Do you own a credit card? If so, have you received the latest variety that has a chip embedded in your card and which requires you to memorise a certain four digit number that you are required not to disclose to anyone even if you are tied, gagged and have lighted matches stuck between your toes? No, no, before you imagine that The Man from Madras Musings has turned a credit card salesman, let him assure you that he has not. All he wants to know is if you have received the latest in credit cards or, to tell you the truth, the not-so-recent but definitely the most painful complication to life in addition to passwords, PAN Number, PIN Number, DIN Number, UID Number, and 16 digit account numbers.

MMM received such a card several months ago and forgot all about it till there came a day when he was seated in a restaurant and, on handing over his card for payment, was told that it was not valid. Fortunately for MMM, he had the cash and that saved him from doing time washing dishes or grinding the batter in the restaurant’s kitchen. Having reached home, MMM fished out the new card, duly memorised its four-digit number – ABCD – and placed it reverentially in his wallet.

Then came a day when MMM was once again at a restaurant (he does eat out rather too often, does he not?) and, on completion of the meal, airily handed over the card. Conversation continued at the table for quite a while before a man came rather deferentially and, having coughed, stood holding out MMM’s card. A hush descended on the table. Had the card been rejected, wondered MMM. The man then asked MMM if he would kindly step in to the manager’s office.

MMM could have gladly sunk through the floor. He felt as though every eye in the restaurant was following his progress. And what of his guests? What would they think? In the manager’s sanctum, however, MMM could detect an air of excessive fawning. The manager was most apologetic. The hotel, he said, did not have a portable card swiping machine and so they had to trouble MMM by getting him over. Could he please enter his four-digit number? It took quite a while for MMM to regain his composure and recollect the number. The transaction went through eventually.

The whole idea behind the P(A)IN number is apparently to reduce the incidence of credit card frauds. But it may in the process reduce the life of the cardholders. Next time you are at a restaurant and are asked to step into the manager’s office, do not panic. It is your PIN number calling.