Systemic failure


I often recall those wonderful days when I was in college. The number of clients in the bank were more than the banking staff. While it did take longer to get your cash in hand and update your passbook, you rarely left the bank without getting any work done.
Nowadays, due to facilities like e-banking, we sometimes find more staff than customers in the bank. Then there are those awful days when you are told by one of the bank staff, somewhat sheepishly, that it will take some time for your passbook to be updated. Of course he takes your passbook, so you take your seat on a plush sofa. Wishing you had brought a book to read, you scan the day’s newspaper for a second time. Peering above the newspaper, you notice the bank staff looking unusually serious, discussing in hushed undertones and jostling around. You try to make eye contact with them, but they avoid your gaze.

Soon you realise that ‘kuch kuch ho raha hai!’ Your patience finally wears thin. You approach them. They condescendingly recognise your presence with — “Very sorry, sir, ‘the system’ is down”. ‘The system’ could be down for as long as a whole day. No one can predict for how long it will be down.

In those schools where the system is used, the end of a term is often a time of excruciating anxiety. Especially if the marks and comments we enter into the system are mysteriously lost. This system, it seems, has a ravenous appetite, swallowing anything entered into it. And when it crashes it refuses to ‘vomit’ out everything! Only that mastermind in the server room can set it right. The rest of us simply have to wait.
Being a biology teacher by profession, the word system brings to mind those wonderful systems in our body which keep us alive and about which my students love to learn. Those biological systems in the banking staff of yesteryear rarely broke down. They worked feverishly, calculating with their own brains, filled in ledgers and updated passbooks with their own hands. I have yet to recall a day when bank work halted because the systems were down.

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