The Open Dosa

Consuming the Ordinary Differently

Overheard at the ATM

Standing in long orderly queues always seems like an alien experience after a lifetime of learning how to push through mobs of people. The new demonetization policy means that I spend a lot more time than I would like to in queues. Luckily, people always say things worth eavesdropping on.

Of the five ATMs in the neighbourhood, only one has worked since the new policy was introduced. It’s right opposite a bank, so you’ll see families and friends shouting at each other from separate queues.

The ATM is located in a bit of a funny location. There are four different lanes that split off from the main road. So it looks a little like this:


ATM     Building     Bank

The building has two floors. People live on the top floor. On the ground floor there is a juice shop, a bakery and two tea shops. When I arrived, they had besieged all the shops. No one could get through the line that was wrapped all around the front half of the building. All the shopkeepers took to reading dailies while the juice shop guy tried to get people to buy stuff or give him change. The lane the ATM is on leads to a bunch of houses and a park.

Dogs and children were running about. A kid in front of me was busy stomping on a glass of coffee while his father was on the phone. The father finally took notice after his kid broke the glass and fell over exhausted from all his efforts. He told the tea shop owner that the glass was already broken and gave the queue an awkward attempt at a poker face.

A person behind me cursed to no one in particular after he saw an entire family exit the ATM. Two women who I had seen at another ATM queue (which ran out of cash when we reached it) discussed the GPS trackers that were allegedly in the new notes and kept debating if both of them should go in together or if one of them should go in alone and risk getting shouted at for taking too long.

A police van was parked near the bank. I’m not sure why but they kept their red light on the entire time. There’s a gym above the bank and a man was texting while looking over us through a small window. A few bored people started flashing rude signs at him to see if he’d notice. Nearby, two dogs were napping and a chat cart owner stared at them enviously. The man in front of me was growing more frustrated smacking his phone with an angry finger while losing the Kannada word game he was playing.

Every now and then, the ATM stopped dispensing cash. The man in front of me called up his wife and told her to send one of their sons to collect his card and go to another ATM.

The queue continued to get more agitated as people only got two-thousand rupee notes. Superstitions were already forming. Someone said you had to wait five minutes between every withdrawal. Another person said you should always try to withdraw above the limit first. Some started to sympathize with the ATM.

“The poor thing. It must also be tired by now.”

“Give it rest. And chai”

“What it really wants is a cigarette.”

“I’ll give it at least five minutes before I withdraw.”

I looked back and saw that the line had not shortened one bit. After an hour of waiting and with just six people in front of me, the ATM ran out of money.

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Rijul Ballal

Reader, writer, blogger, and workaholic. Student of English, journalism and psychology at St. Joseph's college. Can be found over at

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