Was that an act of Ghost?

Automation in the bank I worked had brought in a major change in the way we used to handle transactions. It was undoubtedly a quantum leap and beginning of a new era in the banking industry in India. The automation process was not a smooth sailing and gave us lot of interesting stories and revelations. In this story I am sharing about a strange encounter we had during automation of one of our branch.

Was presence of ghost a reality in the bank’s Kanpur branch? It is for you to decide. I am narrating the plain sequence of events.

Conversion process was on in the branch early 1989. On the cut-over Saturday we had to temporarily set up the UPS in the hall as its room readiness was to take one more day. Since data takeover on the cutoff day was a major exercise in all branches we used to stock sufficient spares to ensure time is not lost in case of any problems. For upcountry branches we had to be extra cautious. Hence in our Kanpur branch the vendors had kept complete set of circuit boards for CPU and UPS. Hardware service engineers were also available on site to take care of any issues.

The data takeover commenced on time around 3 pm after the branch had completed the day’s work and ledger reconciliation was carried out. Unfortunately, UPS tripped within 1 hour of starting the takeover. The engineer looked at the problem did some fix and we restarted the takeover after initializing data files to avoid any possible data corruption. But it tripped again within an hour.

This happened couple of times. Virtually all the circuit boards were replaced one by one but without any help. At last the UPS engineer, after consulting his senior guys on phone, took out a particular circuit board which was abnormally heating up and immersed it in a bucket full of water to ensure it could remain cool. This time it tripped in about one and a half hour. We saw the water in the bucket was almost boiling. Tension started building up after couple of initialization and restarting as the precious time was being lost without any solution in sight.

We analysed the tripping duration pattern and decided to stop data entry some time before next expected tripping. The UPS engineer was also closely monitoring the water temperature in the bucket. As soon as the temperature was touching 75-80 degrees we starting stopping data entry after which the UPS engineer would change the water in the bucket. This way though it was taking longer but we were at least saving what had already been entered.

Around mid-night an elderly sub staff member came to me. He used to live behind the branch inside the building complex. Pointing towards the UPS machine he said, ”Saheb, you have placed this machine at a wrong place. One of the British manager had committed suicide in the branch long back. During late nights we invariably see him sitting in a chair at the spot where your machine is lying. He will never allow it to run smoothly”. But we were not in a mood to give head to his ghost stories and create panic among the data takeover team that had come from far away branches. Hence I made him to remain quiet and leave the branch.

The data takeover finished at about 5:00 am after those cyclic stops and circuit board cooling. Post takeover data processing routine batch files were broken to ensure each batch finishes in one hour. All the financials were verified thus making the conversion successful.

By afternoon the UPS room was ready and the UPS machine was shifted there by early evening, off course without the need of water bucket. The machine was kept on overnight with couple of terminals on to ensure load on the machine. The UPS engineer remained in the branch to observe the machine. But it did not trip at all.

In fact over the next one year or so we did not come across such a problem. Then why this machine was tripping on that Saturday night is a mystery. Was that peon right? Was the abnormal heating up of a circuit board an act of ghost?  You decide.

Author: narender

Narender Gupta is a retired banker having expertise in Retail / Trade Finance / Forex / Payments domains, banking process re-engineering and banking automation / banking systems transformations.