Sonati’s Dental Agony trip to Salem turned into a Mental Agony trip for me. We got off the bus and headed for the Indian Bank ATM [1]. There were a few people clustered around one machine and no-one at the other. I headed optimistically to the unoccupied machine, only to find that it was a pass book updating kiosk. Meanwhile the usual post-demonetisation cry of “kaas ille” had gone up from the other corner and we all exited.
Walking down, we found a sign saying IDBI ATM [2], but the way to approach it was like a war zone: rubble, debris, part of the building demolished to make way for Salem’s Green Elevated Road (the Elevated bridge is painted Green :-)

Onwards. We went to Balas’s Cellar, the library which Badri baba had joined a while ago, and returned books, strolled around, chose fresh books and inquired about nearby ATMs and set off.

SBI ATM [3]: I tried to withdraw, having seen someone successfully (=beaming) exiting the ATM. The transaction times out. Try again. It times out again. Try again. It times out again. I exit.

We decide to head home to Amma/Appa’s place and lunch. En route I noticed that an old favourite Karur Vysya Bank ATM [4] in the Reliance mall which always had money and gave it in 500s, (to encourage you to give it up to Ambani) had moved. When we got off the bus, we decided (Hope springs eternal) to try some more. We walked down towards a Syndicate bank ATM [5] that I knew, but it had disappeared off the face of the earth. We came across an Axis bank ATM [6] that was shuttered and queued up at a UCO (I think) bank ATM [7]. Soon enough, the “kaas illai” cry dispersed the crowd.

ICICI bank ATM [8]: As soon as I put in the card it said “This transaction not valid for this card”. It was meant for ICICI customers only (That notice has been tacked up with felt pen on a cardboard and stuck above the ATM.) Is this even legal? I suppose as legal as “Dogs and Indians not allowed”

We decide to forget it and head home. On the way we passed the two ATMs inside the Sona college campus. Both Axis bank [9] and UCO bank [10] were half-shuttered, the signal indicating kaas illai. A small service performed by the guards for the benefit of the students.

After lunch, a short nap and coffee, we were ready for the main event of the day: Sonati’s date with Dr Vadivel Kumar. That business got done amazingly smoothly and fast.

On the way back, I decide to try one last Canara bank ATM [11] that I knew about. We finally struck gold (or rather paper), and we got the money. In 2000’s. But I was too exhausted to rant about the banks, the government and the undesirability of 2000 rupee notes. 
24 hour ATM has acquired a new meaning: You need 24 hours to find an ATM.

We headed home and I called the boys. And I got the shock: There were SMSes to our phone to the effect that I had withdrawn money twice at the SBI ATM and the transaction had failed once, so the money had been returned once. The boys had assumed that I had failed once, succeeded once and gone about my business.
That was the SBI ATM [3] with the three failed attempts. So I checked on the Internet and found that HORROR of HORRORS: I had been debited thrice for 10,000 rupees and credited once for a failed transaction.
Now what?
Who is responsible?
How does one take an ATM to task?
Oh Hell.

The late Arun Jaitley had once said, “Your money is safe in banks”. Maybe this is what he added to himself, sotto voce: “And safe in banks is where it will stay”

The next day, we came home, and after a lunch made by the boys, I set off to our Indian Bank. I explained the situation to the manager and he saw that the three failed transactions had the same timestamp: 13.45.

Then a digitally savvy young fellow came in and said that this is what happens when the transactions have the same timestamp. The ATM itself will have unique timestamps (including the seconds) which will let it determine that there were actually three transactions and not one transaction mirrored thrice. 
He filed a claim on my behalf and said that the amount would be credited to my account within five working days.
That of course remains to be seen.

But the moral of the story?

If a transaction fails, don’t be in a hurry.
Just wait a minute.

Badri has another solution to establish different transactions: Make the withdrawal amount slightly different each time: 10,000 then 9000, then 9500…

Any of you with comments on this, do comment on the post itself. Maybe we can make a do-it-yourself guide to India’s ATMs. Or a don’t-it-yourself guide. I for one think it is better to spend an hour in the Karumandurai bank queue to withdraw money, passing the time of the day with the others, cursing the demon, rather than search for a 24 hour ATM.