Life of a watchman, no matter where, is bound to be very boring, dull and drab. By the way, I am also a watchman in a bank, the State Bank of India. Life is really too monotonous for us, we see the same faces all the time, and they also doing the same drab work in action always having their eyes glued to registers, files or some ledgers. Then, the same public coming in and going out of the bank. Same faces, same monotony, same work and I, standing alone at my post, at the entry point with a loaded gun in case of any untoward incident. This routine is the fate of all watchmen at any bank and so has it been mine, for the last ten years. I am really bored stift with the same dull routine, and same tensions, of course sometimes punctuated with few moments of respite on some few days.
In these long years of service, even the moments of respite have become a sort of a routine, which are of course less boring. One such day, I still remember though one of routine, gave me sufficient food for thought and for memory. That day was a wonderful day in all its splendour and delight. It was the 1st May and we were all to get enhanced salaries and also some arrears and D.A. We were all in a gala mood, and the entire staff with the manager had decided to call it a day. We had planned that, at lunch time, after 2 p.m. when the bank would be closed for the public, we would get together and celebrate the pay and D.A. hike, on this very first day.
The plan had been made and approved by our manager, and we were eagerly awaiting the get-together. All our eatables had arrived and the wonderful smells emanating from the variety of foodstuffs was making it intolerable for us to bear the twinge in our stomachs and the thought of it all, made us all feel that time was moving so slow. It appeared that, all of us were keeping a strict eye on the needles of the clock on the wall, waiting for it to show 2 p.m. All this was set, and our moods were upbeat, but the clock was moving very lazily. I saw that it was only 1 p.m. and, after about a few hours as though, it came to be just 1.10 Oh, what had happened to the clock, at least I was absolutely exasperated, looking at the clock and waiting for 2 p.m. While this was our moods, it seemed that God had something else in store for us.
This was the scenario in the bank for the employees, and crowds of people were coming and going out of the bank. Crowds were standing on the payment counters, and the staff was eager to dispose them off as fast as possible. At this juncture, it seemed that the clock had stopped, fast as possible. At this juncture, it seemed that the clock had stopped when it was just 1.20 p.m. There was, a loud uproar somewhere near the entry of the bank just where I stood. I got alerted, but just could not really perceive anything, when just then, there was still another very loud noise which was this time accompanied with a thick cloud of gases hovering above our heads. At once, the serene and quiet atmosphere of the bank was converted into a holocaust. The people who had been crowding around the various counters ran helter skelter. I could not still understand exactly what had happened though it was clear by now that, all was not well, and possibly, there had been a bomb blast nearby. Half the public went out in the open, some stayed clustered in corners of the building, and our staff members huddled under their chairs, benches, counters, wherever they could find a place to hide.
The position was such that, I could not even move to hide from any eventuality. I was still contemplating as to what I should do, when a band of six rowdies whose faces were covered, came up to me, threatened me of grave consequences if I made a noise, and went straight to where the cashier was. There they divided into two batches of three each, with, three staying on to deal with the cashier, and three of them took to the strong room of the bank after having taken the keys of the same from the cashier. I was a witness to this entire drama but, could do nothing to save myself or the bank.
While the gory process was still on, I saw a jeep halting near our bank premises. Oh what a relief I felt for the jeep I noticed was full of police constables, and officers coming to the rescue of the bank. They were all carrying guns and I thought with great satisfaction that now, the dacoits would be caught. My heart as though stopped beating when I wondered what was next in store for us. While I was still in a dazed condition, I noticed to my amazement that, the S.P. Sahib was also there with the police party. They all came up to the bank premises and got hold of the situation. After a scuffle, the robbers were made to leave all their booty and some were caught, while some escaped. They were told by S.P. Sahib that there will be no harm done to them, if they left all that they had stolen. So, they did as they were instructed, and we were all relieved at the saving of the bank and its men, and they started moving out of the bank followed by me, the watchman of the bank. However, those hard core criminals could not leave without doing some damage. Just as they were on the second last step of the stairs, one of them looked back, and shot at the S.P. Shahib, who lay dead on the last step of the bank building. This act of theirs could not be taken lying down, and I also shot at them and the jeep standing to whisk them away. Two of them died on the spot, and the remaining four were taken into police custody, as the jeep had been rendered immobile.
That day I can never forget, and it stands in my memory as a red letter day. We lost our S.P. who was a real bravado and who had love for the poor. That day was the first day of my long career of fifteen years when I used my weapon. It is really true that, “Man proposes and God disposes”. The day which we thought we had earmarked for a lot of enjoyment and fun, and a celebration became a doom for our bank. I was of course given a medal for my bravery, by the Government, but, can I ever forget the S.P. who had been sacrificed. The flavour of savouries was changed into the gore of our beloved S.P. Sahib. That day, the 1st of May, can never be forgotten by me for many reasons. It has become a red letter day not only for me and my career but also for my life. I just cannot obliterate the face of the dead S.P. lying in a pool of blood, from my aging eyes.