Did Axis Bank India fail the #LGBT community? #DilSeOpen they said, but Dil Tod Diya!
#DilSeOpen #ComeAsYouAre the promo said! (Dil Se Open – Open with your heart)
I was elated for our #LGBTQ+ community. But, yeh dil hai kay manta nahi, said my heart (my heart doubts). Wait karo. Wait karo, it said. I wanted to write about it and celebrate it at that time, but I waited. I follow my heart always, after all.
A few weeks ago, I received a call from someone through a friend’s reference to speak with a senior person at Axis Bank who was keen to hear issues faced by people from the LGBTQ+ community. I was happy to share.
I was surprised with how much they did not know. How much they assumed. When I told them as a woman once married to a man, I could easily open a joint bank account, get a mortgage for a home we wanted to buy; but I could not as someone in a same-sex relationship, they were surprised.
They promised they would create ‘products’ keeping this in mind. I felt hopeful, thoda thoda.
Kyun ki, I have run businesses from New Zealand and the UK and let me tell you doing business and banking in India ages you. The paperwork, the red tapeism, the bureaucracy and the lack of trained staff at the execution level made me all buddhi.
I have businesses in India and have a personal account as well, and seriously mera dil gets very frustrated each time I have to deal with banks in India.
So, I was pleasantly khush and elated when this senior person sent me a message one morning in September and informed me about the ‘Dil Se Open’ products that had been launched and one such product was for same-sex couples to open a joint account.
Mainey immediately socha, this means we could now freely have an account as a couple and that meant, as is in case of heterosexual couples, certain benefits. Simple one being buying a house together and therefore getting a joint mortgage. Dil khush ho gaya!
I live in London. These things are part of our lives and I can easily open a bank account with my same-sex partner here. It takes perhaps less than 5 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Less than 5 minutes. No questions asked!
I wondered about India. I wondered about how the bank was going to roll this out extensively across all the bank locations and train their staff; first of all on LGBT matters, sensitise them and then set up processes in place to execute this.
It is a huge ask. I wondered how this was being done so quickly within a few weeks of speaking with me. No doubt they spoke with some others as well. But, it seemed too soon from my point of view.
That is why I waited before I made any comments on this service, although I was very tempted to. Dil toh pagal hai na. But, mera dil itna bhi pagal nahi hai!
I waited and I was right!
The recent experience of Anisha Sharma and her partner Bhakti at the seven bungalows branch in Andheri , Mumbai is a perfect example how the Bank forgot the basics of launching something pathbreaking. They forgot to sensitise and train their front line na. Anisha through her twitter account has shared how they went to the Bank to open joint account as partners, and how they were made to feel extremely awkward by the bank employees with the lack of information and awareness of the offer.
I can share from my own personal experiences that it is very awkward when you have to come out. To come out and have to explain this is even harder. Then to explain and be made to feel awkward, embarrassed and almost shamed, is horrible. I have run away from such experiences as they leave me feeling very uncomfortable.
Aisay kaisay ho gaya?
Although, I do want to give this particular bank the benefit of doubt, as the person who Heads this particular division has good intent. And there is our friend Harish Iyer, who leads D&I, and who I absolutely know would have not wanted it to be like this.
But this is not about personal love and friendships. This is a serious matter that as a community we have been waiting for and wish to celebrate. It is high time we did get such products and it is time that banks and corporate companies come forward with such ‘products’ and initiatives. Hum dil se wait kar rahe hai! (we are waiting with our hearts open).
But, but ….Please do not offer us dreams if you cannot make it happen.
We are already facing nightmares through social conditioning.
Dil se, we will come. But, Dil koh Todo mat! (Don’t break my break)
(The opinion expressed are solely mine, with no intent to hurt anyones sentiments)