Sunday, May 27, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 11

BGR was relieved from the Subedar Chatram Road Bangalore branch in December 1970 for reporting at the Big Bazaar branch in Shimoga. The post of an Officer (Accountant) in Canara Bank in those days carried a lot of respect in the society in addition to an enviable (?) salary package. BGR was in high spirits as he was posted to a prestigious branch with a great opportunity to prove his credentials. As he was travelling to Shimoga he undertook a quick stock of his personal achievements and qualifications so far in Canara Bank. He also decided that he should welcome, train and encourage new recruits into the bank just like Somnath Narayan did for him in the beginning.
Besides being an expert typist, BGR had gained full knowledge in all the departments of the branch. He had completed B.Com and CAIIB through his hard work. He had secured first rank in both his junior training and senior training and the Leadership prize in the junior training. Having worked in a big branch in Bangalore was going to be another plus point.  With his ability to get on with his colleagues, he had developed leadership qualities.  He was young and was eager to work hard to build and lead a team. Needless to say BGR landed at the Shimoga branch with high spirits.
N Gundu Rao was the manager of the branch at that time. He welcomed BGR whole-heartedly and introduced him to all his colleagues. The first impression of BGR on the branch premises was disappointing. The premises on the first floor was situated at the entrance of the busy Big Bazaar and the up-keep was shabby– to put it mildly! The staff appeared to be cheerful. But compared to the Bangalore standards, they were not so well dressed!
The branch had two specimen sub-staff – PAP Nayak and Madhavaraya Shenoy. PAP was a very senior employee - but the problem with him was - he was not serious about his work. He focused more on personal welfare and investments than his duties in the bank! In fact he thought that the employment in the bank was meant for building a personal asset-base! He was a non-matriculate. But he could have taught a lesson or two to the present day investment bankers! But unfortunately the banking in those days simply meant opening a SB account and keeping the surplus funds in fixed deposit!
But PAP did not believe in such simple banking. He was a first generation shrewd investor. The first thing he did was to build a house in Shimoga by availing the bank loan at a simple interest rate of 3.5% and let it out on rent. He also meticulously built up a portfolio of equity shares of Canara Bank Ltd. His investment grew at a compounded rate with the Canara Bank Ltd shares being eventually converted to L&T shares upon the nationalization of the banks. The small investment turned into a minor fortune! There were several stories on the way PAP entertained the visiting executives of Canara Bank. The managers made it a point to use him on such occasions. But let us not delve into them here to avoid embarrassment to the concerned!
Madhavaraya Shenoy (MS) was definitely another specimen sub-staff. But his character was in total contrast with that of PAP. He was the second daftary – whose duty was to stitch cash bundles daily. Unlike PAP, who had the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi, MS had the misfortune of Lakshmi deserting him totally! His meager salary was spent on family maintenance. But a major portion of it also went for his pan-beeda consumption. His mouth and lips would be always reddish with the saliva overflowing and creating nuisance to the customers. He would go on talking continuously spraying the pan juice liberally on the hapless colleagues – particularly the cashiers!
MS had a typical personality wearing thick glasses and totally confusing the persons who came into contact with him by his endless chatter! His dream was to become a super rich man one day. But he believed only on luck and nothing else. He had his own justification to believe in luck. Let me explain:
The Government of Mysore had just introduced its Lottery Scheme at that time. The first prize had been fixed at Rs1 lakh. It was quite a lot of money in those day standards. The first winner turned out to be a person from Hospet. His photo and personal history were published prominently in all the Kannada newspapers. The entire Kannadiga population was envious of the lucky guy. Our MS also went through the personal history of the winner as he also believed in winning the lottery one fine day. To his surprise he found out that the winner was a distant cousin of him.
MS immediately wrote a letter to his beloved cousin highlighting their forgotten relationship. He congratulated his cousin whole-heartedly and explained to him the reasons for inability so far to meet him! He even said that he was feeling a sense of guilt for not keeping in touch with his beloved cousin! He drafted the letter in such a way that his beloved cousin would get the appropriate message! The message was actually very simple. He had tried to tell the beloved cousin that he would not mind sharing a small portion of his booty!
MS was eagerly awaiting the reply from his beloved cousin. In fact he was even wondering what portion of the prize money his cousin would remit to him. But unfortunately there was no response from the cousin. But an interview in a Kannada newspaper revealed the reasons for the cousin failing to respond to his ‘relatives’. The lucky winner had told the interviewer that he had received letters from his ‘cousins’ from all over Karnataka expressing their willingness to share a portion of the prize money! He wanted to thank all of them for remembering their ‘distant cousin’ on this happy occasion!
BGR came to know that the branch was being shifted to a better and spacious premise shortly. That motivated him to some extent. He started his official duties with lot of hope and spirits.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
27th May 2012

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