The Flavours of Service

The Flavours of Service….
The last week was a different one. I got to taste many flavours of something for the first time. It wasn’t icecream- just something more novel.
The first flavour was at the local Canara bank. Is it imagination or something else. Whenever I walk into.a public sector undertaking can’t help get the feeling that the bubbonic plague may be more welcome here than a customer.
A simple request to open a bank account was greeted by a ping pong reply pushing us to the next and the next cashier who to our consternation was also processing cheques, deposits, new card requests, and more with a sleight of the hand that would be the envy of any magician.
With one side glance at us she declared ” No account without Aadhar or Pan Card”. Yes, dear- but this time we were prepared- having heard that oft- repeated slogan many a times. Producing the precious two documents didn’t suffice though; for she needed photocopies. And then we asked innocently ” Can you not take a photocopy in here?” which evinced a curt reply” No- it’s the customer’s duty to get the copies”.
Feathers being ruffled, I didn’t give up. ” Madam, we are customers . You are the service provider. Please understand our problem. The photocopying shop is quite far and we need to rush back “. Not much use though, for back came a quick repartee from the bank staffer “I am not your servant”. I was now truly gobsmacked. Servants, service and so on. What did these terms mean? Will run to the Oxford dictionary next to understand this better. And so we retreated this time, albeit defeated, from the esteemed Canara bank.
The next stop was at the local community clubhouse. Being new to the Rainbow Drive community this was my first taste of the new flavour. A worker had retired and the lovely ladies had decided to host a potluck lunch in his honour to all workers. I pitched in with fried papads (not too tough to make- that’s me) and went in to see the hall setup with tables, mats, and banana leaves for the lunch . And what a sumptuous meal it was ! The ladies had outdone themselves with bisibele bhath, curd rice, raita, pulav, sabji, paysam and many many more delights- all made at home with love.
The workers trooped in and sat down to eat.We started serving . In typical south Indian style -salt, pickle, papad, sabji, rice, sambar, rasam and more. And the simple act of serving the food items and seeing their joyful faces brought so much delight. The gardeners, cleaners, security staff and more who served us every day. A different flavour of service this time- me and others at the serving end…
I failed to understand. Why is service or servant a bad word?The curt reply from the bank staffer ” I am not your servant!” ringing in my head.
Well- yes you are not; but, having come here to open a bank account I am at your mercy, my dear. So what would you rather I do, to receive your precious service? Grovel at your feet? Was at a loss to understand this.
A thought- let me take Gandhiji’s quote back to the bank the next time:
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
And have this framed perhaps or even as a screensaver on all the public sector machines.
Maybe I shouldn’t taint them all with a bad brush but show me an example of customer delight at any of these undertakings and I am happy to retract.
Aina Rao
The Amblingindian. For quirky and thought provoking reads on India.



Author: Aina Rao

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