The ATM boy…

It was late winter night, one of the chilliest in otherwise delightful Pune climate. Streets were empty and there was mild fog that took a yellow tinge of streetlights…..

I had worked till late and was heading home, when I realized my bike was low on petrol. I turned to the nearest filling station and like every time, I was the last customer to slip through, before the barricades were moved out with a closed sign.

The attendant asked for cash because card swipe machines had been closed for the night. I had no cash in my purse. The attendant agreed to wait till I could take some cash out from an ATM in the same premise.

It was late, cold and I was in too much rush. I fumbled to shove my card into the machines throat that choked again and again, rejecting my card. From the corner of my eye, I saw him get up from a chair, meant for ATM security personnel. Quietly he took my card and somehow machine accepted it from him! He was back to his chair before I could take the cash out and turn to thank him.

But I turned and stopped at the sight of bizarre scene. The lanky and tall boy looked much younger, pouring over a heavy stack of notes, quite unaware of my presence in the same ATM cabin. I tried to take a peek but could not make out what he was reading.

I asked him, “What is it that you are reading?”

He looked up with the same serene swiftness that he had dealt the ATM machine with, “study notes”

An ATM security guard, studying on duty in the middle of the night…?

“what is it that you are studying for?”

“UPSC exam”

(It is a very very tough exam that selects government officials in India. Those who get through UPSC are appointed on crucial governance posts)

The boy had come from a remote drought prone village. He spent his day in tuitions and study circles and worked at night as ATM security guard. The night job gave him accommodation in ATM cabin and a monthly paycheck….

I did have so many more questions to ask, about his family and why he wanted to do all this in the first place…..But I managed to remember that the petrol station attendant was waiting for me, I should rush out to pay him….

I wished luck to the strange boy and he replied in well-practiced English. My tired, irritated mood had suddenly moved into such warm glowing elation!

Every time I think of him, I wish, he would become a smart, strict officer very soon. He would take decisions that will improve a million lives and stop wrong practices, bribes and corruption…..

Every time at the office, we work on designs of institutional campuses I think of that boy…. I want to build facilities for him…. I want to watch him studying in well-lit, warm classrooms and dormitories….not in a shabby, cold ATM cabin…. not anymore.



10 thoughts on “The ATM boy…

  1. Anu, very touching to read! When one is in a comfort zone, one does not give his or her best. It is this boy’s struggle that will make him successful. Success is not only in becoming an officer with power but a citizen of his own making!

    • Thank you uncle, what a prompt comment!!
      Being an officer is a specific wish for this boy, since I take it for granted that he is already a valuable citizen!
      And even though I am sure, his struggle will make him stronger, The boy is earnest, hard working, intelligent and it does not justify him having to struggle…..while there are state of the art campuses in this very city, where they charge 5 lakh Rs, per year, from parents who hardly care, for kids that rarely study!

      I consider it as my highest right and responsibility to work towards providing for everyone who aspires and fights to grow up into a better being. That is how I wish to earn my living.
      Our effort may or may not reach specifically this kid…. however microscopic, we are simply contributing to that universal force of goodness!

  2. Hmm… I too came across a boy who was studying for UPSC at an SBI ATM! Thanks for writing my feelings (too) in your blog… u have expressed them so well! 🙂 Keep writing…

  3. Very well written Anoo.. You have put the truth of the hardworking but not so blessed younger generation in such a true earnest form. I wish and pray for that boy and many kids like him. May we all learn from this too, that its not just always about us, its about all thats around us and makes us who we are.
    Goodness is there but needs to be manifested!
    Small deeds and dreams that will come to life- like yours, will make the difference.

  4. This is what makes me hopeful …. Such people inspire me and save me from becoming a cynic. You can go and meet him another day and if he needs any help (I am sure he is self-dependent), let us know.

  5. He has understood the importance of hard work and education. Hard work is a rope that can carry us to greatness. It is one of the most important things in life because without education and hard work you can’t contribute to the world or earn money. Knowledge is power, so when you know what you can do, you can go that mile further. Meeting him again will be pleasurable to see him growing

    • So true…. that it takes persistent hard work to contribute to the world or earn money…. but it is equally important to have a clean reason behind all the hard work, to feel total passion toward living a focused life. Then work does not seem hard, but the most natural thing to do, just like breathing!
      In case of this kid, i would rather watch him work hard for his studies, not for his basic needs…. acutely when i also watch people with all resources at hand not respecting the opportunity

  6. this post reminds me of a small story “Honesty comes from the heart” by Sudha Murthy… Working hard and being honest will never fail one to take them to heights, their destination.
    Wishes to the boy

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