banking relations

The SBI merger inspired a cartoonist to create an ode to banking life – the ‘State Bank of Comics’

A webcomic pays tribute to how the State Bank of Patiala shaped the lives of a cartoonist's family.

Sumit Kumar began making comics at age 19. Ten years on, he says he hasn’t once looked back with regret. Even though his father questioned his choice for “rabbad (eraser) pencil” over engineering, Kumar devoted his life to creating graphic novels – from the tongue-in-cheek The Itch You Can’t Scratch to documenting communist history in Amar Bari Tomar Bari Naxalbari. In 2014, he started his comic website Bakarmax.

On March 31, Kumar found a subject he finally wanted to pay close and deep attention to: the State Bank of Patiala, along with five other state-owned banks, was to be merged with the State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank. The news of the merger was hailed by SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya for heralding an improvement in stocks and cheaper interest rates for the customers, but for Kumar’s father, who was a former employee of the State Bank of Patiala, it meant an emotional farewell.

“State Bank of Patiala helped me raise a family and build a world around it,” said Kumar’s father, now 64. “Apart from the salary, the bank taught me to deal with the public, solve problems and decide priorities.” He retired in 2013.

Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar
Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar

In the comic, Kumar’s father tells his son that their bank is “finished”, and asks his son to draw something about it. The moment is an emotional one for Kumar, because from dismissing his art, Kumar’s father is now looking for solace through it. Kumar picked up his “rabbad and pencil” and created a series called State Bank of Comics.

The comic begins with an innocuous compliment which Kumar’s father always received at public events – how he looked “fit for his age”. Behind his well-being, his father reveals, were years of struggle. “Before joining the bank, papa did many odd jobs at a young age to support his large family – he had no other option after his father died,” Kumar said.

The struggles are sketched with reference to iconic scenes from Bollywood films like Deewar (1975), to show how his father valued his self-respect, and was pushed to strive for a better future. His journey with the State Bank of Patiala began as a clerk and typist, the lowest position in the organisation. To better his job prospects, he studied while he worked, and took five years to earn a job as a graduate.

In administrative work, promotions often rely on keeping the bosses happy but Kumar’s father stood his ground when his position allowed him to take decisions. As a result, he was transferred often.

Kumar's father refused to be a 'yes man'. Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar
Kumar's father refused to be a 'yes man'. Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar

Kumar’s family remained positive about the transfers. “Bankers – unlike army officers, who are also transferred constantly – are a very silent breed,” Kumar observed. “A family that gets transferred every two-three years cannot not have stories. They’re an endless bank.”

Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar
Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar

Kumar’s ancestors had moved to Delhi from Rajasthan in 1911. Although the Capital was home, the family learnt to assimilate with multiple cultures across India, which was a boon for the children who grew up to appreciate the country’s diversity. To some extent, this even defined Sumit Kumar’s early days of sketching.

Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar
Image courtesy: Sumit Kumar

As the comic rides on the waves of nostalgia, for Kumar, the associate bank has indirectly played a role in shaping his family’s story. Knowing that his family is not the only one, Kumar intends to expand the comic. “The sequels will have fictional stories from the State Bank of Malgudi, and one from its north Indian branch. I want to build characters and tell the story of state banks like we knew them before private banks came into the picture.”

As the State Bank of Patiala ceases to exist, the merger has inspired the cartoonist to create a graphic biography of his father. Kumar does not feel this is unfair to his mother: “I don’t need to make [one] for her because she has already started drawing comics on her own.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.

Play

The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.