'Oh, this is printed material which is sent to everyone along with the ATM card,' the bank manager told me.
'It won't work because the system has changed.'
A Ganesh Nadar encounters the Indian banking system.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
At the best of times it is not a pleasant experience to engage with the banking system, but as my ATM card was damaged recently I had to visit the bank to apply for a new card.
Once the formalities had been complied with, I got an sms within seconds saying Rs 345 had been debited from my account for the new card.
I was surprised at this lightning response and efficiency. And remained so even a week later when I received the new ATM card at my home along with heaps of literature informing me about the benefits of the card and how to use it.
It also gave me four options to get a new personal identification number, popularly known as the PIN, as my previous one had now been disabled, and without which I would not be able to access my bank account.
The first option was to send the bank an sms giving the last four digits of my card and the last four digits of my bank account.
The literature said an OTP would then be sent to my phone which would remain valid for 48 hours. More than 48 hours later, the promised OTP had not arrived.
So I sent the sms again and waited another 48 hours.
Still no OTP.
Realising this was going nowhere, I gave up and tried the second option.
This asked me to go to the ATM, enter my account number, then my mobile number.
An sms would be sent to my mobile phone which should be used within 48 hours.
This seemed by far the best option for I was already at the ATM and all I needed was the PIN, which would unlock my bank account.
Alas! No sms arrived, hence no headway.
Possibly, there was something wrong with this ATM, so I hotfooted it to another SBI ATM and went through the same rigmarole.
The same outcome. No sms, therefore no PIN, and therefore my account remained locked.
Deciding it was time to try out the 3rd option mentioned in the literature -- the IVR.
I duly punched in the numbers given. The automated response asked me to key in my ATM card number which I promptly did.
The IVR told me the card number was wrong, making me double- and triple-check what I was punching in.
I could see it was the correct number, but the automated voice had the final say.
Finally, a breakthrough occurred. My card number was accepted and I was told to press '1' to proceed.
I did so eagerly, only to be told that there was a technical error and to try later.
The final option left was Internet banking, but for this I needed a net banking ID, which only the bank could give me.
So I went to the bank branch and unburdened all my woes on the helpful manager.
'You want to do net banking just to get your ATM PIN?' he asked incredulously.
'So why didn't you ask me for the PIN?'
Dumbstruck, I showed him the literature the bank had sent me on how to get my ATM PIN.
"Oh, this is just printed material which is sent to everyone along with the ATM card. But it won't work because the system has changed," he told me sagely.
I was about to break down when he went to the bank vault and came back with a sealed envelope.
I was told to sign the register to confirm receiving my ATM PIN, and lo and behold! I finally held the key to my bank account in my hand.
I immediately rushed to the nearest SBI ATM to withdraw some much needed cash, but first I had to change the PIN to one of my choice.
I did so and received a receipt saying it had been done.
Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I once again inserted my ATM card and punched in my new PIN.
Instead of the familiar sound of notes being dispensed, all I got was a message on the screen which said: 'This ATM is temporarily out of order, please try another ATM.'