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The Human Touch : How Important is it?

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This is a post I wrote on Facebook on 8/7/2016, a month before I started blogging. Reading Audrey’s post  Spend Time With People not devices, reminded me of my earlier post and I decided to share it here.

Below is the post as published on 8/7/2016.

 

8/7/2016

Went to the State Bank of India (S.B.I) today on St. marks Road. This bank has a special place in my heart. It shares the compound wall with my school. As I would walk to school everyday, I would walk past these walls, completely in awe of what lay within. I had no idea then how the relationship with this institution would only grow stronger as I grew older. Getting married to someone who had lived his entire life in the S.B.I  fraternity (his dad worked in this prestigious organisation), a connection was made in the literal sense…

Stepping in today was a different experience. The branch felt like an Elite senior home, filled with respectable, retired folks- walking sticks, white tufts of hair, impeccably dressed, whose children were in the U.K., U.S.A and the Gulf and couldn’t come all the way to India to complete the tedious tasks involved in selling, buying property, depositing funds and whose parents continued the responsibility very proudly, of managing their children’s transactions. To some, it meant a connection with their children, probably the last thread- receiving wire transfers, making withdrawals, deposits; to some it was the one activity every month or every quarter that provided a escape from their daily routine “of nothing much to do” to having “a actual job to complete”. 

Being in banking, I was naturally drawn to see how things worked. The N.R.I (Non-Resident Indian) department which generally is the most sophisticated in any branch in India was now reduced to a small space (because a large area of the branch was undergoing refurbishment and had been cordoned off), in which officers of all cadres sat cramped up with barely any moving space and no seating for waiting customers except for the one chair in front of each servicing officer’s desk ; yet customers did not seem to be complaining at the discomfort. Having worked in the U.A.E, where service and customer comfort is primary and involves the cost of state of the art branches, I was surprised, if not shocked.

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What made this place special? Why were customers ready to wait under one slowly revolving fan even in the month of July? The answer was that the officers at the branch were kind, sensitive, respectful to the sexagenarians, septuagenarians referring to them as “uncle”, “sir”, “ma’am”, “amma” and patiently answering every question which is more often than not repeated more than thrice; the answers also had to be repeated the same number of times (as is usual for this generation to be completely sure before taking any action or passing on any information to their children on a foreign land).

service1While we waited around wondering who to speak to for a few queries that my dad had, somebody who had helped dad a few months ago for a change of address, now came to help him again. No expectations, no relation, just humanity and respect for the elderly. Thanks to this person, the job was completed with no hassles. For the first time, it felt Banking was indeed part of the service industry and not just a business where products are sold to make a profit…a point that has been relegated to the background these days. 

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As we move towards digitization, we are slowly creating a world that is convenient- Yes! But a world where people become more and more isolated. Is it a good thing? I’m not too sure. Absence of eye-contact, a real conversation with human beings will come with a cost, as man was meant to be a social being.

Digitization a necessary evil

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In my current situation, where I try to juggle work, kids, home, online- everything is a blessing. To be able to order the items online that I find missing in the refrigerator in the middle of my cooking or to order food online when I am too tired to cook and to book a taxi online when I need to travel to office and to do banking at my finger-tips, I cannot help but sing it’s virtues. The job gets done  without any human interaction what-so-ever and I am happy with the time saved.

service8However, I wonder if I will feel the same when I grow a sixty and have only time on my hand.  I wonder if our children or our children’s children or their children will know how to talk to people or as an ongoing cycle of evolution, will they lose their ability to talk and be left with just big hands and a head that’s chip sized? Nature has a way of getting rid of that physical feature that is least used over time and developing that which is used the most.

I end this post with a question to you, “Will you be happy in a digital world, devoid of the human touch?”

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18 Comments »

  1. Like you, I enjoy the conveniences of online life and of anonymity when I want it, but I do find it depressing that we are moving everything to online ‘digital by default’ is a UK government strategy. I work in libraries and we are often the place older and vulnerable people come to when they just want to pass the time of day and see a person, though even in libraries we’re moving towards self service and have to fight to tell people that we aren’t like Amazon, we do so much more besides provide books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow! You work in libraries. That’s so perfect for you. Couldn’t have imagined you anywhere else. In India, I would spend hours at the library. But they seem extinct in my part of the world now and it must be years since I last visited one. You brought back some lovely memories. Self-service bank branches, supermarkets, hotels and Ģod knows what next. I remember the librarian used to be the informal book reviewer or just someone who you could stop by and chat about what you read or how your day was. There’s so much more to the job than providing a book. I had always dreamed of working in a library when I was little.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Robbie…you said it! ” It takes the love out of everything”. Sadly, it’s happening and if not for creative people like you, we will lose the human touch. Your cakes are a symbol of keeping the human touch alive.

      Liked by 1 person

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