~ On Assignment: The New York Times, Rural Banking ~

I remember as a child going to the A.T.M machine with my father. He would pick me up and whisper in my ear what numbers to push near the screen. Within seconds freshly pressed dollar bills would roll out. As I got older, I remember dad not wanting to share those ‘secret numbers’ any longer, and instead we opened my own saving account. I was around 10 years old.

On a recent assignment for The New York Times, I joined reporter Vikas Bajaj to see how State Bank of India’s human A.T.M.s are brining banking to rural communities. We met and spoke to many people that day, a father depositing $2 into his account, day laborers saving cash for relatives living on the other side of the country and this woman below, Rajashri Nakati. She came to a rural banking office set up by State Bank of India to open her first saving account, she is 35 and a mother of five. Rajashri seemed slightly nervous as the business correspondent took her worn farm-labored hands and digitized six of her fingerprints. I could only speculate how significant this day was for her by the immaculate sari she wore and the gold jewelry displayed on ears. She said she was opening the account to start saving money, ā€œIf I leave it at home, it will get spent.ā€ Her first deposit, after her account is approved, will be 100 rupees, around $2. To read Vikas’ story and see my slideshow click here: TRAVELING TELLERS, TAKE BANKING TO RURAL INDIA and BRINGING CASH TO THE COUNTRYSIDE.

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