By Dilawar Hussain
KARACHI, April 7: Trapped in a locker room of a bank for nearly 10 minutes, a doctor told the traumatic family later in the day that they had another ten minutes before the oxygen in the room was fully consumed, which could have resulted first in brain death and within a few more minutes in complete demise.
Identification of the bank and its staff is being deliberately concealed, for when the nightmare was over; all personnel including the manager were trembling with fear.
It all began when the man with his wife, a daughter of 15 and son of 5 visited the bank in Karachi, where they maintain their account. The deputy manager was told that they wished to operate their locker. “Sure,” says the officer. He buried himself into a pile of files and books and pulled out a ledger. An entry was duly made and signed by the customer in confirmation of his operation of the locker.
The family enters the strong room accompanied by the official who turns a key in the locker and leaves. The door of the room is, as always left ajar. A curtain at the entrance is pulled along to maintain secrecy. That done, the woman turns her key to the locker, examines the valuables, taking off a particular ring and puts back the rest. The locker is bolted and the family turns. The curtain is pulled aside. To the horror of the four inside, the door of the strong room is closed!
The man first gives a slight knock, then heavy thumping and with no response the desperate family starts to charge at the door with all their might. Still nothing moves from outside. The woman, a hypertensive patient, is already beginning to breathe deeply. They try the cell-phone. No signals. They press every button on the board. One lights the bulb the other switches the fan on and off. The man and the children begin throwing chairs and anything that comes at hand, at the door.
Suddenly a ray of light enters the room as the door is pulled from outside. The entire bank staff is at the door, horror written as large on their faces as that of the traumatic family.
The manager and the staff almost drop to their knees in begging forgiveness. The pardon is granted. It is revealed by an officer present that the door is so heavy that any amount of noise inside cannot simply get through, unless a person is standing very closely by. Luckily for the family, a staff member was passing by and he did hear a slight thud and called in the staff and manager to the door of the strong room.
But there is forest of questions that go a begging. How did the gigantic door of the strong room close by itself. Where was the staff deployed at the door of the locker room -- gone to have a sip of tea? Where was the security guard who should have been on the watch out? Why did the official responsible for operating the locker room, forget that the family was inside and finally why was there no alarm bell or ventilation system inside the room to forestall such episode?
On a latter examination, it was noticed that a small device resembling a switch did decorate one of the walls over which a camera eye was rotating. But that, it was revealed, was installed by the company being paid by the bank to take care of its security. The existence of that bell must have been known only to the bank’s staff, useable for warning in case of a robbery. But was the guard at the security company, far away from the bank, sitting at his desk and monitoring cameras or was he taking a nap? Couldn’t he see the frantic family in the bank’s strong room?
All in all, it was a case of utter lethargy and indifference to work and more to human life, all around. But the sting was in the tail. The manager who later made every effort to comfort the family told the man: “There actually was nothing to worry” and he reasoned: “We do check the locker room, before leaving the bank!” It was 11 o’clock and the bank closes on a Saturday at 12:30.
Fruitless, thought the man, to explain to the ‘innocent’ manager that he and his kids would not have been alive by then to tell the tale.