The Boy Who Broke the Bank by Ruskin Bond
In The Boy Who Broke the Bank by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of discontent, gossip, appearance, reliance, control, anxiety, panic and trust. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of discontent. Nathu is unhappy that he has not been paid by his employers. There is no reason for the delay however when he advised Sitaram that he has not been paid things through gossip quickly begin to go out of control. Mrs Bhusan is also making assumptions that just because Nathu has not been paid other employees likewise have not been paid. This may be important as Bond may be highlighting the fact that people can exaggerate things. Which is very much the case in the story. It is also interesting that others after hearing that the bank cannot pay its employees believe that the bank is going bankrupt. Something which causes a state of panic in Pipalnagar. It might also be important to remember that though none of the rumours about the bank going bankrupt are true. People by word of mouth can cause a panic for a business. Where once there was control and order. This is no longer the case for the bank.
Bond may also be exploring the theme of appearance. Not only do people have the wrong idea about the bank but it is noticeable that Old Ganpat the beggar is suddenly able to walk when he learns of the perceived difficulties that the bank is going through. This could be important as it suggests that Old Ganpat has not only been lying to those who give him alms but he has taken on the appearance of someone he is not. Which may leave some readers to suspect that Old Ganpat is living his life deceitfully. For a beggar he has a lot of money (1000 rupees). It might also be important that no one who withdraws their money from the bank actually asks anyone in the bank is the bank having difficulties. It is as though the gossip that began with Sitaram and which manifested itself into something greater is believed by all concerned. What is also interesting about what is occurring is the fact that the whole of Pipalnagar appears to be reliant on the bank. Which may be the point that Bond is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual should not have such a heavy reliance on any one institute. If anything an individual should invest their money in different banks.
To make matters worse Seth Govind Ram is on holiday and unreachable. This only fuels the anxiety that people are feeling. From going to a man of great importance in people’s eyes. Seth Govind Ram is demonised and held responsible for the collapse of the bank. Even though there is no proof that the bank is bankrupt people still believe it is. As to why nobody fact checks the information they have heard might also be important as it highlights the power of gossip and the pull it may have on an individual. Despite reassurances from the bank manager that everything is okay. Nobody in Pipalnagar believes him. They would rather believe the negative hearsay that they have heard in the market than trust the bank manager. Trust also seems to be the driving fact for the people when it comes to taking their money out of the bank. They don’t trust that their savings are safe. Something which is detrimental to any bank. If people don’t believe in the trustworthiness of a bank they will not leave their money in the bank or deposit money.
The end of the story is also interesting as Nathu’s innocent remark to Sitaram about not getting paid is twisted by Sitaram when he meets Nathu the following day. Rather than ignore Sitaram as others too should have done. Nathu is determined to get his money just like the other people in Pipalnagar. Though again Nathu has no proof that the bank is going out of business. He has Sitaram’s word and that is all. In what is most likely an innocent mistake by Nathu’s employers (not paying him) has manifested itself into the inevitable collapse of the bank. All fuelled by the gossip of others. It is also interesting that Sitaram is happy when he cycles away from Nathu. The reader aware that he does not have any savings in the bank. Something that some readers might find ironic. The demise of the bank began with Sitaram’s remark to Mrs Srivastava yet he had no savings in the bank to worry about. If anything those in Pipalnagar appear to thrive on gossip or false information. Information that lacks credibility and which is not fact checked. The results being total panic in Pipalnagar despite reassurances from the bank manager. In reality Bond has highlighted to the reader the importance of trust. The very man who could be trusted, the bank manager, wasn’t trusted. Yet those who couldn’t be trusted were trusted by those in Pipalnagar.