Monday, April 2, 2012

Looking Back - Episode - 4

The next morning BGR left Mama’s house at 9 am fully prepared for the interview. Mama gave him a briefing on current affairs based on the morning edition of the Indian Express. He reached the Shoukath building by 9.40 am. He was directed to go to 3rd floor. There he met a 50-year old person called Koraga Shetty who asked him to sit on a bench and wait for the test. On coming to know that BGR was from South Kanara, Shetty started speaking to him in Tulu.
Soon a senior officer (M V Bhat) collected all the documents from BGR and asked him to get prepared for a typewriting test. After some time, he was taken to a place where he found one Remington Rand and three Halda typewriters and three typists on the job. One of them by name Somnath Narayan asked BGR to practice for some time on a Halda typewriter. As BGR had already worked on a Halda typewriter he found it easy to work on. After some time Somnath came back and gave him one full page of matter. He was asked to type carefully avoiding mistakes. He was also asked to get back in case of any difficulty.
The cool and gentlemanly approach of Somnath Narayan made BGR feel quite comfortable even though he was totally new to the office set up. He could complete the typing within about 25 minutes. Somnath went through his work and expressed his satisfaction by telling him “well done”. He was asked to go back to the bench and wait for the interview call. Indeed it turned out to be a long wait!
While sitting on the bench BGR could closely observe how a large office worked in those days. Not far away from his seat he found a small low partition. Seated there were two senior officials well dressed and wearing ties. He came to know later that they were the two deputy general managers (DGMs) – B V Bhandary and A G Pai. Between the two DGMs there was only one telephone kept for the common use! There was no special cabin even for the DGMs in those days! Occasionally other officers would come to them for discussion. All the employees were speaking politely in a low audible voice. Most of the conversation was either in Konkani or English.
About 50% of the employees were wearing mundus and shirts, while the others were wearing pants and shirts. Only a few of them were wearing ties. There was not even a single lady staff. Both Bhandary and A G Pai used to receive frequent phone calls. While A G Pai was speaking in a mellowed tone, Bhandary was found speaking very loudly particularly for trunk calls. Later BGR came to know that he had a hearing problem.
There was another small partition behind the bench where BGR was sitting. At about 12.30 pm, the door opened suddenly and a well dressed short man, aged over 50 years, came out and walked away briskly. Koraga Shetty told BGR that he was Sarvothama Nayak, the General Manager (GM). Shetty also told BGR proudly that he was GM’s personal peon. At 1 pm it was lunch time and BGR was asked to go out and have lunch and get back to the bench!
BGR had a plate meal at a nearby hotel costing 6 anas. He came back and started his endless waiting for the interview. Koraga Shetty told him that he will be first interviewed by U K Kini, the divisional manager and then by the DGM Bhandary. But both of them were quite busy. BGR waited anxiously for his interview till evening. But the call never came. Finally M V Bhat told him to come back on the next day morning at 10 am. BGR’s eagerness to complete his first interview and come out of the anxiety remained unfulfilled. He had to wait till the next day.
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The next morning BGR did not have to wait for long. M V Bhat told him at 10 am that U K Kini, the DM would interview him soon. At about 11.30 am he was taken to the seat of U K Kini and was asked to sit in front of him. Kini was a fair, grey haired 5’ 6’’-gentleman who meant business. He started shooting questions at BGR straightaway. The questions covered from personal details to typing, mathematics, general knowledge and the ability to express in the English language. His speciality was – he would look at the face of BGR while putting the questions and would go on signing the papers while BGR was giving his answers. That away he was hiding his reactions and virtually gave nothing away! BGR got a feeling that he had answered around 80 percent of the questions satisfactorily. He was then asked to wait for the final interview from Bhandary, the DGM.
It was a long wait again and BGR got impatient. He almost thought that the things may be postponed to next day once again. But at 4.15 pm he was ushered to the table of the DGM. Bhandary had an imposing personality. He was tall, fair and well built. BGR was a little bit nervous to sit in front of him. Bhandary put him some personal questions and asked him whether he would work hard and sincerely for the bank. BGR simply replied him in the affirmative. The DGM then told him that he had been selected for the job and asked him to go back to his seat.
So that was it! Just before 5 pm, BGR got his appointment orders as apprentice in Canara Bank at a monthly stipend of Rs75. The order was handed over to him by M V Bhat who told him to report for duty on the next day. The 18-year old young man from Udupi had landed his first job at the prestigious Canara Bank – that too at the Administrative Office of the bank in Bangalore itself. Was he proud of himself?
That evening in Udupi Pema and his friend M R Pai were having their usual round of discussions when a messenger from the Telegraph Department delivered a telegram to Pema. It read, “Secured appointment as apprentice in Canara Bank Administrative Office” - BGR. The duo had successfully launched the career of a young man in the bank that was to last till the very end of the twentieth century!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
2nd April 2012

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