found out, for I saw that there wasa sea of people in there enough to out-number train passengers in a thinly populated country like, lets say, Iceland, or even the passengers of a double-deckered bus in London! We got skills better than Chinese-Circus contortionist fitting happily in harmony in here. Everyone kept staring at the screen like how people stared at a theatre screen in the city, except this screen was smaller. So, when someone takes turn, everyone knew what and which account or page you accessed or your name displayed at the welcome page. And if someone messed up, the men would give them a lecture on how they shouldn't be there if they didn't know how to operate the machine. There was no sense of fear of identity theft or that someone might get a glimpse of your precious PINcode and drain your life's savings even when a gang of impatient crowd was breathing hotly upon your neck. This was a small town and we are still unevolved in criminal ways. Someday we'll get there.
Inch after inch, I took tiny steps forwards. I heard how a lady in her mid twenties whispered to her friend that she was actually 'nervous' for her turn to come. Seriously? A performance anxiety in the ATM?? She confessed that it was gonna be her first time so like a good citizen, I assured her that I would be glad to assist her. (She didn't even know if I was a fraudster or not, but lucky her, I was not.) The guy next to me talked about how we needed a couple more machines in there.I hadactually become used to the place and even started making friends in there while waiting for my turn to come. I even met an old friend from high school with her baby in her hands and caughtup with her for a while. And it struck me that if I looked more, some more familiar faces might be in there with me. But, there were none.
After about a good forty to fifty minutes, my turn came and without much significance, I finished my transaction and fought my way outside. Trust me, getting out was harder! Before, I exited the door, I gave one final look and pitied the people who came after me and would wait for their turn. in their eyes, they were jealous. Well they should be, for I was now free. But, who knows what surprise they might bump into or if that preety looking girl will be chatted up by a guy. For me, it was " adios and Sayonara!"
P.s. Need these items if I ever might step in there again:
1. A notepad and a pencil if i get inspired in there.
2. An oxygen breathing apparatus for emergency.
3. Brush up on my CPR technique.
4. Is it possible to add a coffee flask? Might come handy if the day gets cold!
(Thank you for reading)