I’ve been appalled that my son’s bank in the US has been unable to replace a deleted debit card. On a recent visit to Berlin, I discovered why nothing had happened even after my son’s complaints to the bank. He was being overly polite.

One evening, I heard my boy talk to the bank rep. He sounded as if he were at a confessional. I grabbed the phone from him, ambushing the gentleman at the other end of the line.

 “This here is the boy’s mother,” I said. “I’m sick of this runaround! Did you hear me? I’m sick of it.” I proceed to tell the man just how furious I was with the delay and ineptitude. I used bombastic words. I threw dates. I spat facts. It wasn’t enough that they would not deal with me in America because the son was not a minor anymore. Now that I was in Berlin with my son, I was still being given the runaround, I said.

Ten minutes later, I handed the phone back to my  boy, satisfied that I’d dragged the clerk through the coals. “And that’s how you deal with these people, baby,” I said. I felt proud.  I deserved the Distinguished Service Medal in Mothering.

 My son demurred. He said I had been unpleasant and rude to the clerk.

 I told him he needed to bone up, that he needed to stop sounding as if he were on his first date. I told him he needed to pretend he was being evicted or extradited or something nasty like that. “You need to learn to yell as if you are on your last euro.”   

“But the clerk is merely a cog in the wheel, Mom,” the boy said. “They have rules, you know. The bank guy told you exactly what he told me. You didn’t change the outcome.”

Days later, we were still at an impasse, even after my son mailed them a letter with the requisite information and a signature. Today, two weeks after my return from Berlin, I called the local bank. The accounts manager at the bank, Mike, told me to calm down, that nothing could be accomplished by yelling.

 An hour later I walked into the bank with a copy of my son’s letter. Mike was as calm in person as he had sounded on the phone. His eyes were sky-blue. He had a day’s stubble. He looked like a young philosophy grad who had arrived at his job as a last resort. “Let me check your son’s signature,” he said.

I wanted to tell Mike there was no need. No signature had more cachet than a mother’s testimony. Mothers were always right. We were privy to conversations about warts, fears, girls, dreams—and signatures. No bank or physician’s office could take that away from us just because our child was past 18 years of age. Yes, my son wasn’t a minor anymore. But my major was Mothering, first and foremost, and so I could also weigh in on the point of signature comparison.

I warned Mike. “If you check his current signature against what it was four years ago, I bet it will be quite different.” I told him that college transformed a young man’s outlook as well as his signature.

 Mike looked up and smiled. He asked about Berlin. After looking through the folder they had on file, he nodded.

“Yes, your son’s signature has changed since 2011 and I’m unable to verify it. But you know what? I’m going to help you out. This has gone on way too long. You’ll have a new card in the mail next week.”

I thanked him. As for all the spit and rant over the issue—which will end only when my son receives the card—I believe it was justified.

 My son needs to know this: A little shouting may not open doors but it certainly unlocks a window.

Money In The Bank

The young man was talking animatedly. He raised his right arm to point something out to me when Ganga walked in right behind him with her mop, its scraggly head up. His arm could have slashed her face.

“Ayyo, Old Lady!" Vinayagam yelled out to the maid. "Next time, warn me when you’re walking up behind me! I could have killed you, see? And then, if you go, I’d have to call your son to take care of your cremation and we’d have to arrange for this and that.”

Unfazed, Ganga grinned, baring the jagged edges of her betel-stained teeth. “Sweetheart, don’t fret. Just call my son and take him to State Bank of Mysore where I’ve stashed away money for my cremation expenses.”

I told Ganga to give me her hand. I held it in mine for a few minutes.  Cackling, Ganga said she never ever wants to be indebted to any of her children when she leaves the world. She waved five fingers in the air. “I’ve left 50, 000 Rupees for when I go.”

From right across the room, Vinayagam, who can never appreciate this most empowered woman because she has the balls and the bearing to cuss him right back, told her that it wasn’t enough. “Old Woman, money alone is pointless. You have to tell the bank that your son must have access to it.” 

Then, the two of them—a young man who’s savvy about banks and paperwork, and an old woman who cannot read or write—began hashing out the nitty-gritty about notaries and banks and stamp papers, in a most civil fashion, and for the first time in a long time. There I sat, in the meanwhile, watching, listening to their debate, reflecting on how the subject of Ganga’s final journey out of this world seemed to give the late Daddykins’ man Friday an unusually high degree of satisfaction.