The pain of PIN

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Without being able to sign for purchases, we’re in danger of losing our identities completely!

August means a lot to us Indians. We got our freedom that August midnight in 1947. Who can forget that immortal line of Pandit Nehru: “We made a tryst with destiny… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”.

It seems then a cruel tryst with destiny that in this same August monthAustralian-Indians like me have lost our freedom, our very personal identity. We are now compelled to use a set of numbers to establish who we are at every point of purchase – for every transaction of goods and services, for our very existence – food, fuel and even funerals. You get my point. From the first of this month, “No PIN, no service”.

We have all been pinned with a set of numbers like the old convicts. As a croweater from South Australia, we take pride in our State not having convict origins like our eastern neighbours. But the corporate conglomerates have now conspired to convert the whole country into one big convict continent.

Although techno-crazy Gen Y have been happily tapping the numbers effortlessly on the EFTPOS gizmos for years, I have been persistent with my signature option. That seemed to be one of the best ways to remember my name, with my memory slowly but surely failing with advancing years.

Now, I can’t sign my lovely name even when I part with my hard-earned, self-funded super at the supermarket checkout. To the chicks at these counters, in the past, whenever they asked “Sign or PIN” my standard response, until the dawn of August had been, “PIN is Pain In (the) Neck, I sign”. That one line joke has now been buried and cremated like Workchoices.

I have no choice now. I long to see my name scripted a few times a week in cursive style – even if it’s getting corrosive with slow and shaky digits. With the disuse of my name, I am afraid I may spontaneously pronounce the digits as my persona whenever I introduce myself to someone.

Your name, whether it sounds lovely or not, is your unique identifier. Your URL. And the freedom not to use it is soul destroying.

Imagine the length every expectant couple goes through to come up with a name for their little bundle of joy – researching baby name books, consulting astrologers and numerologists. “Swami Googleananda” is, of course, the top consultant now.

In my generation, the choice was easy – names of Gods or Goddesses, or the star under which one was born – from Ashwini to Revathi. Now Bollywood stars reign supreme. There is an Aishwarya down every alley.

Replacing such divine names with dull digits is a downright degradation of human dignity. Like it or not, we need to move with the times.

My wife and I have been deferring the digital conversion until the day of deliverance. When it was no longer possible, we held an emergency session on the last day of July to work out a strategy – what set of numbers to choose and how to remember them. Unlike the baby boomers we have less number of plastic fantastic in our possession, just three credit cards each to cover all bases – internal purchases, international travel, Flybuys and Frequent Flyer points.

Our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis indicated that the choice of digits should be determined by the method of memorising. Suggestions ranged from a simple slip of paper in our wallets to the tattooing on a bicep, like the army folks. We finally settled on storing them on the mobile. No one goes out without a mobile these days.

And as for the choice of numbers? We adopted the strategy of the corporates who add their names to their 1300 number. Digital phones come in handy. In my case it is LP Ayer (572937).

From now on I can use that set of numbers as my nom de plume. If you can come up with a better one please let me know, I will give you full credit.