When the Arab boy fell in love with me

5

 

Many years ago, I started my career with an MNC Bank, as a Teller. It was a fabulous journey, especially because being part of front office involved interacting with tonnes of people on a daily basis. I liked some, I disliked some, but it was a great experience as the learning was immense. I was a bright kid who learnt the ropes fast. Being a quick and active learner also helped in climbing the corporate ladder and soon I was promoted to the HNI (High Networth Individuals) category services where I dealt only with the whose-who kind of clientele of the Bank. The definition of HNI also included foreign clients who visited the Bank to collect their monies remitted from their home country. That’s when I had this chance encounter, with a boy not only half my size but perhaps one-fourth my age too!

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One day I was at my desk, when an Arab walked up to me. He was dressed in traditional Arab attire and had come to collect funds that were remitted in his name. I processed the transaction at the earliest and the man was very grateful for that. He thanked me and left; and I got very busy after that. I used to meet many such people on a daily basis. A lot of the clients were just one-time customers who walked in and walked out after their first transaction, never to say hello to us again. Such is the banking business. So the Arab in the traditional attire was soon a forgotten story, until he came back after a week; and this time with a full family in tow. A wife and four children accompanying him! It was really nice to meet them, though I don’t know why but he insisted on all of them meeting me. Well, it was really nice of him. I processed the transaction quickly and bade them a sweet and smiling goodbye; wondering if this is going to be a frequent customer now.

The moment the Arab client left my desk, a colleague of mine walked up to me to warn me. She was smiling while saying that, but she did insist on telling me that I should be careful of the Arab clients. If they liked my face (really??), they could get me abducted too and take me with them to Saudi Arabia. I stared into her face and was contemplating what she said, when I heard some ten odd people laugh behind me. I turned to face them only to realize that this was as good as an April fool’s joke. Seniors often did this to us juniors, and in a way it was their attempt to make friendly inroads with us kids. I laughed back and nodded in a “you got me” style and immersed myself in work. I was a complete workaholic even then and enjoyed my work, so it was easy to get distracted.

When I went to bed that night, for some reason my colleague’s words kept haunting me. I found that rather strange, but I fell asleep with some scary thoughts. The next morning when I went to work I found the same Arab client walk up to me an hour after the Bank opened. Both his sons were with him, but there was no sign of the wife and daughters. He said he was passing by and thought it was a good opportunity to say hello to me. I smiled at the trio, but suddenly had horrid thoughts at the back of my head. And almost at that very moment, from the corner of my eye, I saw another client walk up to me. I gestured to Mr. Arab that I had to service that client and he politely backed off and said goodbye. And after that only I know how terrible my day was. Though I kept telling myself this was very normal, I just couldn’t take my colleague’s words out of my mind. And to my horror, for the next few weeks, the family visited me almost every week. Thankfully only due to their cash withdrawals which was some relief at least! The excuse to see me was work-related and I was absolutely okay with that.

Then, almost for two weeks there was a lull, and slowly and steadily there were days when I didn’t think about them at all. One fine day it so happened that I had to visit my grandmother in the hospital and I reached office a bit late. The main doors of the Bank had opened and I walked in from there, directly towards to my desk. But I stopped in my tracks, horrified to see the Arab with his older son. The boy must have been about 10 – 12 years of age at the most. I smiled and walked to my desk and both of them walked behind me, instantly. And before I could even take my seat, there was a gift that the father kept on my table. I gave him a puzzled look to which he said, “My son got for you madam. He want to give you this. We go back to Dubai today; this is gift of love from him to you as he like you very much.” I was terrified to hear that. Now, the rule of the Bank was NOT to accept any gifts from clients as this was also seen as a form of bribery. And we were strict about following these rules.

I politely refused to take the gift stating that it was against our rules. Frankly, rules or no rules I didn’t care, there was no way I was going to accept any gift from any one. It was against my principles and to accept a gift was a way of letting those people in my life. But the point of refusal was his breaking point. Though he did not become rude towards me, he did not relent. Thankfully, my supervisor saw the commotion and walked up to my desk where I explained the situation to him. By then, a small crowd had formed a few feet away from my desk and it became an embarrassing situation in the middle of the banking hall. My supervisor then politely refused him and stated the rules again. This time, the Arab started shouting. He couldn’t control his temper and uttered the words, “My son love this beautiful girl. He want to marry her. But now he a little small to marry, so he want to give her perfume for his proposal. We come back after two or three years to ‘take’ her, but right now she have to accept this gift of love. This is best and most expensive perfume. My son love perfume and he love her. You can not say no, we don’t give you, we give her, because of love.”

I wanted to cry as I couldn’t bear it anymore. What my colleague said in jest was turning out to be true. These people had exactly those thoughts in mind and how scary it was. I was still just a kid out of college and that was my first job. I had no idea how to deal with such ‘love-based’ situations at work. My supervisor went on arguing with the man, to no avail and finally got fed up and left the perfume at my desk telling me to do whatever I liked with it. I didn’t know where to look and by then I had a huge queue of clients waiting on me. I tried a half-baked smile and blurted the words, “thank-you” and picked the perfume and kept it in my drawer. The son then walked up to me and gestured a ‘hand shake’. I gave him my hand and to my sheer horror, he just didn’t shake it, he kissed it too and said bye. To my great relief, the father-son duo walked out of the Bank. Thoroughly embarrassed by such a pathetic scene I just looked down and started working. I wanted to hide under the table and face no one, but I couldn’t act like a coward. I pretended as though nothing had happened, put on my best smile and drowned myself in work.

After that incident, my brother dropped me and picked me up from work every single day. It took a few months to erase that incident out of my mind completely and thankfully I never met them again in the next seven years that I worked with the Bank.

Have you ever faced a similar situation that you would like to share?

Featured Image: Flickr

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